Sunday, January 25, 2009

Beer Styles

I have been reading a great deal on the different beer styles out there and wow beer is pretty complex! Beer just isn't beer, there are lagers, ales, porters, stouts, witbier, pilsners and a few more. Each one has it's own characteristics that sets it apart from the others.

I have also noticed that the average beer drinker will most likely not like anything other than the good ol American lagers. Give them a stout or porter and watch them look funny trying to swallow it down. Beer drinker tastes vary from person to person as well.

So a word of advice, when having your "friends" sample your beer make sure that you don't take some comments to seriously. If it tastes good to you then that should be all that matters. Remember you will brew some beers that many will like a and few will dislike, some that many will dislike and a few will like.

If you want some good guide lines on how to rate or judge a beer go to this site http://www.bjcp.org/index.php . At this site you can download a pdf file that will help you learn on what makes a lager a lager and not a pilsner. Impress your friends or watch them look at you weird as you "judge" a beer before you drink it down.

It also a good thing to know what beer you are brewing. What characteristics you are looking for and such. The judging guide also helps you in deciding what hops to use together and what yeast to use. Knowing this info can also help you to classify your brew in case you ever enter it into a competition.


Jared

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Equipment cont.

The next piece of equipment I will write about is the fermenting bucket or a carboy.

After you boil your wort and it has cooled you will move it into a fermentor. These fermentors can be a food grade plastic bucket or glass carboy. These items need to be sanitized before adding your concoction into them. You will also need either a hole drilled into the lid of the buckets or rubber stoppers for the carboys, also known as bungs. The hole is for an airlock.

What is an airlock? Well it is an item that allows gases produced from the fermentation process to escape without letting air back in. This helps to keep the fermentation process clean. I have shaken a fermenting carboy and watched as a nice stream of liquid shot out the top of the bung/airlock! If the solution is bubbling the yeast is working move with caution if you have to move it!

An airlock on a carboy bung.







An airlock in a bucket lid.







Some brewing , such as meads and wines, require a second racking. Racking by the way is what you just did if you moved your solution into a bucket or carboy to ferment.

When getting ready to bottle your brew or do another racking, move your fermentor a day or two ahead of time into position. This will give any sediment a chance to resettle.

A word here about buckets. First make sure they are food grade plastic buckets. IF you get your buckets from a restaurant any smells in that bucket will be transferred to your brew, not a good thing.

If you can get them glass carboys work really well. You can really see what is going on with your brew as it ferments! You can also use the plastic carboys as well if you need to in a pinch.

Which ever you choose make sure they are clean, clean, clean!


Jared

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Brewing equipment cont.

As I said in my last post you will need to get some equipment to start brewing. You can go online and get most or you can shop your local stores for items. One such item is your boiling pot.

Your boiling pot needs to be stainless steel or enameled lined. I recommend a pot that has a capacity that is a little larger than the batch you are boiling. They are usually measured in quarts, so remember 4 quarts equal 1 gal, if working with 5 gal batches a 22 quart stock pot will work perfectly.

These pots can be purchased locally at your nearest store. I have found inexpensive stainless steel pots for around $40 - $50. Enamel pots will be a little cheaper.

These pots are referred to as "stock pots". This reference is based on that fact that these are used to make stocks, boiling of beef or chicken bones, soups or stews in large quantity.

The use of aluminum pots can lead to a bad taste in your beer, so I have been told. Copper pots do the same, this is what gives some beers a different taste. If one batch is brewed in stainless and another in copper they may have a slight difference in taste, but there isn't any real evidence of this. So use your best judgement.






This is a stainless stok pot.











An enamel stock pot.






Jared

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Brewing Equipment

There are many places to get your brew equipment from online. If your lucky you might have a local place to buy from as well. Here are a couple of places I have found :

http://www.beer-wine.com/

http://homebrewheaven.com/

You can also find equipment off of E-bay, but compare prices before you buy. Look at shipping costs, you might find a great price but pay way too much in shipping! I have seen shipping easily double the price.

Take your time and start small. I recommend starting with 5 gal. batches at first. This way you haven't lost to much if you ruin a batch, and it will happen every now and then. Most recipes will be in this area of volume so it will be easy to find something to try.


Glass or plastic? Most kits will have a plastic bucket, remember this is food grade plastic. If you get a bucket from a restaurant any smells in that bucket will transfer to your brew! Non food grade plastics can also transfer bad tastes into your brew as well so make sure to use food grade plastics. As far as glass goes I would use glass carboys, the container that goes on a water cooler, they do very well.

Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize and sanitize! Your equipment needs to be very clean for brewing. If not you can kill your yeast culture or add unwanted tastes to your brew with dirty equipment.

This is as much as I can think of to start for now. We will expand on some of these things as we go, so keep checking back or leave any comments that can help us and others along the trail of becoming a better brewer.

I word to the wise, when brewing in your kitchen make sure that your wife knows what you are doing! Otherwise it can be a long sleep on the couch!

Jared

Brewers Dictionary

Since I'm basically new at beer brewing, one thing I have found out is that research is extremely important.....and apparently that can't be stressed enough! My head starts to spin when I look at a recipe and it has all these words that I've never heard. I can clearly see how some people get discouraged. I mean, what the hell is mash tun...or sparge mean? Well, the way I figured it, is that, in order to make a good beer, one must have one hell of a vocabulary. So.....I have found a couple of websites that can assist you on your journey:

  1. http://beeradvocate.com/beer/101/terms.php
  2. http://www.brew-monkey.com/brewschool/glossary.php

Now, I am well aware of the fact that there are tons of websites with this information, these are just the two that I had time to sit and read. All you have to do is google "beer brewing terminology", and you are on the right track, but I do prefer beeradvocate.com. They have all kinds of information for the "brewing challenged". Good Luck and drink one for me!

Brent