Brian's Beer Brew
I made beer. An Irish Red Ale. Not completely from scratch, but from a kit. But it’s still a feat for me that it actually turned out in the end.
Making something with my own hands holds a certain appeal for me. I like the fact that I can make something of my own that I could just go buy in a store. But on the other hand, cooking or baking or even building has never held much allure for me for that reason.
I’ve never been that much of a beer drinker either. I’ve drunk my fair share of beer, but I’m no connoisseur or beer snob.
So why I decided to brew my own beer is beyond me. I think being able to have some control over the final taste and alcohol content appealed to me. It just looked like something fun to do that gives me something enjoyable in the end.
So I asked for beer brewing equipment as a Christmas gift, and my sister came through with most of the equipment I needed to make my first batch of home brew.
I’m not going to lie. The process itself scared me a lot. I had a sense of doom the entire time, thinking I’d screw something up at some point, and this several-month process would be all for naught.
I did fumble my way through much of the cooking and didn’t have a proper chiller or thermometer that read down to where I needed it to measure when I was cooling. It didn’t start out well for me.
I was surprised when I took a reading a week or so later that the concoction was actually making alcohol. I hadn’t contaminated the yeast and the temperature was good for brewing, so it was going well despite my unfavorable attitude.
It was at this point that I talked to Gene Benson, who said he’s brewed over 100 batches of beer and never had one not turn out. Gene encouraged me to continue with it to the end, despite my attitude.
So I did. I continued to take readings, and after several weeks fermenting, I judged it ready for bottling.
My spirits were high that I was going to have a good batch at this point. There wasn’t much left to screw up!
My positive attitude, I believe, made me overlook the final step of the beer-making process — the addition of priming sugar to the beer before bottling. Sugar is added to give the remaining yeast something to eat to make carbon dioxide and give the beer its fizz.
The beer is pumped from the fermenter to a bottling bucket. That’s where the sugar mixture should be added prior to the transfer to ensure that every drop of beer comes into contact with the sugar.
I filled my bottling bucket before I realized that I hadn’t added the sugar yet. So the sugar got stirred in after the fact — something I thought for sure was going to ruin my entire batch, and my grimness set in again.
Hopefully all the beer had gotten a dose of sugar and was ready to make bubbles in the bottles. Ideally, you wait about four weeks for the carbonation to finish, but like many other home brewers I’d seen on websites, I couldn’t wait the full month. I cracked open a bottle after two weeks of carbonation and was extremely surprised at my final product.
It has a thick head, rich red color and tastes delicious! I think there’s less alcohol in the final product than I’d like, but it was still a success.
The kit yielded 47 bottles of Irish Red Ale, eight of which were 16 ounce bottles.
The problem with that number is that when it comes down to it, 50 bottles of beer just doesn’t go very far! I’ve sampled a few bottles myself, given away a six pack or two, brought some to share at the curling club one week, saved a sixer for the Water Carnival home brew contest and one for my sister who bought it all for me, and it’s all gone or spoken for after just a few weeks!
The solution to that problem is, of course, to brew another batch, which I’ve already picked out — Honey Weizen. I’ll start that batch within a week and hopefully have another delicious brew for the summer!