In case you haven’t deduced this yet while reading this blog, we both love beer. What we don’t love is the lack of choice at the LCBO and The Beer Store. We’re DIY-ers in many other aspects of our lives, so we decided to start homebrewing. Richard prepared the first batch with his friends: David, an engineer, and Zack of Toronto Brewing who is THE grain and yeast supplier for Toronto’s home brewing community. Zack provides us with yeast, grains and a mill. He lead Richard and David through their first brew, and gave them a recipe for a top notch chocolate stout. Last week, Richard and I tried our hand at our first brew without the training wheels. Richard decided to make a Belgian single, which is a cloudy, blonde beer which will (hopefully) taste grassy and let the special strain of Belgian yeast stand out in the beer’s flavour profile.
I have to start out by saying that the design for our entire DIY brewing system was David’s pet project. You don’t need to be an engineer to build a system on your own (though it probably helps), but you do need to be handy. Our system is composed of 3 parts: a mash tun, a brewing pot and a fermenter. A “mash tun” is fancy talk for “a container where you steep your mix of grains in warm water so you can extract the malty goodness needed to make beer.” We used a Coleman’s rectangular cooler and installed a spigot so we could drain the liquid (known as “wort”). The brewing pot was part of a large turkey fryer kit. This lets us brew outside without stinking up or, in the summer, heating up our house. It also minimizes indoor messes.
After boiling your wort for an hour and adding hops to your boil, you want to cool it immediately and as quickly as possible. David designed a wort chiller, which is a series of copper coils attached to a pump that feeds water from an ice bath through the copper pipes, which are submerged into your wort.
Once it’s close to room temperature, you pour the wort back and forth between buckets to introduce oxygen, then pour it into a fermentor and add the yeast. We used a glass carboy so we could watch the fermentation process.
Its fun to watch your beer bubble, burp and ferment in front of your eyes. There’s an air lock on the top that keeps the oxygen out while allowing the gas from the fermentation process to escape. 3 days after we made the beer, there were bubble escaping from the airlock every half a secon and things inside were churning. I think our Belgian yeast friends were gettin’ it on at a VERY rapid pace! At that point the gas that was coming out of the airlock smelled disgusting. We were pretty concerned about how the beer was going to taste. But after a few more days we smelled again and this time you could smell a bit of sweetness, similar to the smell of bananas. Ten days after the brew date, the beer has a beautiful golden colour to it. We’re going to rack it (aka, bottle it) next week, and when it’s drinkable I’ll post a “Part 2” with the results!
For a more in-depth explanation of the particulars of home brewing, check out this article.
Photos and Words by Robin