This past Saturday, Erik invited me over to brew a batch of porter with his good friend Brad. I had never homebrewed before, so this was completely new to me. I arrived at Erik’s house a while before Erik, who was running late, returned from Dan’s Homebrewing Supplies with the malt and hop ingredients. Luckily, I was really on time because Holly had just finished making lunch. I was already liking brewing by this point.
When Erik got home with the goods, the first thing we had to do was heat up some water for the first phase, mashing. Mashing involves mixing the malted barley (the recipe of which Erik can fill you in on) into hot water. Our malt mixture contained very little roasted chocolate malt (you could see the odd black fleck), which you might be surprised to find out is all that’s needed to give a beer that dark porter colour. The water had to be heated up to approximately 170F on the stove to get a temperature of 152F in the mashing vessel. How Erik knows this, I cannot tell. We used Erik’s fancy beer making software to figure out the ideal temperature of 152F. Apparently, anything three degrees above would lead to too many unfermentable sugers in the mash (leftover sugar means sweeter beer) and anything three degrees less would lead to too many fermentable sugars (not much leftover sugar means dry beer). After Erik had mashed in his barley malt and was ready to let it sit in the lautering process, we were dead on at 152F. Erik’s giant beer cosy system only loses 1F per hour, which I was pretty impressed with. Lautering is the process of letting the mash steep, to extract the fermentable sugars that yeast turns into alcholol.
Now Erik would tell you that home brewing is easy, and it is fairly straight forward, but it is really only easy when you are me. It is true that while homebrewing, you do a lot of work in bursts and then wait around for an hour or so. Homebrewing is also fairly precise and requires a fair amount of careful sanitization, as well as a good chunk of knowledge (that Erik has and I don’t). For me, brewing consisted of playing a lot of frisbee with Luca, Erik’s dog, and drinking a lot of beer. Whereas Erik spent a lot of time tearing around, cleaning stuff, carefully measuring/mixing, and took part in a good deal of attentiveness. I had a great time though, because frisbee and beer drinking are pretty fun. We drank a lot of fantastic beers, including Mission Springs Fat Guy Oatmeal Stout, Swans Coconut Porter, Swans Berry Ale, and Anderson Valley Tripel. We also had Paddock Wood IPA, which I thought was more of a decent pale ale than a respectable IPA, and Granville Island Brockton IPA, finally a westcoast IPA.
After an hour of waiting (drinking beer and playing frisbee), it was time to sparge. After draining the wort (unfermented beer) from the mashtun (Erik’s has a filter in the bottom), we poured hot water (hotter than the first go because we need no more extraction) through the mash to get more of the sugar out. We did this three times, stirring each time before draining more wort.
After we’d recovered the wort, it was time to fire up the brew kettle. Erik’s kettle is a turkey fryer that he heats with a potent propane burner. Bringing the wort to a boil was fairly challenging (mostly for Erik) because the wort wants to quickly extricate itself from the kettle. After achieving a boil, Erik immediately added the bittering hops for the hour long boil. After fifty minutes, the aroma hops were added. I do not recall the types of hops we use, but I seem to recall willamette being used for aroma. I’ll be honest, by the time the aroma hops were added I was out of beer making mode and into beer drinking mode. After the hour long boil, Erik cooled the wort using cold water running through a coper hose. Once cool, the wort was put into a carboy, to which yeast was added, and left to ferment for a week or so. After further ageing in the bottle for a few more weeks, we’ll have a tasty porter. Although, I fear my involvement may have somehow ruined this beer, but we’ll see. Erik, thanks for letting me make beer with you and I apologize if I somehow ruined it.