Well, a while ago, probably about two years if not three I decided I wanted to start brewing beer at home. I did a bit of Google searching and was swamped with far too much information, most of it from Americans. Nothing wrong with Americans but reading recipes in pounds and ounces and gallons (American gallons are not the same as British gallons) is a bit off putting. I bought some books, started to read them. Everything was focused around 5 gallon batches and that is about where I gave in. I was living in a small flat in Manchester, I thought I would have to spend loads on a massive pan that could hold more than 5 gallons of water and I had a crap hob that took about an hour to boil a pan of water to make some pasta.
Fast forward a few years, a change in address and I started thinking about brewing again. But the 5 gallon thing was still really putting me off. The books I had might have been a bit too detailed and everything seemed to want you to start with extract brewing. I didn’t want to do that, I felt it would be like going getting a cake mix, what is the point.
But then, Twitter and Facebook to the rescue. I started seeing a few people brewing, mainly @johncolemanuk, @hopsinjoor and my mate Chris from uni. They all looked like they were getting good results and I wanted in on the action. But still 5 gallon was a huge blocker. Then John put a photo up of him brewing and he had a bottle next to the pot he was brewing in and I thought, there is no way that holds five gallons. I asked him about it and it didn’t, he only did one gallon batches. He pointed me in the direction of a few books The Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Beer Making Book probably being the best one. It focuses on one gallon brews. Speaking to Chris, he only did one gallon batches as well. Chris had started on extract and worked up to all grain. John dived in at the deep end straight to all grain. Things were looking up. Al seemed to be making great beers as well so I decided that was it.
I bought some stock pots, tubes, airlocks, a cool box, some plumbing bits, bottle caps, capper, thermometer, hydrometer, paddle, syphon. The thing I already had was about 10 demijohns from when my Dad used to make wine when I was a kid. I cobbled together a mashtun and got it water tight over a weekend and then I bought all the stuff for actually brewing a beer. I sort of decided to myself I would just make stouts. Everyone seems to make American IPAs or Double IPAs and I thought I wouldn’t bother as most I buy are pretty good and it is unlikely I will make a better one. Stouts on the other hand can be a bit hit or miss.
I took a recipe out of the Brooklyn book, substituted a few things to what I had and I got cracking. It didn’t go well. My mash temp fell too much so I used my sparge water heating it back up. I spilt a few times whilst syphoning, cooling took far longer than I thought it would and then putting it in the demijohn I thought it didn’t seem to be a gallon. I realise now that american gallon<imperial gallon, I had spilt quite a bit and I didn’t get all the wort (wert) out of the mash tun, it was never going to fill the one gallon demijohn. It tasted proper bitter and horrible before I started fermenting. I didn’t have high hopes.
So after reading another book on one gallon brews that used way way way more water I gave another brew a go the next week. This time I over compensated with the water, I added peanut butter before later reading about how you need to get rid of the oil or use powdered. I didn’t hold out much hope for this one either.
I thought I best taste them before brewing anything else. To my surprise after a couple of weeks in the bottle my first stout tasted pretty good. Not the best stout I have ever had but I have certainly paid for worse. I gave one to someone in work who said “A stout so stout it is practically rotund”. Then it was time for the 2nd brew. This wasn’t so good, no peanut butter, I think having too much water meant that there wasn’t enough hops to bitter it properly. It mainly tasted of maris otter. But to be fair, can still drink it and after a couple of months in the bottle it is more like a stout and has a bit of a nutty taste.
Then came the 3rd brew. The other two had both come out at about 4% ABV. I wanted something stronger. Found a recipe that would do that, made some substitutions. I decided I wanted it to be chocolate, I like the mouth feel of oatmeal stouts and I wanted the sweetness of a milk stout. So to the base recipe I added some porridge oats to the mash, and then some lactose and grated chocolate to the boil. Fermentation looked like it had gone ok but after two weeks the FG was nowhere near where I wanted it to be. After having a bit of a read online I swirled up all the yeast from the bottom. It started fermenting again and didn’t stop fermenting for about a week and a half. The chocolate all seemed to just fall out and sit on top of the yeast at the bottom, I’m not sure if this had stopped fermentation early in the first week. This time the FG was fine so I bottled it.
That has been in the bottle two weeks and last night I cracked it open. I have to say this beast is the best of the bunch. Sweet, slightly chocolaty, and deceptive at 7.2% ABV. Will see how it develops in another couple of weeks, I have high hopes.
So now I have given in and I am going to make a Double IPA. I’ve still got some ideas for stouts, the next is probably going to be a Big Blackcurrant Stout.
Let the brewing continue…