What follows should not be viewed as a how-to on homebrewing as we likely did things wrong, this is just my experience as a first-time homebrewer.
While hanging around the neighborhood fire pit, I discovered a neighbor who is interested in brewing beer and one who tried once before but gave up. With the 3 of us working together splitting costs and results I’d end up with about 18 bottles, a much more enticing number for me.
One last hurdle was that living in Monroe means a 45-minute drive to a homebrew store. That changed when Osborn Brewing opened only 10 minutes away. Brent, the owner, heard of our plans and invited us up to brew along with him last month.
With the day at hand, we packed up the rig plus a couple of beers and headed to the store. With everything setup at the store, we began brewing… which is to say waiting, lots of waiting. Waiting for the grain to steep, waiting for the sweet wort to boil, waiting for the hopped wort to cool, and now waiting for the yeast to do its magic and turn that wort into a pale ale.
Overall not a bad way to spend the afternoon. You get up to do a bit of activity: check the temp every once in a while, drink a couple of beers, add some bittering hops, chew the fat, add some flavoring hops and keep on waiting.
After six days of waiting [which we later found out is way too short], the yeast appeared to stop doing its thing, and it was time to transfer our creation into bottles.
The entire bottling operation was easily the most amount of continuous effort we had exerted thus far in the process as there was no waiting around today. We had one guy pulling bottles off the tree, I was filling the bottles, and another person was picking them up to cap them. Then more waiting this time for 21 days. We only made it 14 days before impatience won and we cracked one open.
We ended up taking pale ale ingredients with brown ale instructions and made a not horrible hoppy session beer brown ale. Nice aroma and smooth caramel flavor with a decently bitter background. Some sweetness comes out stronger as it warms a bit though there was a bit of vinegar kind of off flavor. We may not have made what we intended, but we did make drinkable beer on our first time ou and as I finish this post our second brew is fermenting.
8 thoughts on “Bloggers First Home Brew”
6 days fermentation time is WAY too short. 14 days minimum from pitching to bottling.
Yep. One of us read somewhere that as soon as the air lock stops bubbling we’re good to bottle. Realized the error after tasting it.
You’ll probably be ok, assuming it’s a medium/low gravity ale and you pitched a healthy dose of yeast. If your beer was not done fermenting, you may end up with bottle bombs, so place them in the frig as soon as they are carbed. I learned the hard way once and had to clean beer off the ceilings and walls of my basement.
The only way to be sure fermentation is finished is to compare your original gravity to your final gravity. You’ll need to have a rough goal (based on your recipe) to hit for the wort (probably around ~1.050) and then a goal to hit for fermentation (probably around ~1.015).
When you’ve hit the FG you’re expecting, it’s ready to keg/bottle. The airlock test is good for knowing when to take gravity readings, but can’t always be trusted. I had a stout that barely bubbled at all!
You should definitely get a hydrometer so you know when the yeast is done. I typically leave my lower gravity beers for three weeks so I’m certain it’s done, plus it allows the beer to clear and form a solid, packed yeast cake.
The hyrdometer was only 5 off so we thought we were in range… of course it was 5 off of the FG for a brown ale, it was later we realized we’d used a pale ale kit.
How you really know fermentation is done when you get the same gravity reading 2-3 times over a few days. With that said, for my first 10-15 batches I never tested the gravity and I never had any bottle bombs. I usually waited 3-4 weeks and made sure the krausen dropped though. Now I use a refractometer to make sure batches are done.
Anyway, cheers and congrats on your first and second home brew. I started almost 2 years ago and I’m hooked. I definitely feel I’ve taken it to the next level from only doing extract with dry yeast to all grain (using brew in a bag) and harvesting and storing yeast and yeast starters.
Also even though kits are made for 5 gallons, nothing says you can’t do smaller batches. I’m brewing a 3 gallon batch tomorrow because I love the process of brewing, but like you, I like variety and even with my good beer loving gf, can’t drink 2 cases of beer if I’m brewing every few weeks in addition to the commercial beer we still buy. So my plan is to brew smaller batches more often.
Try Gallon Batches of beer. So much easier and you only end up with 10-12 bottles. I don’t do that every time, but it’s a nice change up in between bigger 5G batches.