Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Beer #2

This was also a joint venture... In fact my role in this beer was limited to the creation of it and I didn't even have to invest in the ingredients (Hoorah!). So my friend (Yellow from the previous post) went out with another friend and purchased 9 (or more) 5/6 Gallon carboys, an excellent wine corker and a buttload of other supplies. The price? No clue, but they were second hand.

I believe we worked out that we could produce around 750 bottles of beer at a time (And that was before I got my supplies), but before embarking on that adventure we decided to do a test batch.
Because this time around we knew the basics of what we had to do (CLEAN!!!) we weren't as clueless as we were during the mead production and nowhere near as clueless as I was when I first made beer. The process went fairly smoothly and the only confusion arose when it came time to fill the 6 gallon carboy... How close to the top should we fill it? Was it like wine, where 2.5 inches would be good or should it be less full to allow for the large amount of CO2?.. We opted for a middle ground... And boy were we wrong:

Looks like we filled it a bit too much. But hell, this is how you learn. Anyways my friend devised his own little clever airlock and it appears to be fine now:

Today's lesson: Don't over fill your carboy when making beer.

And I'm looking forward to the 60+ bottles of beer which were yielded from a $15 beer kit.


The mead was a joint venture.
I was perusing the internet looking for simple alcohols to make when I found this:
I looked it over... It seemed relatively simple. I happened to already own two 6.8L bulbous wine carboys (My parents had gotten them for free and never used them) so really the only cost would be the ingredients. Because of the odd nature of mine and my friends conversations I thought it would just be easier to post the Facebook thread (Oh the glorious days of technology). I'm "Red" and my friend is "Yellow" (Click to get large image).

As you can see we decided to try the super simple "WikiHow" method of mead production. This recipe seems to skip the step where you transfer the mead from a fermentor to a carboy. Instead it opts just for using the carboy the whole way through. Of course we added some extra stuff too like yeast energizer and some oranges to one of the carboys. This is what we ended up with:

Now here are my concerns (after reading some stuff on the web and an old book from 1973 called "BETTER WINE MAKING AND BREWING FOR BEGINNERS" by B.C.A.TURNER)
My first concern is that the clear carboy which has no orange in it will either take a very long time or will not work because it lacks citric acid. I've learned that honey is very hard for yeast to break down on its own so citric acid "must" (according to That 70's Book) be added to mead. Also yeast requires extra energizer in mead, about "twice the amount called for". So I have yet to add the citric acid (Don't have any and I am still not sure), but I did add the energizer.
My other main concern is that there is a lot of room left in the carboys. The carboys are bubbling which means that the CO2 is escaping and they both have extremely good airlocks on them, but I'm concerned that the oxygen which is in there may be sufficient to make the mead go bad (Foreign yeasts). It's all a learning process. It's very hard to know these things before you actually do it... That's what I've always found anyways.
So mead is a very good starter booze to make. Just make sure you have a chat with the guy in your local brew shop (Me and my friend went to a few and settled on the smaller one that had more "bits and bobs" and a friendly-ish owner). The total cost for the mead was $30, but this included many things which can be reused and enough sanitizer for several batches. I'll update on the mead when it reaches the next stage and/or when something unexpected happens.
The mead was started on June 4 2010.

My 1st attempt at beer

Let's begin with an explanation for the name "Fermentator". It's a mix of "Fermentation" and "Commentator"... Clever, right? The truth is I lack the imagination to come up with a name on the spot and "Fermentation" was something I was just checking on my slowly progressing mead.
Anyways, I've always been interested in making things that require certain amounts of finesse to create. Prior to reaching legal drinking age in Canada, I would make desserts such as caramels, fudge, peanut brittle and hard candies. I preferred making candies to baking because a portion of it was very exact. To create a brittle candy the mixture had to be heated to the required high temperature and stirred constantly so it did not burn. The same was true of the chewy candies except they required a lower temperature. Heat caramel too much and you have brittle, and the opposite applies to brittle.
I have also always had an interest in making booze. Not because I drink an inordinate amount or because I strive to make the finest wine (In fact I don't really even like wine), but because the process itself fascinates me. And now that I have some experience with making alcohol it fascinates me even more.

My interest in wanting to make beer finally came to fruition when one day, by chance, I noticed a prominently displayed "MR. BEER" kit in a second hand shop.

Removing the kit from the shelf I checked inside to see if everything was there (I wouldn't have been surprised if the box were completely empty to be honest). To my (and your) surprise the box seemed to contain everything. I then checked the price tag, which informed me that this kt which seemed to be otherwise unopened and unused would only set me back $10. Still a bit unsure, I flipped the box around.

As you can imagine, I was instantly convinced that this purchase would make me the happiest man on earth. The purchase was made.
The minute I got home, it was brewing time. Because I've started this blog a couple weeks after these events occurred and I have never had enough foresight to document anything, the process has no pictures. However I can tell you this; It's identical to making a traditional 23L beer kit except it came with the sugar and it was on a smaller scale (8.5L). This is the "reusable" part of the kit:

The parts that are missing now are just the ingredients which came with it (And a few plastic bottle caps). Despite the low yield it was an excellent way to become familiar with the process. I had made rootbeer in the past, but it had been so long that I wouldn't have known the first thing to do and probably would have scoffed at the need to make everything 110% sanitary. In the end I got 23 bottles of what seems to be fairly good pale ale (I tested out of the tap to make sure it was ready for bottling) which will be ready for consumption in 5 days (June 12 2010).

The lesson here is that if you are looking at your first time brewing and you can find a "MR. BEER" kit or something similar for around $10 it is well worth it. However, if you are looking at buying it new ($39.95 +) I wouldn't advise it.