Sunday, May 10, 2015

Let's Talk About Beer: Three girls, one brew kettle

If you follow me on Twitter or have been keeping up with these posts, you know I'm pretty serious and passionate about craft beer.  But did you know I've even helped make some?  Last summer, I helped brew a delicious porter with two friends.  It was a really interesting process and the beer turned out great.  There's something really satisfying about making beer.  I will warn you though, it's a lot of cleaning, measuring, timing, and waiting.  And I'm not the most patient person, so that last part is really hard for me.

About three weeks ago, two of my friends and I decided to make a double IPA.  We bought a kit at a local brew supply store, which is really the best way to get started.  One friend had all the brewing equipment, me and the other friend were just there to help.

I was going to do a huge write-up with all the steps, but I thought that might be a little too tedious, so here are the basic steps:

- Clean and sanitize everything.  This cannot be stressed enough.
- Bring 2.5 gallons of water (it's best to use distilled water) to 150 degrees.
- Add the bag of grains and allow to steep for approximately 20 minutes. Remove bag and allow all water to drain without squeezing it. You now have wort (rhymes with "dirt").
- Bring wort to a gentle, rolling boil.
- Add LME and sugars and continually stir until it becomes a rolling boil again.
- Add bittering hops. Boil 45 minutes.
- Add flavoring hops. Boil 15 minutes.
- Add aroma hops. Terminate boil.
- Add the yeast. let sit for 10 minutes or so.
- Put the brew pot in an ice bath and cool the wort down to 70 degrees as quickly as possible.
- Transfer wort to sanitized carboy (looks like a bucket to me) and add enough cool water to make five gallons and thoroughly stir.
- Sprinkle yeast over the top and stir with a sanitized spoon or paddle.
- Put lid on and fill airlock halfway with water before fitting into the grommeted lid. Move carboy to a dark, temperature-stable area (between 64 and 72 degrees).
- Fermentation should begin within 24 hours and will slow down after four to six days. You will know fermentation is complete where there are no bubbles in the airlock for 48 hours.
- For bottling, dissolve priming sugars in two cups of boiling water for five minutes and pour into sanitized bottling bucket. Carefully siphon beer from carboy into bottling bucket.  Try to avoid transferring any sediment.
- Using siphon and bottling wand, transfer beer to sanitized bottles and fill to one inch from the top of the bottle. Cap and store for two weeks in dark, temperature-stable area again to allow time for carbonation.

Here are some photos from the process.

This is the kit we used.

This is all the stuff in the kit -- hops, malt extract sugars, a bag for wort, grains, etc.

Three rounds of hops for this bad boy.
Putting the bag of grains into the kettle once the water is at the right temperature.

Adding some hops.

Trying to cool the wort in a sink of ice is a slow process. We might be investing in a wort chiller soon.

Stirring it up after it's chilled and transferred to the sanitized carboy.

Adding the yeast at the end.

The brew sits in the carboy for fermenting. We'll know it's done when there are no bubbles in that little contraption poking out of the top.

The brewing process from cleaning to when it was in the bucket took about three hours.  Yeah, it's not a short thing.  While we waited for temperatures to rise or drop, we held our monthly book discussion.  Multitasking at its finest.

I wish I could show you pictures of bottling, but our beer is still fermenting.  Yes.  More than three weeks later.  We knew it would take a little longer to ferment since it's a double IPA (more alcohol and more sugars), but three weeks is kind of crazy.  It's not going to be ready by the end of May as we planned, and it's going to be boozy as hell.

We had initially dubbed it Pajama Pants because we wanted to crack it open during a sleepover we have planned, but we may have to just change the name.  Suggestions?


  1. I'm a huge fan of craft beer but have never attempted to make my own because I'm too impatient. It looks like a fun endeavor though! I'm curious how your IPA turns out! You'll have to do a part two in the series to update us all.

  2. Oh wow! Love that you're making your own beer. So awesome! Too many steps for me, I'll just let my local breweries do it and pick up growlers for myself. ;) Can't wait to hear how it tastes!

  3. I helped my brother make a Coffee Stout in April and it turned out pretty great!! I enjoyed the process but he is super passionate about it so that helped a lot. I can't remember if you have cable, but if you get the Esquire channel you should check out the show "Brew Dogs"'s hilarious and also really cool to see them make beer in different cities.


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