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Brewin’ Up a Sturm

So I mentioned a LONG time ago that I’d been inspired by the Homebrew Korea blog, and had begun home-brewing beer. The first batch I finished for the end of last semester, and handed out bottles to a bunch of people before leaving for my summer trip.

(And if you have any of my bottles, I’d like ’em back! Those swing-top bottles aren’t cheap, folks!)

My first attempt was a stout which was pretty alright, though not very foamy and not very strong:

It turned out okay, but there was something a little off. Not contaminated off, just, not as good as it could be. I wasn’t sure what the problem was until a few days ago, when I was reading through a fermentables chart in my copy of Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, wherein I realized what I’d done wrong. The kit I bought from Goodbeer (a Korean homebrew supply shop) provided one tin of syrup with one half-kilo bag of dry malt extract.

This is only enough fermentable to make a “lite” beer, though; to make a “normal” beer you need to use at least a few kilos of fermentable (including the syrup can, mind — so minimum maybe a kilo of dry malt extract) along with the syrup. A lot of people put a mix of sugar and malt extract, but I think it’s better to use pure malt extract.

That explains it — the Stout I made last semester was actually “lite” Stout, because I didn’t put enough fermentables into it. Never heard of such a thing before, but that’s what it was. Ooops. But for all that, it was alright, really. A little higher alcohol content would have been nice, but, it wasn’t awful or embarrassing. (Lots of people said they liked it, actually.) And it helped me get a handle on the routine of sterilizing and sanitizing, so it’s all good.

(And yes, I knew the alcohol content wasn’t high when I used my triple-scale meter thingie hydrometer, but I didn’t know why it registered as it did. Now, of course, I do know…)

It’s too bad I only realized this after racking a batch of Canadian IPA for fermentation:

(Those shots are from about a week ago — I swapped out the hose for an airlock once the foaming settled. And yeah, I did primary ferment in a glass carboy… another thing I wanted to try…)

I’m leery about adding sugar at this point, so I’m just going to dry-hop it (for the aromas) in secondary fermentation, and have a — ahem — “lite” IPA. That’s fine — I’ve got lots of malt extract now, and the Wheat, Barley Wine, and Stout will make up for it in strength. I may even brew the barley wine stronger than the others since, anyway, from what I’ve read it will be sitting relatively longer.

I have a few brewers’ gidgets and gadgets on the way, as well, which will help me with the process. (I’ll post about them as I get them — the main one is a near 2-pipe carboy cap.) I have also finally worked out a way to hook up a wort chiller in my place. (I need a LONG hose to reach from my bathroom sink to the kitchen, since the kitchen sink doesn’t work so well for this purpose.) The chiller will help speed up the process, and give me more control of it as well. I figure I’ll probably be starting three batches once I get back from the conference I’ll be presenting at this weekend.

More on that in a bit, but I will say that so far, this home-brewing hobby is quite fun. I was hoping to get to brewing from whole grains this semester, but I think I’ll probably start on that project next semester instead. Should be fun!

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