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10:40 AM, Nov 14, 2004 toot this
tagged with bbs
The Beginning...
I like beer. I have liked beer for about as long as I've been exposed to it, and allowed to drink it. I actually liked it for some time before I was officially(legally) allowed to drink it. I drank the first beer I liked in June of 1994, in the town in Gruissan, in the south of France. I was fifteen years old, and I was handed a bottle of a French beer called Lutzbrau. Up to this point, drinking beer had been something of a chore for me.

But, there were women present - French women - so I felt obliged to put on a show for them. I turned the bottle upside-down, and emptied it down my throat in about ten seconds. To my great surprise, I did not choke on it, nor did I have any trouble gulping it down. I enjoyed it, and I wanted another one.

In the ten years that followed that incident, my love for the most unlikely potable mix of ingredients in human history has grown, and matured. Through stupidly keeping sixpacks of beer under the seats in the family van, a couple brushes with the law, and the most ridiculous period of beer drinking in my life(college), I sharpened and honed my appreciation for the drink so callously named, in our language, "beer."

I have traveled around these United States, and sampled beers from one coast to the other, and many many beers brewed in between. Boston, Portland, Denver, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Nashville, and my own home city of Kansas City, all have astonishing arrays of beer, as I have seen and tasted when visiting them. I have picked up some friends who share the same fierce appreciation for the art of brewing: Carl, Alex, Dave, Steve, Renae, Joel, Matt, Geoff, Louis - along with my brother Brian, and my sister Julia.

I visited beer-loving friends Joel and Susie in New York in September of this year, and while enjoying some delicious East Coast beer, Joel and I agreed that what with all these people making delicious beer, and us doing nothing but drinking and critiquing it, we needed to produce some beer of our own. We shook hands on it, and drained our glasses. After the sluggish reality of purchasing over $200 worth of equipment and ingredients, we had our "Deluxe Brewing Kits," courtesy Minnesota's Northern Brewer.

Joel managed to get his brewing done two nights before I did, and got an excellent picture of his finished product, fermenting merrily.

beatmetothepunch

I brewed on Saturday night.

11:13 AM, Nov 14, 2004 toot this
tagged with bbs
First Brewing
I first brewed on Saturday, November 13th, 2004. My first attempt was an English nut brown ale. Prior to brewing, I took an inventory of sorts. Here is the bulk of the brewing equipment.

equipment.jpg

Here's the Yeast package that came with the ingredients, reproducing under my supervision, and plant.

yeast.jpg

Before I could start, I needed to mark the carboy with volume markers, for where each level of volume would be. I also primed the kettle at this point.

pre-brew.jpg

The brewing actually started at about 6:15 PM, with the pre-boil steeping. The principal ingredient in the package was a sealed bag of speciality grains, pre-crushed for my convenience. the first step is to steep them in the sub-boiling water, in the enclosed mash(gauze) bag. I was surprised at how quickly the water changed color, early in the fifteen-minute steeping phase.

steeping.jpg

I enjoyed the steeping a lot. I didn't have to move.

johnbrews.jpg

I asked Josh to help clean off some of the dirty dishes that were in the way, and to give the syrupy malt extract a warm bath, to make it easier to pour into the mixture, when the boil began.

bathingmalt.jpg

After the boil was complete, I filled the sink with cold water and set the kettle in, to chill the boiling wort. I had to change the water three or four times. All in all, I used a ton of water to brew this beer.

chillwort.jpg

The next step after chilling the wort was to tranfer it to the fermenter, also known as the carboy. For this, I got to use the siphon that came with the kit. I thought that this was especially cool.

fillfermenter.jpg

Just after filling the fermenter, I pitched(added) the prolific yeast, and took a hydrometer reading. The starting gravity was 1.082, which means that it's 82% more dense than water, and has a potential alcohol content of 12%.

hydrometer.jpg

After that, I affixed the stopper and placed the very heavy carboy in the pantry.

fullfermenter.jpg

Now all I have to do is wait.

11:20 AM, Nov 14, 2004 toot this
tagged with bbs
2 comments »»
Sleep on It
They say things always look better after a good night's sleep. I got a good nine hours of sleep last night, and when I checked the progress of the fermentation, I was ecstatic to see this:

dayone.jpg

Only five more weeks to go!

