Last night we brewed our second beer. A caramel Apple Pie Ale which will hopefully be ready by the 4th of July. It was a little bit trickier because we had to caramelize some of the malts but for the most part not difficult. Actually I would say the hardest part of it all was staying up until midnight trying to finish it.
For those of you who are brew-curious, it is not that difficult. Granted we have yet to taste any of our ale. I think if these two batches don’t come out perfect that’s fine. Why? Because it is our first time! It’s our first draft. Yeah that pun was intended.
I’m going to give you a simple step by step for any ale. So I wont be saying take x kind of sugar and put it in y mixture, but I will simply run you though the process. I am going to do it this way because I wish I had been able to find something that was this simple when we had first started brewing.
First you get the water (different recipes have different amounts usually around two gallons) to the specific temperature in your brew pot with your oats in the muslin bag so they don’t roam freely in the water. You have to keep it at that temperature for at least thirty minutes. The recipe will tell you the temperature. Different recipes call for different temperatures. If you have to caramelize something this is when you do it. Then after the oats and grains are good and in there and the malts are caramelized and your hops and throw it all in your brew pot and let it boil for an hour. So far in all the recipes I have read and used have this one hour boil period with the malts and hops. Once that is done you dump it into your brew bucket. I know if it is actually called a brew bucket but that’s what I am going to call it. Because you need to cool your brew to 75 degrees as fast as possible what we do is have two gallons of really cold water in the bucket in the sink which is also full of ice water. I don’t put ice in the brew because there is too much chance for contamination. I know I didn’t go int sanitizing at all but all your equipment has to be sanitized and you have to be really careful to make sure you don’t contaminate your brew. I will go into that specifically in another post. So you pour your boiling brew into your two gallons of cold water and then add cold water until you reach five gallons. The brew bucket has the measurements on it. to make it easy. Then you stir to release heat and keep changing out your water. Last night we got it down to 75 in about twenty minutes. It was awesome. Once it cools you put it in your primary fermenter. We like to use a carboy but you can use a fermentation bucket too. It’s a preference thing. Then you kind of shake it up not really shake but mix it around so it gets oxygenated for the yeast. Then you add the yeast and set up your air lock. If you have the five gallon carboy you may end up with a foam problem. From what I have heard it is quite common. We had the issue with out first batch and we had to make a new air lock to deal with it. We used a three-foot tube that came with our brew kit and a milk jug. We sanitized everything before using it.
This time however, we used a 6.5 gallon carboy and so far no issues. We will be using the 5 gallon for mead and wine since they have to sit so long. And speaking of sitting, this is the part where you wait. As the yeast causes the fermentation it causes the airlock to bubble. You know it’s done when it only bubbles once per minute. This period of active fermentation may take up to two weeks or as little as 3 to 5 days. During that time you need to keep the temperature of the ale between 63 and 75 degrees. This is also difficult if you have a cold house and its winter or if it’s too hot. We keep ours in the pantry and it seems to help as inside the pantry the temperature doesn’t fluctuate as much.
Once primary fermentation is complete you add your flavoring and wait one day so that it isn’t too strong. I kind of think after we taste our blueberry ale we may decide its better to do it the day of bottling or maybe a few days before I don’t know yet. But again I am thinking that will be a person choice you will just have to make on your own.
To bottle we put the brew in our bottling bucket which has a nozzle on the bottom of if for easy bottling. You add your priming sugar now before you bottle. The priming sugar reacts with the yeast and causes carbonation in the bottle. I thought that was the coolest thing. Ok I’m done. So you bottle your brew and use the handy-dandy cap squeezer thing… I really cant remember what that thing is called… but it basically squeezes the cap so it seals.
After your bottles are capped you return them to where your fermentation took place and wait again. Usually about three weeks. If you wait three and they don’t taste as good as you imagined. Wait longer. Beer tastes better with age. 🙂
So That’s the short version… haha. If this is confusing or unclear please let me know and I will try again with more thought put into it ahead of time.