Getting Back Into Brewing

A month ago I brewed a batch of Belgian ale, a clone of Chimay Tripel. I agree with Tim, who says that the Chimay is one of the best beers ever, and since I hadn’t made a Belgian in a couple years it was time. I only bottled it last week, and even tho Belgians need 3-6 months to age I was curious and popped open a bottle today. It has a gorgeous light amber color with a nice head, and a wonderful sweet taste that’s light on the tongue. It’s still young, and the sweetness has a candy-like character since it hasn’t had much chance to develop any complexity. This is gonna be a good one in a few months! This batch was brewed to be Christmas presents, hope folks enjoy it.

There are only a few more pints of the American Amber left in the keg, but luckily I’ve got another batch that should be ready to keg on Monday. Since discovering “Switchback”:, a locally brewed amber that’s to die for, I’ve been on a quest to make my own version of that fine ale and now that I’ve gotten used to having it around that means I need to brew another batch every few weeks. It’s a burden I happily bear 😉

*UPDATE 12/20*
The Belgian is now officially labelled as _Ninja Dave’s Nunchuk Belgian_, using a fine photo Julie took of me in ninja headgear (aka black sweatshirt, from a video found on YouTube). This is a limited run of six 24oz bottles, so getting one is a rare treat indeed. Luckily there are another six half-gallon growlers of the Belgian (unlabelled), plus that keg of Amber, so there’s no shortage of beer to go around.

The Short, Happy Life of a Dark and Stormy Stout

We’re going to have a house full of people for Thanksgiving, and today it dawned on me that if I wanted to serve any homebrewed beer I had best be making it right quick. It needs to be drinkable in a couple weeks, so a low-alcohol stout would be an excellent choice!

Ten minutes later I was looking thru Vermont Homebrew’s recipe notebooks, and the Dark & Stormy Stout caught my eye. I had brewed that once a couple years ago when I first started homebrewing, but this time I’d be making it as an all-grain brew. Matt helped me out by doing the math and converted the 5.5 lb of malt extract the recipe called for to the 8 lb of malted barley grain I’d be using (thanks Matt!). It also took 24 oz of dark grains and some flaked barley to round out the recipe. I started heating water at 1:30 and now it’s 5:00 and I’ve got over six gallons of wort (sugary grain water) happily boiling away on the stove and filling the house with the wonderful smell of grains and hops.

By 6:30 that pre-beer should be cooled and in the fermenter, where it will sit for a few days while the little yeasties multiply and convert the sugar into alcohol. When it’s done fermenting it gets siphoned into another big bottle, leaving the yeast, grain and hops sediment behind, and it will develop (very briefly) for about a week before it gets bottled.

Homebrewing is a wonderfully magic process, and I really do enjoy this kind of alchemy.

All-Grain Homebrewing

I made my first batch of all-grain homebrew today, and it went surprisingly well. A stout, of course (it is mid-winter after all), and it was amazing to see 10+ pounds of dry grain turn into a dark, mouth-filling sweetness in the space of an afternoon. In a few weeks it will be ready to drink — I can’t wait.

All my experiments in homebrewing to date have used some grain (a couple pounds and lots of malt extract, a thick syrup that looks and tastes a lot like molasses. The malt extract is thinned with a lot of hot water to make a sweet liquid, and the yeast magically converts that malt sugar into alcohol. Using malt extract is a shortcut for the brewer, and means less work to make beer. The alternative is to extract the sugar from grains, and involves lots of crushed grain, big pots, and controlled temperatures, and adds a couple hours to the brewing time. But it’s so satisfying!

My buddy Tom came over and brewed a batch of Belgian while I brewed my Stout. It was fun to made two batches of beer at the same time, comparing and contrasting styles and methods. We now have two big jugs of dark, sweet, yeasty liquid that will soon turn ten gallons of fresh homebrewed beer. We had a good time, it was a great way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon in February here in Vermont…

Update Feb 20: Tom and Pam came over and we moved the beers into secondary. I drew off a half gallon of the stout to see how it was coming along, and I’m happy to say it’s great (even without carbonation)! Can’t wait for this one to get bottled…

Update Mar 12: We bottled a week ago, and Tom’s Belgian was nice and foamy after just a couple days. My stout, even a week later, has barely any fizz. Both beers taste great, and mixed together they make a wonderful black and tan.

Update Mar 20: The other day it dawned on me that the stout might not be carbonating because the 60° temperature in the brewery just might be too cold for the yeast to do its thing. I turned the heat up to the mid 60s, and the stout is now carbonating nicely. It’s amazing the difference a few degrees can make.