Friday, January 25, 2008

Beer: Notes on My First Homebrew

My first homebrew finally finished aging on Thursday (see my brother's review below). It went through two weeks of aging for proper carbonation and another three weeks recommended aging for "best taste" according to my kit's directions. I decided to name it WillCo, a smashing together of my last name with that of my lovely wife and brewing assistant.

The kit I used to make this beer is produced by Brewer's Best and is called California Imperial Pale Ale. They describe the kit as their take on the popular Arrogant Bastard Ale. I had one during the aging process directly next to an Arrogant Bastard. While mine isn't quite as good, the fact that it's even in the same ballpark is amazing to me! There are some subtle differences in the hop character and there's something a little funky on the finish that isn't there in Arrogant Bastard. Maybe just the difference between the water in San Diego and our lovely water supply in Indy.

I started out with 38 12oz. bottles and two 22oz. bombers but somehow through gifting at Christmas and tasting one here or there through the aging process, I'm left with slightly less than half that number. My initial number of bottles was a bit low, as 5 gallons should produce about 53 12oz. bottles. Probably lost some volume to evaporation while boiling the wort and taking gravity readings. Plus, there isn't a mark on my carboy for 5 gallons so if I had tried to correct the volume, it would have been a complete guess. I'll have to fill it with 5 gallons of water at some point and make a big permanent marker line on it for the future.

One side-effect of the low yield is that I inadvertently used too much finishing sugar during bottling. That is, I used the entire packet that came in my kit. Finishing sugar is consumed by the remaining yeast in a bottle to produce CO2 that carbonates the beer. Unfortunately, the amount in the packet is intended for 5 gallons of beer when I was closer to 4 gallons. That means there was extra sugar in each bottle which produced extra CO2 and slightly over-carbonated beer. When I opened a 22oz. bottle, I could only pour about half a pint before the head was almost overflowing. Luckily, the 12oz. bottles aren't nearly as bad and I only used two 22s this time.

My plan is to start Batch #2 this weekend. I previously thought I'd do a stout but when I think about the time to ferment, bottle and age a stout, I probably won't be drinking it before the spring! By then I'll probably be thinking about drinking something different....maybe an IPA?

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