3:30 PM, Nov 15, 2004 toot this
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Ferment means Rot
I recently found out about a Korean delicacy called Kimchi, and upon hearing about how it's prepared, I wondered how anyone could ever find something like that even remotely appetizing. It occurs to me, upon reflection, that consumables based on letting something rot, aren't that disgusting. I say this because I realized how my favorite beverage in the world is made.

Beer, this beverage that I have come to love so dearly, is a direct product of rot. I am leaving a tank of a delicious-smelling sugary substance in an unrefrigerated place, so that the sweetest, most delicious parts of it, may decompose, and turn into yeast excrement.

At that point, I will enthusiastically consume it, so I can't hold anything against the Koreans. Just for a peek at what's going on under the hood, check out this picture:

daytwo.jpg

Besides the growdy layer of greenish-brown head, Yeah, I'd say that's a palpable sign of rot, or to put it more nicely, "fermentation." I noticed this particularly interesting going-on in the airlock.

airlock.jpg

What the hell is that white stuff? When I saw this picture, I went back to get another look, and the white was gone.

The odor now is less pleasant than before, by the way.

6:17 PM, Nov 23, 2004 toot this
tagged with bbs
Transfer
I tranferred the wort-slash-beer from the original, six-gallon carboy, over to the secondary, five-gallon carboy today. Before actually firing up the siphon(which, by the way, is one of the coolest single pieces of all this new equipment), I made sure to get a shot or two.

carboys.jpg

This is the primary fermenter, in which the first stage of fermentation took place. A couple of days ago, the bubbling and head party came to an eventual end, signalling to me that it was time to get busy a-transferrin'. I sanitized the equipment I would be using, with the OneStep powder supplied in the brewing kit, and pulled the airlock off the original carboy. I expected a stench of gameday portopotty proportions to frantically emanate from the glass container, but instead was met was a pleasant odor. Beer! I actually smells like beer! I made something that smells like beer, besides a Friday morning expense report.

siphoning.jpg

I enthusiastically began siphoning the beer from the carboy to the other. I took about twenty pictures, but the above shot is all you get. It was at this time that I realized how much sediment had been created in the running of the primary fermenter. I had no idea what I was in for. The transfer finished cleanly, and I sealed up the secondary fermenter.

fullsecond.jpg

The transfer took about five minutes, and revealed the extent of the sedimentation, as you can see in the picture down into the carboy.

intocarboy.jpg

For your viewing pleasure, I submit this and this, as a reminder of what I had to clean. All things considered, it wasn't really that bad, except to look at.

6:00 PM, Dec 4, 2004 toot this
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1 comment »»
Second Brewing
Since the secondarfy fermentation for the first batch is winding down, I decided that it was time to get a second batch going. I have decided, in making this decision, that we'll bottle the first batch, just prior to tranferring this batch to the secondary. We're about to have a ton of beer available to us. I just hope it tastes good.

When I went to Peoria for Thanksgiving, I made sure to make a visit to Friar Tuck Beverage, and pick up ingredients for the next beer. The final decision was an India Pale Ale, known for their hoppy character and relatively heavy flavor.

Here are the hands of Josh and myself, steeping the two different kinds of speciality grains.

steeping.jpg

The wort began its boil, and I captured it on video, before getting fogged out.

The recipe we followed said that the original gravity, ideally, would be somewhere in the range of 1.050 to 1.055. When the boil was complete, Josh took a hydrometer reading, and came up with 1.054. We did a high-five, sealed up the beer, and put it into the pantry.

primaryferm.jpg

I think this one will be really good.

10:32 AM, Dec 15, 2004 toot this
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2 comments »»
Bottling
The first of many moments of truth came this past weekend, and until now, I have been too busy/lazy to get it documented online. We bottled the Nut Brown on Saturday. December 11th, amid a flurry of inactivity and slovenly huzzah. I began by clearing a space in our spacious kitchen, and set the priming sugar to dissolve in some boiling water.

dissolving.jpg

After that, I drew up a sanitizing solution, and began, one by one, to sanitize the bottles we've saved up. Among the bottles we used were: Bell's Two Hearted, Bell's Winter White, New Belgium Frambozen, Dogfish Head Raison d'Etre, Victory Hopwallop, St. Pauli Girl Dark(blech!), Great Lakes Winter Lager, Anchor 30th Anniversary Winter, Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, MacTarnahan Mac Frost, and some others I can't remember.

