Jan 23, 2012

A Look Back...

I am not a big history guy.  It was one of my least favorite subjects in school.  But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate it.  I think looking at the past helps us better understand our current situation - how we got to where we are now.  So, with this first "real" blog post, I want to take a look back to my first homebrewing experience.

It was January of 2011 when my buddy, Eric, and I made our first plunge into homebrewing.  We had done all the research, talked with guys at our local homebrew club, visited the local homebrew shop, and, finally, purchased our equipment.  It was nothing too fancy - we were just going to be extract brewers, boiling wort on our stove top.

We purchased some fermenters, spoons, odds and ends, and our boil kettle - an 8 gallon, stainless steel beauty.  (I have a nicer pot to make beer than I do to cook my food.)  And of course, we bought our ingredients.  We purchased a kit our homebrew store makes up themselves - an IPA, because it was our favorite style.

The recipe was extract with steeping grains and several hop additions, plus some dry-hopping in the secondary fermenter.  This was more than a "boil a can of syrup" kind of beer, for which, I am thankful.  If brewing would have been too easy, I don't know if we would have stuck with it.  This recipe had us pay attention to time, to temperature, and to measurements.  All of which has given us confidence over our brewing career.

Everything went smoothly with our first brew.  It was lot like cooking - just following a recipe. Since we were just starting out, we didn't have many of the toys or gadgets we have now.  Our first chilling experience was simple and was helped by the Pennsylvania January weather.  Bucket, ice, water, freezing outside temperatures. Could it be any more simple?

For fermentation, we just stuck the carboy down in my basement and forgot about it.  Well, not really "forgot" about it.  I went down to check multiple times every day.  I mean, c'mon!  I was making beer!  I had to watch those yeast in action.  It was fascinating watching the bubbles come from the blow hose.  To this very day, I get a simple joy from hearing a "glug" come from a fermenter.

After a week of fermenting and another week of dry hop additions, it was time to bottle.  Bottling is a heck of a lot easier with two people, so I am glad I had a friend helping me.  Clean, sanitize, fill, cap.  Same process, over and over and over.  About 54 times if you do it right.  Then was maybe the hardest part: waiting 2 more weeks for the bottles to carbonate.

So, there you go.  My first homebrewing experience.  While this wasn't meant to be a how-to, it is meant to show you where we started.  We didn't start out with turkey fryers or Blichmann mash tuns or any conical fermenters.  Heck, we might not ever get to conical fermenters.  And that is ok.  Because this is about enjoying the process, being a little creative, and adjusting the hobby to fit your time, interest level, and budget.  Most of our equipment we have purchased as we moved along and grew (and the funds became available).

How was that first beer, you ask?  It was was delicious.