Ramble On

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Home Brewing

The Bruxelles Black - first tapping!

After so much encouragement from neighbor Dan, co-workers Tom and John, and friends Stan and Brendan, I decided to try my hand at homebrewing.  Stan’s been doing this forever, and then Dan has his hopyard out the back, so these things raised my curiosity.  Other friends have posted their process and experience on Facebook.  

Then Tom built himself a keg vault down in the basement; and I’ve been treated to watching them brew five-gallon batches – a wheat with Stan, a coriander-spiced Belgian with Brendan, and Dan’s Flat Tale IPA. 

The new brewers' association Dan helped to start.
The stakes keep getting raised.  Now Dan has formed the Blue Ridge Brewers Association, with regular meetings that are educational about the craft of brewing – with samples.  He also bought a 15-gallon set-up, and he’s had talks with local farmers about how to get a plot of barley suitable for brewing going, and then how to establish a malting operation.

Brewing with the one-gallon kit.
So I finally broke down and bought one of those beginner kits at Williams-Sonoma.  It included a one-gallon set-up with an IPA mix.  Before I even got started with this set, I also bought a five-gallon brew kit, although I haven’t yet broken that one out – I did upgrade to a brewer’s pot though, with six-gallon capacity.  I’m all set, if I ever get serious about it.

So far, my exploits have been to make three one-gallon batches.  The first was an IPA, and it was marginal.  For two reasons:  first, I was clumsy and wasted a lot of it during the bottling process, so we never got a good taste of it; and second, because I probably missed an instruction or two and didn’t end with the fullest, richest beer I might have.

My second batch was much better, a summer brew that was called Honey Grapefruit Ale – I managed to bottle almost the compete gallon in a set of 22 ouncers I have been saving up.  And the third, which has been sitting in bottles for the last 10 days, set for opening tonight, is a Belgian Black Ale, shown in the photos here. 

The bottled yield of the Bruxelles Black.
I opened the Belgian Black Ale with Dan last weekend, and we liked it.  It lived up to its appearance, and it is different enough that I could specialize in it and possibly end up with something really special.  So I am going to try it again soon.

I still have a one-gallon fall brew to go: a chocolate maple porter.  When I’m done with that one, I’m planning to move up to the five-gallon set up, since I’ll have been through the process a few times and feel pretty confident of it.   I have an IPA lined up for the first batch. 

Down the road, once I have a batch or two under my belt, I will probably substitute the hops provided in the kit with some of Dan’s homegrown Cascades and a pack of Calypso he gave me.  That’ll be a treat.

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