…and we’re back! This blog is a good idea but like many things in life that are good ideas (exercise, healthy eating, staying organized), it’s much easier to get out of the habit than it is to get back into it. Also, like those other good ideas, it’s best to start small! Today I’m just going to give a brief overview of all the homebrew fun since the last time I blogged, many moons ago. No photos, alas, because The Canadian is back in her motherland and has taken the camera with her, along with her laptop (repository of all the good snaps). My old-skool cell phone is also no use for pretty pictures – it has a camera but I have never used it and given the fact that it doesn’t even have predictive text, I don’t hold out much hope for the photo quality! Enough of this digression and back to the beer briefing!
Homebrewing: Now this is a fun hobby! Our first effort of the year with my 1-gallon set-up was the White House Honey Porter (WHHP). We opened the box, puzzled over instructions, steeped the specialty hops like a tea-bag, boiled up our malt extract and hops (hey presto, wort!), cooled it down, whacked in the yeast, let it ferment, added the priming sugar for secondary fermentation to add carbonation when we bottled and waited… so, how did it taste I hear you ask? Well it was easy-drinking, dark and, erm, dull. Not enough depth of flavor, not enough body, just not enough. Sorry Mr Obama sir, I’m sure they brew it better in your kitchen!
Not to be deterred, we cracked-on with our next effort, an Oak Aged IPA. The kit came in a hessian bag (nice touch) but the real fun was adding oak chips half-way into the fermentation. The resulting beer is slightly more amber than your typical IPA (either a result of the malt extract or us steeping the specialty grains too long!), hopped more like a Pale Ale and with more balance from the malt than an American IPA. The oak really does add a mellow, slightly sweet twist. Better than our WHHP for sure!
Emboldened by our first efforts we decided it was time to cross the frontier into All-Grain. For this approach, you actually extract all the fermentable sugars plus other malty goodness direct from the malt itself. To do this, you end up making a hot malty porridge for an hour (mashing) then you circulate hot water through (sparging) to make sure you have all the good stuff. Problem #1: mash for a 1-gallon brew = quite a lot of wet grain (boy am I glad we didn’t get the 5-gallon set-up!). Problem #2: it may fit in the colander, but all that grain doesn’t necessarily drain easily! OK, let’s try two shifts in the sieve. Sorted. Problem #3… what temperature was the sparging water meant to be again while we messed with all that?! Despite all this we had a great deal of fun brewing a Chocolate Maple Porter from the trendy homebrew start-up Brooklyn Brew Shop. The chocolate came from chocolate malt while the maple syrup was added to the wort and also as the priming sugar. So, how does it taste? Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm, MMMM! Lusciously dark with a tan head, the smell and taste delivers roasty goodness with a sweet, maple tang. I could do with a little bit more body but I’m really splitting hairs here. First beer I’ve made that is actually better than some I’ve bought. Result.
All-grain is clearly the way to go, so now we have a Jalapeno Saison just bottled and a Coffee & Donut Stout fermenting in the cupboard. Can’t wait to drink the first one on a hot day by the BBQ and the second one for breakfast after dinner sometime! The next challenge? Designing our own recipe. In the words of a successful modern movie franchise – Bring It On!