Tag Archives: beer

My first homebrew

Yesterday was perfect brewing weather in Des Moines. T-shirt afternoon, then light jacket evening with the sun shining and a slight breeze.

After a few years of Joe and Andy brewing together, it felt like time for me to take a turn with the turkey frier, and they encouraged me to try.

They guys took me along to Beer Crazy, where I got the ingredients for a modified Marzen. (Marzen is the kind of beer they serve at Oktoberfest. I always enjoy them, and the thought of making something that I could alliteratively call “Manatee Marzen” was exciting. Yes, I am a nerd. Too bad we’re kegging it, because the labels would be cuuuute.)

After they finished up their newest batch, I attempted my first beer. I did a story on local homebrewers a few years ago, so I wasn’t that intimidated by the basic process.*

Image via Man vs. Ink.

For those unfamiliar with the brewing process, the first stage of home brewing is a lot like making a giant caldron of tea. I did what’s called a partial mash, because I used some grains and some powdered malt extract. The first stage is making wort, which involves steeping grains in a big mesh bag, then stirring in some malt extract powder and boiling the hops for different lengths of time.

I kept one eye on the thermometer/clock to make sure things didn’t boil over and heated for the right lengths of time. But my other eye was on “In the Garden of Beasts,” which I’m reading for book club. I am by no means an expert, which is to say that if I can do it, you can do it! You can get a lot more complicated about things, but you don’t have to at the onset.

You could use a stovetop, or brew kettle/propane burner combo if you don’t have a turkey frier. Joe brewed on the stove for a few years before we picked a frier up on supersale from Menards. I don’t totally hate the smell of brewing, but I will say that being able to do it outside is a lot nicer.

Also, sitting next to the boiling wort makes you kind of feel like a witch from MacBeth. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble!

After you’ve steeped/boiled all of the ingredients, you need to cool the wort. Make sure all of the equipment you use for the rest of the steps is well-sanitized! (We have a neat-o copper coily contraption for cooling, which makes it much faster.) Then I transferred the wort to a carboy for the first stage of fermenting.

I’ve got my fingers crossed this brew will turn out, because I want to serve it at my friend Karen’s 30th birthday, which we’ll be hosting at the end of April or early May. I’ll post about transferring to the second ferment in a couple of weeks, and about the finished product, too.

*I followed this recipe, although I used a different kind of yeast so that I wouldn’t have to refrigerate it like a true lager. I also switched out the last kind of hops for a similar variety, because the store was out of Saaz. (Let me also say that the people at Beer Crazy are super helpful. It’s kind of expensive to get started on home brewing, but it’s a pretty cool hobby. We got my brother, the guy who has everything and whose typical interests are way to high-tech for me, a startup kit for Christmas and it was the best gift we could have gone for. He’s super into it, so it makes every other holiday easier to shop for him, too!)

That’s me measuring the original gravity of my first homebrew. Knowing this will help me know what percent alcohol by volume my finished beer is. I like that the color of this wort looks like it matches my Mizzou shirt.

See a few of my previous brewing-related posts:

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The perks of marriage

Frenzied after a stressful pre-vacation day at work and running late for a board meeting, I call Joe (after phoning my mom to yell at her for leaving me a voicemail, because I’m a you-know-what) to warn him I’m in a horrible grouchy mood and won’t see him for a few hours. (Sorry, mom, for not forewarning you of my impending bitchiness via text message.)

An hour and a half later, I walk in the house to this:

To top it off, Joe tells me to go get in my comfiest clothes and pours me a microbrew from O’Fallon:

Warm and fuzzy. I'll blame it on the candle light.

And puts on a genius love mix that melts away any frustration I was feeling when I walked in the door. Sigh.

All this, and tax breaks to boot?!

Tomorrow, I might end up working for a few hours, but I have a hike in balmy weather and a haircut to sweeten the deal. Then, New Orleans bound!

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