Monday night, I opened a bottle of the first porter I brewed. I took a picture for the Internets that looks something like this:
(click image to embiggen at Imgur)
It turned out much better than I expected, considering there was a near disaster when I brewed it. Read on if you want to hear a story about making beer, and how it really is difficult to screw up, no matter how hard you try.
This is the Chocolate Maple Porter from Brooklyn Brew Shop. I had a few hours to myself one afternoon recently, so I spent it brewing. I was careful, made meticulous notes, compared what I was doing in the kitchen with what I'd read in books and online, etc.
It's only a one gallon kit, but I boiled it in the 6 gallon kettle I use for my regular 5 gallon batches. When I was finished, I put the lid on the kettle, and set it into my sink, which I'd filled about halfway with water to cool the wort. Physics happened, and the kettle started to float. I caught it, and weighed it down so it wouldn't try to bob around and tip over.
Whenever I finish brewing, I cool my wort by setting the kettle in the sink with some cool water, and after that water starts to warm up (yay thermodynamics!), I dump in twenty pounds of ice in two ten pound increments. (Can you see where this is going?) So I put in the ice, physics happened, and the kettle floated and tipped over. I caught it before the lid could completely come off, but I still lost about half of the wort.
At this point, I was pretty angry with myself for making such a stupid mistake, but it looked like the wort had only spilled out, without letting any water or ice in, so I remembered to relax and decided to go ahead and finish it. "At the very least, it'll be an interesting experiment," I thought.
So I cooled the wort, pitched the yeast, and let it ferment for a week. I kept expecting it to get infected, but it never did, and when I bottled it (I only got 5 bottles), it looked and smelled great, and it tasted like a porter.
So flash forward to Monday night. As you can see, it doesn't have much of a head on it, but it's really smooth and very, very viscous. It has a burnt chocolate/dark chocolate flavor, with a hint of caramel. I don't really taste the maple at all, but I also screwed up and primed with honey instead of maple syrup, so that may have contributed to that.
So, overall, considering that I really screwed up at least once in the process, I'm happy with it. I'm especially happy that I went ahead and took it all the way to bottling, and I'm interested to taste it in another week or so, after it's had even more time to condition.
If nothing else, I hope this an inspiration to other newbies like me, who may be afraid of screwing up their beer. If my experience is any indication, it really is difficult to mess up.
If you can make oatmeal, you can make beer. It's incredibly fun, incredibly rewarding, incredibly easy, and when you're finished YOU HAVE BEER THAT YOU MADE. If you're looking to get excited and make something, it's a great place to start.
For those of you who don't brew beer. Here's an oversimplified version of how I did it for the Porter:
- Soak grains in hot water for about 45 minutes. (This is called Mashing.)
- Remove grains from the water, leaving behind tasty stuff. Pour more hot water through the grains to get any other good stuff that's clinging to the grains. (This is called Sparging.)
- Bring the resulting good stuff, called your wort (pronounced wirt, like the kid in Diablo), to a boil with some clean water. Add hops according to a schedule for an hour to give it bitterness, flavor, and aroma. (This is called The Boil, and is the first and only step that has a name that sounds like what it actually is.)
- Cool the wort to about 70 degrees and add the yeast. (This is called Pitching the yeast.)
- Put it all into something to ferment for about a week or so. (This is called Fermentation, and it turns out that I lied in step 3.)
- Put it into bottles with some priming sugar, wait two weeks or longer, then drink. (This is called Awesome.)
You can get the glass as part of a set from Think Geek.
There are a ton of mail order places, if you don't have a local homebrew shop like I do. Check out the vendor list at Homebrew Talk if you're interested.