We’ve been talking about brewing our own beer and wine for some time, and we finally started!
About a month ago, I got a basic brewing kit from The Home Fermenter Center in Eugene, with equipment and supplies to make a 5-gallon batch of beer. Not long after that, I had a great Craigslist score – Six 5-gallon carboys (big glass jugs) with airlocks, some wine bottles, another giant plastic bucket for mixing and such, and some other odds and ends. The kit came with ingredients to make pale ale – cans of malt, a packet of yeast, and a vacuum-packed mesh bag of hops.
The day we had planned to start the project was the day we found out about Babycat’s demise, so this first batch will be called Babycat Brew in her honor.
The basic process is pretty simple, though like all good hobbies there is no end of gadgets, techniques, and options available to the obsessive. You basically boil the malt in a few quarts of water, drop in some hops, transfer it to your fermenter and top off with water, cool it, add yeast, and leave it sitting with an airlock on top (a device that allows fermentation gases to escape while blocking potentially contaminated outside air from entering). For a week and a half, one of the background sounds of our life was the “glorp” of CO2 escaping from the fermenter. When that’s done, it’s beer (or something else nameless and foul, if sanitizing procedures weren’t followed!).
The glorping was done several days ago, meaning that the substance in the bucket is now beer! (or possibly some hideous slime creature).
After an hour or two of preparation (cleaning bottles and equipment), we siphoned the beer from the fermenter into another bucket, taking care not to transfer the layer of spent yeast at the bottom. We added a bit of sugar and stirred – this gives the yeast something to work with after bottling, which carbonates the beer. Right now, it’s rather tasty (YAY!) but completely flat.
More siphoning, this time into bottles, which Teri capped and placed into old 6 pack holders. Now we give it a week more of warm temperature so the yeast can make bubbles in the bottles, then cool and enjoy!
The whole process is very satisfying, and even using the ultra-convenient “kit”, the cost is less than half of what we pay buying 6-packs of local craft beers.
Not satisfied with just beer, I’ve also started a small batch of blackberry wine, made from our own berries. Here you can see the bubbles rising to the top of the jug as it ferments:
I ‘racked’ it just a few days ago – siphoned it carefully into another container, leaving spent yeast at the bottom – and had a taste. Not great yet, but clearly on its way to becoming wine. The difficult part is that it’ll need another 6 months to a year to mature.
Tomorrow, I’m off to New York to visit family and friends and deal with some of our stuff, which languishes in a too-expensive self storage space because a 3000 mile Uhaul trip is too-too-too-too expensive. When I return, I look forward to enjoying some Babycat Brew with Teri!