I decided to take the jump to homebrewing after one of my colleagues did and I found out how affordable and doable it really is. Plus, I couldn't let him have all the fun. So top of the list this Christmas was a 5 gallon homebrewing set and this useful book, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian. That book is all the encouragement you'll ever need. It's kind of like buying a tourist guidebook for a vacation. You don't necessarily do the things/go the places in it, but it gives you the confidence to go ahead and get there.
|My daughter is not impressed by the smell of the wort.|
After toying with making a clone of one of my favorites, Stone IPA, I decided instead to go for the original recipe, AHS Greenbelt IPA. The reason is that it was a bit cheaper than the stone, the included hops were supposed to contain citrus, floral, tropical and pine notes--all of which sounded great to me. Plus, in my five years living in Austin, I spent a lot of time hiking, biking, and tubing on the Austin Greenbelt. Also, I figured I was best off creating a beer that I wouldn't be forced to compare with something I had already had. So...Greenbelt IPA it was.
My ingredients were due to be delivered on 12/30, along with a 21 inch spoon and thermometer I had ordered from Amazon to supplement the equipment that came with the kit. UPS said it would be delivered by the end of the day. My wife and two kids took off for our weekend ranch where we planned to spend New Year's and I stayed at home waiting--and waiting, and waiting--with our oldest daughter. Finally, around 9 pm, the package arrived.
Since I was waiting around all day like a giddy kid on Christmas Eve, I decided to make my first "unboxing" video, grown up hop head style. So if you've never watched an unboxing video, here you go:
The next day I packed everything up and drove to the ranch, sanitized, and got to work. I laid out all my ingredients, as well as my handy Field Notes to keep track of everything.
What you don't see in this picture are the gallons of Ozarka drinking water I also brought. My initial plan was to brew the beer completely using well water at our ranch in Live Oak County. However, I tested the water and it had a very high pH, lots and lots of minerals. From what I read, it seemed this could adversely affect the fermentation process. So I decided to cut the well water with Ozarka. That way it is still unique with plenty of authentic South Texas terroir to taste. But it would still be appropriately alcoholic.
I guess I really won't know if I successfully sanitized everything until I open up that first bottle. But I did my best and got cooking the wort, closely following the instructions from Austin Homebrew. They won't send you the instructions until you actually order the beer ingredients, which I suppose is understandable. But one unpleasant surprise was that the last line on the sheet said this beer would be best after six weeks in bottles. SIX WEEKS?!?!?!? Not going to happen. I guess I should have called. But I hate phones. I really love online shopping because it means I don't have to talk to anyone. But in the future, I will call and find out if there are any hidden surprises like this. My buddy's IPA kit from Austin Homebrew only suggest 3 weeks. So this was unique.
Anyway, cooking went fine, but there were a couple of issues. One is that I was using an electric stove, and I couldn't really get a good rolling boil without the lid on the kettle. You are supposed to have a rolling boil going for an hour (Papazian stresses this, and the Austin Homebrew recipe called for it as well). What I had to do was continually put the lid on, then take it off and stir when it started to boil over. Then it would have to build up to a boil again. So I was a little worried that I didn't get it boiled appropriately.
|Air lock after about 36 hours. So gross, yet, so tasty.|
But I got it into the fermenter, split the water between Ozarka and Lagarto well water, and put on the lid. We were in the midst of a cold front, which in South Texas meant temperatures in the forties. I kept the heater running constantly and a vigilant eye on the air lock to look for activity over the next couple of days. Since the beer is supposed to ferment 70-78 degrees, I decided I better take it home rather than leave it in the ranch house that wouldn't be heated.
So now it sits in my man closet, next to my road bike, skateboards, wet suit, and boxes of old cassettes. And every day I count the frequency of the CO2 bubbles escaping. Besides that, all I can do is obsess over my beer labels. Here's a glimpse of what I plan, assuming this thing comes out quaffable.
I actually came up with a good four batches worth of labels before my first set of ingredients came in. Who knows...maybe another post just about making labels will be forthcoming before I get this thing in bottles.