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2015 December 27. Sunday.

I forgot to post yesterday!!! Here’s a rush post (sorry).

Making beer is work. Also fun. In total I’ve made 76 gallons (810 bottles) of beer, coming from from 17 batches of 4.5 gallons and 10 hours of my time each. I don’t get any because I’m underage; it’s all drunk by friends and family. Despite this, brewing is a ton of fun and something I love to talk about.

Batch number 14 was a doozy. My friend Max and I spent 16 hours apiece on fixing everything that went wrong (which was everything) and getting 5 gallons fermenting that night.

First we drive half an hour with my dad to get the ingredients from the brew shop. This includes a variety of hops, a special species of yeast, and 14 pounds of grain spread across 3 varieties. Today their electric motor for the grinder is broken, so Max and I take turns with a crank to get the grain ground.

We get back to the house and try to get the mash going as fast as possible. The water needs to get to exactly 158 °F, but our thermometer is cracked and doesn’t float anymore. I jury rig a couple coat hangers to suspend it an inch above the water and Max tries to get the kitchen microbe-free; anything can contaminate the beer.

The water is hot enough and we dump it into the “mashing vessel”, which is just a cooler that we added a valve and a manifold to. The manifold is a grid of pvc with slits cut to let liquid through but not grain. We mix the grain in and seal the lid. This gives the hot water time to pull the sugar out of the grain so the yeast can digest it.

Two hours later, it’s time to start the boil. We open the cooler’s valve above the pot and warm, sweet wort pours out. The pot is brought to a rolling boil and I add the hops, filling the kitchen with a yummy bitter smell. An hour later, we’re ready for the next step.

Max sets the forty pound pot in the sink. I drop in our (home-made!) wort chiller, which is a copper coil that draws in cold water, brings it through the pot, and drops it off hot on the other end. It’s the fastest way to get the just-boiled liquid down to a temperature that won’t kill yeast.

We wash out and boil the moldy siphon tube for transferring the wort into the brewing vessel (a giant glass jug). If you’ve ever started a syphon ghetto-style, you know that you’ll taste some of whatever your siphoning. After a couple mouth-fulls of hops, all the wort is in the jug. We pitch the yeast, put on a cork and air lock, and set it in the basement. It’s 4 AM but we are done.

In a month, we’d go through a similar process to bottle and carbonate the beer. The 48 bottles of 8.5% alcohol beer went as a moving gift to my brother, a thanks to my dad, and a greeting for Max’s host family in Thailand.

Public Domain Dedication.