Noob Brewer: Homebrew Update

Bottling is by far the worst part of brewing, but it does get better the more you do it. Still - I'm ready for kegs!!

Eight weeks ago I brewed my first beer from extract, an oak and bourbon aged porter.  It was an ambitious choice for a first brew, but the brewing was actually the easy part – it’s the waiting that has been difficult.  It had to ferment for six weeks, first alone and then with oak chips and Elijah Craig bourbon.   After bottling, I was supposed to wait another four weeks for the carbonation and flavor to get set up before it would be ready to try.  But in the name of science (and impatience) I decided to crack one open and see how the beer was doing after two weeks in the bottle. 

And it’s doing well.  Quite well, actually.  There’s a bit of carbonation, which I hope will continue to build over the next few weeks, and the flavor is very promising.  I say promising because this is definitely one of those beers that will benefit from cellaring.  The whiskey is still a little too hot and the oak flavor is quite smokey, but I think both will mellow out and play nice with the sweet and earthy malt flavor that makes up the body of the beer.  I’m also happy to report that the mouthfeel has improved and it’s not as watery as it was when I bottled it.

The only downside is alcohol content, or possible lack thereof.  I think I had a bit of an issue with fermentation, as the gravity of the beer stalled out in the low 1.020’s (it’s supposed to go down to 1.013 or so as the yeast converts the sugars in the wort to alcohol and CO2).  It was a very active fermentation, and the beer tastes right, but the hydrometer wouldn’t dip below 1.020 when I tested my samples.  It makes for a pleasantly sweet bodied beer, but I think the ABV might suffer from an incomplete fermentation.  Good thing the whiskey is in there, as the beer still packed a decent punch Saturday night.

I think it’ll be a month or more until this brew really has it’s feet under it, but I was encouraged by what I tasted.  And it’s cool to be able to sample it early and learn how the flavors develop as a beer ages.

While the porter was fermenting (or trying to), I brewed and bottled a wheat beer, which only required two weeks to ferment and two weeks to carbonate in the bottles.  Everything went well with this batch, including fermentation, with a final gravity of 1.013, which is where it’s supposed to wind up.  I was a little mortified that it didn’t taste too good after two weeks in bottles (it suffered from a unpleasantly bitter and slightly metallic finish), but I had one last night and an additional couple of weeks has made a big difference.  It’s a light, sweet and tasty little beer that’s just right for the hot summer days ahead.  I’m glad it turned the corner, because I have a lot of it!  I wish it was better carbonated, but there’s enough CO2 in there to make it taste right, so I can’t complain too much.  But it’s another reason to look into kegging, especially if the porter has crappy carbonation as well – I’ll force feed the bubbles into my future brews!

Speaking of which, I was hoping to brew this past weekend, but couldn’t find the time to enjoy it, and that’s the whole point, right?  I have a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale extract clone ready to go.  It’s amazing to see the amount of hops (unfortunately pellets) that go into a beer like this – it’s 5 to 10 times more than the other beers I have brewed.  Anyway, I can’t wait to get out there and brew it up.

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Categories: Beer, Home Brew, Home Brewing

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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6 Comments on “Noob Brewer: Homebrew Update”

  1. Marvin
    May 3, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    Nice, it’s always fun to drink beer you brewed. Although I have to ask, what’s the aversion to pellets? They hold a long time, store easier (smaller packaging), and do pretty much the same job as whole flower hops. I mean there’s pros and cons to both, but I use more pellets than anything personally.

    • May 3, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

      I guess our trip to Victory made me a hop snob, Marvin. Those whole flower hops are such a pleasure to smell and hold and taste, none of which you get with pellets.

      I agree that there are a bunch of practical benefits that come with pellets for little to no tradeoff in flavor, but there’s a sensual pleasure that comes with whole flower hops that a foil package of pellets can’t deliver.

      Call me a romantic. Or an Idiot (like Don does).

      • Katie Pizzuto
        May 4, 2010 at 9:18 am #

        …or a romantic idiot 🙂 Seriously, I’ve gotta get my equipment cleaned and ready to go because I promised my kid he could help with the next batch…now you’ve lit a fire under my ass. Meantime, feel free to leave a bottle or two in my mailbox for sampling!!!

        • May 4, 2010 at 9:38 am #

          I’ll definately share when it’s ready, so expect it sometime in the next six months. 🙂

          And get brewing – it’s so much fun with the kids. My daughter calls herself my “little brew buddy” and knows a lot about the process, which is funny because she’s four.

  2. May 7, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    Wheats are just tough to do well. Lagering them seems to be an important aspects. Also, you have to remember that the German ones are considerably more carbonated, which explains the bottles. Perhaps thicker bottles in the future could free you up to really charge those pups.

    • May 7, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

      Actually, this beer is blossoming in the bottle and I didn’t think it would. I’ve never brewed one before, so I’ve never tasted a young wheat like this. It was awful one week after bottling, but now all the metallic bitterness is gone. Hopefully the bubbles will come, but if they’re not there yet, I’m not sure they’ll ever be. Maybe more sugar next time…

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