For a girl who only a few short years ago didn’t even like beer, I’ve really come full circle. But that’s what happens with some of these list items; I do things to get out of my comfort zone and try something new, and next thing you know, I’m actually enjoying it!
From drinking 200 beers, I actually discovered that I liked some beers…and maybe wanted to try my hand at making it myself. I was nervous because so many people that I knew had tried and failed pretty epically. I got a book to read about how to make my own beer, poked around on the Interwebs to get more advice, and talked to people I knew that had brewed their own beer.
The equipment for brewing beer can be kinda costly but I lucked up and found someone on Craigslist that was selling theirs, so I got everything I needed, including a couple of boxes of bottles, for 100 bucks. Getting the ingredients from a local hydroponics store was an adventure in of itself and the cost of just the ingredients alone meant a 6 pack of beer would cost me about $6; cheaper than your usual craft beer 6 pack (around $8 or $9 in NC) but with the fixed cost of the equipment, plus the added time and effort, I guess I didn’t really save much.
I used the recipe from the first chapter of the book:
Cincinnati Pale Ale Ingredients for a 5 gallon batch
- 3-4 lb. Pale malt extract syrup, unhopped
- 2 lb. Amber dry malt extract
- 12 AAU of bittering hops (any variety) For example, 1 oz. of 12% AA Nugget, or 1.5 oz. of 8% AA Perle
- 5 AAU of finishing hops (Cascade or other) For example, 1 oz. of 5% Cascade or 1.25 oz. of 4% Liberty
- 2 packets of dried ale yeast
The first step was to sterilize everything. The book is really big about that. Then I got to mix everything together in a big stock pot and stand over it stirring for about an hour. I messed up when it came time to cool it down because I put the ice in the sink without a stopper so when it quickly melted, I didn’t have an ice bath left to continue to cool the wort. Oh well. I don’t think it messed things up too much.
I attempted to strain out all of the hops but managed to just make a big mess. I was worried about having a lot of sediment in my beer bottles but it ended up not being an issue because when I siphoned it out later, none of the remaining hops came over. Next time I won’t worry at all with the strainer.
Putting it in the fermenter bucket was fun, watching the air lock bubble for the next week. It’s really important to keep the beer at a constant temperature near 70 degrees, but wouldn’t you know, 4 days later a storm came through and knocked out the power for 12 hours. With no AC, the house easily got into the 80s but again, I don’t think the taste was affected. Usually when it gets too warm, the beer apparently tastes sour and my beer doesn’t have a sour taste at all
After waiting two weeks, I got to taste my beer for the first time, albeit flat. I thought it tasted pretty good, if a bit slimy (that was corrected during the bottling process). After sanitizing 48 bottles, I got to play with my siphon. The beer was siphoned to my bottling bucket (with added sugar) and from there the little spout on the bucket gently poured beer into each bottle.
Putting the caps on the beer was uber fun; probably my favorite part. But then it was time to put the bottles in their boxes and into a dark closet to wait two more weeks. (This time no power outage affected the temperature of the beer).
The outcome is a smooth, crisp ale. A good bit of hoppiness but not too much; just enough to give it flavor and character. Honestly it’s probably a pretty vague beer, easily enjoyed and quickly forgotten. But you don’t want to try to get to fancy with your first beer anyway. I think I’ll make this one again, just to get the process down, and then I may start looking for more interesting recipes.
What do you think? Would you make your own beer? Have you? Have you made your own wine?
And no, I haven’t named my beer yet but I’m open to suggestions. Someone mentioned “Chapter 1 Beer” since this was the recipe from Chapter 1 in the book. I kinda like it.