Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brewing Wheat Beer, June 29th, 2011

After brewing hard cider, we decided that it was time to stop the childish acts and get down to brass tacks and brew something serious: wheat beer. Why wheat beer you ask? Because we like to live life on the edge. And because we wanted to start off brewing more than just your run-of-the-mill beer. 

"Pancho Villa" Recipe
- 5 gallons of tap water
- 1 package of Irish Ale yeast
- 4 lbs. wheat malt
- 1 lb. light malt
- 1 ounce Kent Goldings hop pellets (4.9% Alpha Acid)
- 1 lb. sugar
- 5 teaspoons yeast nutrient.

Most of the ingredients, the sugar was AWOL.

The first step in any project is to read the directions, or RTFM to those in the tech community. So the directions on the yeast package said that I was supposed to smack it and let it warm up. I guess yeast has to "get in the mood" to work. I don't know, don't ask me. Actually, the goal of smacking the yeast package is to break the nutrient package and to allow the yeast to get out of it's dormant stage so it can ferment your wort into beer.

The good stuff.

Spanking the yeast. Yes, spanking. 
After we waited for the yeast to get ready, we sanitized all our equipment and got everything ready for the big show. What brewing boils down to is adding in fermentable sugars and flavoring to water, letting it boil which activates enzymes and lets the pH of the brew reach an acceptable level. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Lets take this in our familiar step by step process.

1. Add Water to Pot. That's right, just regular water. We used our tap water and trust us, if we can use our tap water then everybody can. Unless you live in an area where you might be at risk for a water-bourne disease. We used an alleged 3 gallon stock pot (it looks more like 2 gallons to me) for our boil, but anything that can boil 2 gallons of water will be fine.

Definitely could not boil 3 gallons in here.
2. Add in the Malt. We added in the wheat and the light malt extract to the water (it doesn't have to be hot yet) and then stirred so that the malt would not just burn on the bottom of the stock pot.

It doesn't taste as good as it looks.

A mix between Cthullu and a landing alien space ship.
The light malt was in powdered form. I don't think it really matters what form the malt is in, as long as it gets dissolved. We mixed syrup and powdered, so I guess that is allowed also. We'll find out soon.

What is this? I don't even...
3. Stir. Just stir it up so it's all dissolved and boiling.

It should look a little weird. And smell kinda funny.
4. Add the Hops. Make sure you put them in a hop bag or strainer to help when you pour the wort (which is what the beer is called before it is fermented) from the brew pot to the fermenting vessel. Depending on how bitter you want your beer, the amount and type of hops can vary. We used 1 ounce of Kent Goldings hops, which has a 4.9% Alpha Acid rating, which is fairly low, and 1 ounce is a small amount, so this beer shouldn't be too bitter.

Looks like guniea pig food.

Looks pretty simple, but they make a mess in the wort.
To keep our hops from running amok in our wort, we placed a kitchen strainer over the pot and suspended it with two bamboo skewers. However, our initial setup slipped, and it spilled hops into out wort in a massive moment of chaos and confusion. Kinda like Deep Horizon, except not as devastating. 

Bad engineering right here.

We had a hops-spill. Luckily none of the wildlife was harmed.
Once we fished the strainer from the wort using sanitized tongs, we modified it a bit so this kind of accident wouldn't happen again.

Keeping the hops contained.
5. Add the Sugar. But first, let the wort boil for about 45 minutes. Then at the end, add the sugar. I actually don't have any pictures of us adding sugar to the wort, but here are some pictures of the hop pellets once they were added to the wort. They broke apart to form a pretty strange looking goo. Hops goo. 

But it smelled pretty good.

Gross! Who threw-up in our wort? Oh wait, that's the hops. 
6. Add 3 Gallons of Water to the Fermenter. Since this recipe makes 5 gallons of brew, and we are boiling 2 gallons on the stove, we need 3 more gallons. Add this amount of water to the fermenter, it doesn't have to be hot or anything, in fact, cold water will allow the wort to chill faster (which is a good thing, it means you can add your yeast faster and will reduce the chance of bacteria growing in your beer).

Another award winning picture from Jason Crain.

7. Strain and Pour the Wort Into the Fermenting Vessel. Once the wort has been boiling for around an hour, it is time to strain the wort (to get rid of any hops that may have spilled out) and pour it into the fermenting vessel.

Wait for it.....

Ok, go!

Catching the runaway hops. 
8. Close the Lid and Wait For it to Cool The Pitch the Yeast. We have to wait until the temperature is around 70C before adding the yeast, but we might have jumped the gun, not having a thermometer suitable for brewing. Anyway, this is one the hardest steps because you have to wait. While you are waiting, you can add the yeast nutrient. And think of ways to cool your wort. 

Our red-neck cooling apparatus. 

Adding the yeast nutrient.

Imma pitch this yeast.

Go forth and multiply!
Fermentation should start within 24 hours, if it doesn't then most likely it is due to a yeast problem. Or Improper sanitizing. Now all you have to do is wait between 6 days to 2 weeks for the fermentation to stop. 

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