Dr Beer’s New Year Resolution:
- Try home brewing
On the 8th of January 2019, my resolution was resolved! Granted, it was not a particularly hard objective to achieve, as my fiancée got me the Brooklyn Brew Shop’s “Beer Making Kit: BrewDog, Punk IPA”! Now that’s a mouthful. This kit comes with the all the components necessary to create your own home brew of BrewDog’s flagship beer: Punk IPA. Not only does it supply the ingredients – hops, malts and yeast – it provides the majority of equipment also (with the exception of a strainer and a 5L pot).
The scientist within me is really keen to see how this first-time brewing experiment turns out: I am going to compare my final product with a bottled version of Punk IPA, sampling them together in about a month’s time, once fermentation and bottling is complete.
The process appeared straightforward; I did some investigating on Brooklyn Brew Shop’s website and found detailed instructions regarding the brewing process. It is available to view online and as a saveable pdf file. For ease I printed it out, totalling three pages, allowing me to follow step-by-step instructions as if I were simply reading from a cookbook. In addition to this, a variety of the contents within the box contained a numbering system, allowing me to deduce the point at which they were to be used.
I’m not going to go through a step-by-step instruction guide (online instruction guide), but I followed the instruction as close as possible during my brewing process in order to relate back to you how it works. The required equipment was sanitised, and I was then ready to brew! *Tip: put kettle/pot on to boil whilst sanitising otherwise you will be waiting around for a while*.
Last year, I went to a brew school by a Scottish brewery called ‘Innis & Gunn’: it was a birthday present for my father and we spent the day making a porter and an IPA. During our session, the brewmaster informed us: “…brewing is 10% brewing, 50% waiting and 40% washing up.”. I didn’t have to do any of the washing up following that brewing day, but the ratio he stated was becoming more evident… I added my malt mix to a pot of water and stirred it until fully mixed, but then it became a waiting-game: “Echo, set timer for 60 minutes.”.
An hour isn’t a lot of time to pass. Unless it’s the only thing you are doing, then it feels like an eternity. Luckily, I had to check my mixture every 5-10 minutes to confirm that it was at a steady, satisfactory temperature. By the way, if an hour feels like a lifetime – just wait until the two-week fermentation process and a further two weeks for bottle conditioning! I could appreciate if you were to stop reading this and simply go to your local bar or craft beer shop to buy a beer – it’s a long procedure!
The Amazon Alexa assistant in my kitchen chimed, informing me that my timer was complete. I looked into my pot, seeing that the contents had soaked up the water and had formed a porridge-like consistency. The final stage of the mashing process necessitated warming the mixture up further to help extract all of the possible flavours from my malt mix and complete the cooking process.
It was then time to strain my mixture with five litres of hot water, just to make sure I got every single drop of potentially fermentable sugar flavour out of the grains. Juggling too much equipment, I placed my “porridge” in a sieve-esque implement and poured 5 litres of hot water through the mixture. *Tip: get a large enough strainer*. I was on annual leave at the point of brewing – thankfully, as I was going to need to clear up a bit of a mess before my partner got home! I tasted some of the spilt malt mix – it had a sweet oatmeal taste, with some sugars definitely still extractable. The process was therefore repeated: I poured the same 5L through the malt mixture once more. Another taste of the remaining malt mix revealed that the sugariness had alleviated, meaning the flavour had successfully been picked up by the hot water now in my pot.
This successful second strain was quickly followed by the boiling portion of brewing, which involved adding the correct proportions of hops at specific time points. The first hops added to the boil were the Ahtanum hops: these American hops produced an incredible mix of floral and pine aromas. Yes, as the instructions state – 5 Ahtanum hops only! I initially thought the Ahtanum had dominating notes of pine, but I was wrong: the Chinook released a pine explosion. Finally, Simcoe added a generous blend of citrus and pine.
Once a further hour of playing brewmaster was up, it was time to prepare for fermentation.
At this point, my partner arrived home: apparently it smelled like a brewery. Literally. Objective complete?
Lastly, following addition of the hops, it was necessary to chill the pot and strain the mixture once more before then decanting into my fermenter. I had evidently boiled off a little too much, so it required a bit of a top-up of water. I then have the vessel an aggressive shake, to begin the fermentation process. I attached the tubing required for the CO2 to escape and fermentation officially began!
In three days, I will change the blow-out tube to a stopper, which traps the CO2 allowing for carbonation. I’ll let you know how the final product turns out in due course.
Diagnosis: 4.5/5, “Brooklyn Brew Shop, Beer Making Kit: BrewDog, Punk IPA” it was a fun process, easy instructions to follow and comes with the majority of equipemt required. The kit is quite expensive, but for a novice, literally starting out from scratch, it was a perfect gift for me. Check out their website – it has a great variety of kits and mixes for potential brew creations.
Let me know how your home brewing goes. Any advice, thoughts or comments, just let me know below!
Full step by step instruction process