Adventures in Home Brewing

I made beer.

I’ll say that again. I made beer.

With every new bottle I open, I’m still in awe… I made this. Here is my in-depth, but not overly scientific review of my first foray into the world of home brewing.

The Setup: As you know, for my birthday last year Missy surprised me with a DIY homebrew kit from Beer Crazy in Urbandale. After months of hesitation and fretting (you know, if I didn’t use it, I couldn’t screw it up), I finally put it to good use.

I spent the days and weeks leading up to brew night reading my home brewers “How-To” guide that Missy also gave me with the kit, so that by the time came I was as comfortable in the kitchen with my equipment, ingredients, and recipe as humanly possible.

Brewing Night: One thing that I cannot stress enough to those of you out there thinking of brewing your own beer someday: cleanliness is key. From pots, to buckets, to spoons, and bottles…everything the beer touched throughout the process needed to be cleaned and sanitized. Fortunately, the kit included everything I needed to ensure ultimate sanitation before getting started.

After all the preventative cleansing was completed, I cracked open my kit and set to work.

Basically, all you really to make beer are the following four things:

  1. Water: Helps if it’s bottled spring water, especially if you’ve got funky smelling or hard water coming out of the tap.
  2. Malt: The starch source that provides the fermentable material and is a key determinant of the flavor
  3. Hops: Pinecone shaped flowers/seed pods added to the beer to counteract the sweetness of the malt.
  4. Yeast: Makes the magic happen, converting starch and sugar into alcohol and cabonation.

Then there was the mixing, boiling, and stiring…

…all while constantly monitoring the time and temperature. Oh, and I nearly drove Missy out of the house with the stink I was creating. Sorry babe 😉

After the boil, it was into an ice bath…

…and into the fermentation bucket once the desired temperature was reached. I added the water and “pitched” the yeast…

…before taking it to a dark, temperate, upstairs closet and sealing it up for good.

Bottling: For two weeks, the yeast did its work, metabolizing the sugars from the brewing process into alcohol. But one crucial step remained: bottling. The next phase of making my beer was the bottle conditioning process. By adding a simple “priming” sugar to my concoction immediately prior to bottling would give it the carbonation needed for it to truly become a drinkable beer.

For two more weeks, the brew was kept out of sight and out of mind while it gained all the carbonation it would need.

First Sip: In a word, I guess…earthy? Two weeks was basically the minimum time one should allow for the bottle conditioning phase, so when I opened the first bottles, the beer was ready…but just barely. It was still really fresh and “green” tasting…not exactly what you look for in beer.

I didn’t know what I expected when I opened the first bottle…but a loud *pop* of the cap and white frothy head confirmed that the priming sugars did their job.

Regardless of how it first tasted, one thing is for sure: I had successfully brewed my own beer! Now it’s only getting better with each passing week.

{Thank you E-Dub for being a brave soul and putting on a good face for the very first taste test…come back soon, I promise it’s better now!}

Naming Rights: For the longest time, we couldn’t settle on a name.  I felt that it should be a celebratory brew…but the house wasn’t finished enough yet to celebrate, and BG4 is still two months away from arrival. When and if the final product turned out to be consumable and actually palatable, I could simply celebrate the fact that I made a beer like substance from nothing. But I needed something more.

Ah-ha! I did just recently pass a huge exam that I spent almost four months of 2011 studying for! Hence, Tom’s Ace the PE Amber Ale was born.

  • People like things that start with Tom’s. Toms Shoes. Toms of Maine. I think I’m on to something here…
  • Amber Ale was the flavored ‘kit’ I used to make my beer.
  • Ace the PE: If and when one passes the Principles and Practices of Engineering Exam, the testing board doesn’t give you a score…rather just a Pass/Fail. Since I passed, I personally like to believe that I aced it with flying colors rather than barely scraping out a passing percentage with full help from the weighted average grading system (which, in all reality, is more likely the case). But hey, one can dream!

Anyway, here’s my untrained attempt at a bottle logo:

If anyone else wants to try their hand at coming up with a logo for me, I will reward you handsomely with all you can {drink} home brew!

What’s in Store: After I finish off the last of T.A.T.P.E.A.A., I plan on getting right back in the kitchen for a follow up this summer. Obviously, we’ll have a lot more to celebrate…new baby, new house, just to name a few. Now the hard part now will be selecting a new “flavor” to try. Missy says dark; I say wheat…so we shall see!

Also, Steve F. is encouraging me to start growing my own hops to give my home brew even more so. Since he does know a thing or two about crop cultivation, I may just have to listen…

So overall, how did I do? I guess you’ll just have to come over and try some yourself! Rave reviews are coming in from across the metro…but hurry, it won’t last too much longer 😀 Overall, I’d give my first effort a solid B; room for improvement, but still a mighty tasty and refreshing beverage…especially for my first time.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to indulge once again…cheers!

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This entry was posted in Just for Fun by Tom Hardinge. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tom Hardinge

Loving husband to my wife Missy, loving father to my four daughters Sienna, Rowan, Jovie, and Lola. I'm a chronic over-packer who loves good coffee, good music, running, waffle tee's, fleece pants, and Jesus Christ!

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