sanitizebottles.jpg

When we were ready to go, we transferred the beer(not wort anymore!) to the "Ale Pail," along with the priming sugar solution. About as soon as that happened, beer started to leak out the housing for the spigot, which we desperately tightened.

xfertobucket.jpg

When this happened, and when we couldn't figure out how to connect anything to the spigot, we just hooked up the bottle filler to the siphon, and ran it that way. It was no real trouble, except that we had to wash the, "Ale Pail."

joshfills.jpg

Josh filled the bottles, and I capped them. Here, you see the first case of our beer, ever.

firstcase.jpg

When that was all done, we transferred the IPA we brewed last weekend to the secondary, and agreed that we'll need to buy bottles for the next batch, as we just can't handle fifty more beers at home in such a short period.

xferipa.jpg

2:47 PM, Dec 20, 2004 toot this
tagged with bbs
4 comments »»
Tasting Invitation
You, the reader of this website, are cordially invited to my house to taste the Nut Brown we have so casually labored to produce. The official date of the tasting will be Tuesday, December 28th, at around 5pm, at my place in Kansas City. If you need directions, feel free to email me, and I'll get back to you with a detailed description. In addition to the Nut Brown, a very select few bottles of Joel's Dubbel and Tongue Splitter will be available. I think I might need to go and pick up a sixpack or two, as well.

2:17 PM, Jan 5, 2005 toot this
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2 comments »»
Tasting Party
I held the tasting party for the "coming out," of the Nut Brown at my apartment on the 28th. Nathan, Matt, Joel, Susie, Randy, Cole, Stacey, Geoff, and Erp all came to enjoy the beer, and good times were had by all ... I think.

Susie, Cole, and Matt goof around over some Nut Brown.

susiecolematt.jpg

Joel, Porter, and Randy catch up on my freshly vacuumed carpet.

joelrandysit.jpg

Nathan and Stacey enjoy a beer or two, while Joel and Randy confer.

nathanstacey.jpg

Joel and Susie were in town from New York, and they brought their new dog, Porter. He was fresh out of an eye operation, and was still a bit under the weather.

porter.jpg

Nathan and Matt come back for seconds(or maybe thirds).

nathanmatt.jpg

I wasn't quite clear on what was public beer and what was private beer, in the fridge, so Randy dipped into some of my personal stash. The fact that he enjoyed it was some consolation, though.

randydip.jpg

Cole, looking alert.

cole.jpg

Joel, I, Stacey(slightly obscured by), and Susie enjoy the beer as is disappears.

joeljohnstaceysusie.jpg

I grin stupidly for the camera.

dumbgrin.jpg

Porter, it seems, likes beer.

porterdrinks.jpg

Then, Porter got all affectionate with me.

portercuddle.jpg

All in all, it was a successful get-together which I hope to repeat sometime soon. We all agreed that the beer needed a little more time to condition, as for many people it was a little more flat that it should have been. That said, everyone agreed that it was delicious nonetheless. Success!

8:03 AM, Apr 12, 2005 toot this
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Tasting Rehash
After the way the last "tasting party," went over, I have decided that I need to make some kind of concrete invitation again. The first tasting party was a great success, but the second one, on the completion of the IPA, was a bit of a wash, as I had only informed people informally in person while drunk, or offhandedly on irc. Not this time.

YOU are invited to come and drink hand-crafted beer at my apartment in scenic downtown Kansas City, MO. YOU are invited to be one of the first to try the fourth batch, which I am tentatively naming, "Cinnamon Stick Toaster," until I find out that it doesn't taste at all like anything that name suggests. It's a robust dark beer that was brewed with black patent malt, chocolate malt, and crystal malt, all steeped for various durations. During the last ten minutes of the brewing, I floated some cinnamon sticks in the wort, and kept them in the fermenter during the entire primary fermentation. With an OG of 1.033, it should have a robust body, sweet flavor, and average alcohol content(about 4%). I have high hopes for it.

YOU will also be encouraged to taste some of my favorite beer that I've brewed: the "Brown Noise Toasted Porter." Made from chocolate and bunlander malts, with an infusion of 2 lbs of pure cane dark brown sugar halfway through the boil, and an OG of 1.034, it has a dark, roasted flavor, and goes well with red meat or chocolate.

So come on down! The proceedings will take place on Friday, April 15th, and will run from 6PM until complete, though those of you that work downtown are absolutely welcome to come straight from work, if 6PM is too long to wait, and if you need directions, just shoot me an email. I hope to see you there.

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