Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Batch #2 - American Pale Ale (Extract)

What a difference a little experience makes.  Round two was much less intimidating and the process flowed more smoothly.  There were, however, lessons to be learned and questions to be answered.

For batch #2 we decided to go with an American Pale Ale (one of my favorite styles) from Brewer's Best.  To see the recipe and instructions you can go HERE.  This recipe is labeled "Easy" by Brewer's Best in terms of difficulty and compared to the Wit Bier recipe I initially started my beer making hobby with I would agree.  There are simply less ingredients and steps involved in getting to the finished product.

Like my first batch, I took extreme caution to ensure everything was thoroughly sanitized and contamination would not be a factor.  For the most part, the brew session went as planned but I did learn a few things that I will take with me into batch #3 and I would like to share below:
  • Bayou Classic SQ14 Single Burner Outdoor Patio Stove

    A watched pot never boils...  Or so it would seem. In step #4 of the recipe it calls for the wort to be brought to a boil.  For whatever reason, our electric stove simply wouldn't get hot enough to bring the mixture to a rolling boil so it steeped for longer than the recipe called for.  Eventually we resigned ourselves to the fact that it simply wasn't going to get hot enough to achieve the desired temperature.  Fortunately, we had a propane burner similar to this one from Amazon.  We made the transfer and in just a few minutes had the rolling boil we were after.

Airlock seals don't float!  This is one of those seemingly simple lessons but until you have been there a little head scratching takes place.  After I had transferred the wort to my primary fermentation bucket I pitched the yeast, firmly pressed the lid on and went to install the airlock in the rubber seal around the top of the lid.  Unfortunately, I pressed a little hard and the black rubber seal pushed through and quickly sank to the bottom.  I retrieved my mixing spoon to try and fish it out but before doing so I mixed up another gallon of C-Brite to sterilize it before making the plunge.  After  several attempts and coming up empty I had to move on to a second option.  I considered siphoning the liquid into another container until the level was low enough to easily pluck the seal out but was concerned that introducing more air into the wort may contaminate it.  It seemed I was left but with one option.  I took the C-Brite mixture and thoroughly coated my right arm and went fishing.  I located the seal and was in and out in just a few seconds but I couldn't help but wonder if I had contaminated the brew.  As time would tell, the beer ended up just fine but not without a little worry.  Lesson learned - lubricate the end of the airlock with C-Brite solution and use care to gently push  into the seal.

Timing your Hydrometer readings matter.  If you want to ensure your home brew ends up with the intended ABV measurement you need to take your hydrometer readings at the appropriate times.  It is important to take a reading before fermentation begins to establish your original gravity (OG).  In following the brewing directions, I missed a step that would have given me greater control over the final gravity (FG) of my beer.  Step 8 of the brew process reads as follows... "Add enough clean water (approx. 64º - 72ºF) to the fermenter to bring your wort to approximately 5 gallons.  Thoroughly stir the water into the wort."  Simple enough.  I added the water as instructed but I should have read the ENTIRE set of directions because the next bit of information in the directions was important:  "Be careful not to add a volume of water that will cause the wort to fall outside of the OG range."  Unfortunately, I added more water than I should have and missed the intended OG which resulted in a FG less than is ideal for this style of beer.  I could not tell a difference in the taste of the finished product but I would have been happier if I had hit the desired ABV.  Lesson Learned - Add water to the wort slowly and take frequent hydrometer reading until you are at your intended OG reading.  You can always add more if your readings aren't where you want them to be.

Why's my beer cloudy?  After we popped our first beer in batch #2 we quickly noticed that it was cloudy.  This wasn't entirely unexpected.  In fact, some styles are supposed to be cloudy in their finished form such as our wit bier we brewed in batch #1.  The wit bier actually cleared up quite a bit over time while aging in the bottle.  This may prove to be true for our American Pale Ale as well but I think I will experiment with including Irish Moss in my next brewing session with a similar style.  Irish Moss is a clarifying agent commonly used in the home brew process to reduce the cloudiness of the beer and should not affect the taste.  It is purely used for aesthetic reasons.  I will follow-up on this topic with a future post on my results.

Thanks for reading and here's to successful home brewing!

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