Tag Archives: homebrewing

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 Homebrewer’s Wife

Let’s subtitle this post: The many perks of being married to a homebrewer. (Remember my post about Guinness and spent grain cinnamon rolls?)

Joe started brewing a couple of years ago, inspired by our brother-in-law, Andy. Aside from one instance when I came home from an adult tap dancing lesson to see smoke billowing from the kitchen, it’s been an excellent adventure that’s turned me into a bit of a beer snob. Homebrewing is a hobby that gradually becomes a way of life.

In went a great retro keg fridge for the garage this past spring. Nothing chases an afternoon of yard work better than a lemon basil beer.

We’ve started to make brewpubs a must-stop element of any trip (even our honeymoon in Austria), and recently talked beers with the brewmaster at Old Man River in McGregor, Iowa over a late lunch at the bar. (The brewery crafts Backpocket beers, which are awesome and extra fun because of the great graphic design on the labels. We learned they’ll be opening a Backpocket Brewery in Iowa City soon!)

And then last night, the guys overdid themselves by developing and cooking a four course beer dinner for me and Ellen and Caroline, who paired everything with juice. (It was a supersweet surprise, complete with the wearing of aprons and a printed out menu.)

They found the framework of the dinner on CraftBeer.com, but came up with the specific beer pairings and tweaked the recipes themselves. (They even went to random meatlocker warehouses in search of lamb! They ended up getting it at Gateway Market, though.) The idea is that we’d sample the different microbrews with dinner, then help select the next beer type they’d try making. And I’d have to stay out of the kitchen all day, reading and going on walks with the dog instead of emptying the dishwasher? SOLD!

Isn't this Cubs apron hilarious? Ellen made it for Joe last Christmas. The guys also made some spent grain bread to go with the meal.

Here’s what they made for us. It was all delicious, and the photos I took with flash couldn’t do it all justice, so I won’t even post most of them.

  • First Course: Linguine Carbonara Paired with a Belgian-style Dark Abbey Ale (they paired it with a New Belgium Abbey Belgian Style Ale)

  • Second Course: Indian-spiced Crab Cakes Paired with an India Pale Ale (paired with Red Hook Long Hammer IPA)
  • Third Course: Roast Rack of Lamb Paired with a Brown Ale or Porter (paired with Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar)
  • Fourth Course: Imperial Stout Float (paired with Belles Special Double Cream Stout — topped with some awesome organic spiced chocolate shavings.)

And to think that four years ago today, I wooed Joe by inviting him to my apartment for dinner. I made a bruschetta chicken bake off of the back of a Stove Top Stuffing box and we took the black lab I was dog-sitting for a post-meal walk around the neighborhood! I was so nervous that night and I still remember what I wore. Last night it was great to relax by the fire and laugh and drink with my family. Being married to a homebrewer/guy like Joe has some pretty solid perks, I must say!

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