Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Rookie Home Brewing Adventure

A couple months back my girlfriend got me a home brewing kit from The Brooklyn Brew Shop.  The Brooklyn Brew Shop's unique angle is giving anyone the set up to do small batch home brews.  In this case, it's one gallon at a time.  They even include the mix with just about everything you need to get to brewing.  It was definitely a great gift for your blogger here as it is not by accident "Drinking" comes first in this blog, but my creativity had previously been stifled by uptight roommates.  (Yes, I just called out fully 50% of my readership)
Drinking a beer while brewing beer.
A few weeks ago, before the advent of this blog even, I made my first batch and set it to ferment in the carboy (jug) for a few weeks.  The recipe said two weeks, but I gave it 2.5 on the hopes it would up the alcohol content a little.  So, with my girlfriend out of town last Thursday, I invited my buddy Ben over to help me bottle the contents of my gallon jug.
A jug of beer

For this, my first attempt, I was making a Jalapeno Saison.  Now, that sounds super fancy and thanks to Wikipedia, I know a Saison is "the name originally given to low-alcohol pale ales brewed seasonally in farmhouses in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, for farm workers during harvest season."  What makes this a Jalapeno Saison is the addition of (you guessed it) a jalapeno at the end of the brewing process.

You will also notice in the above picture a swingtop beer bottle.  This is (and all the bottles I used) are 15oz Grolsch bottles which allowed me to skip buying a capper and caps.  I didn't discover these bottles until I had drank about 3 six packs of pry top bottles in anticipation of the bottling.  Some mistakes can be hard on the liver, but good on the heart.

You'll also notice what appears to be sand at the bottom of the jug.  It's the yeast, called trub, which is a word that accurately conveys the grossness and the lack of desirability that it get into you bottled beer.  So, to avoid getting that into your bottles you have to siphon the beer from a jug to a pot, where additional sugar was diluted with water, and then from the pot into the bottles.  This was definitely the tricky part and not a one person operation.  In the end, though, Ben and I managed to get the beer into bottles with a minimum of trub.
Nectar of the gods or failed science experiment?

And so now, here they sit to ferment a further two weeks before I throw them into the fridge and cool them down.  The recipe had some pretty explicit (and to my mind onerous) sanitation instructions that I skipped so all these weeks of waiting (5 from brew to taste) could just be a waste of time.  But that's part of the fun.  I'll let you know what it ends up tasting like, good or bad.  I'm interested how the jalapeno ends up being tasted it the beer.

This is my first of what I anticipate to be many attempts in brewing beer.  If you've got any interest, I really encourage you to get the Brooklyn Brew Shop kit.  It's a great size for a small space.  Almost all the ingredients are included, and the instructions are damn-near idiot proof.  In time, I hope to discard the training wheels of the recipes.  For now, thought, I'm happy to minimize the errors I could make.


  1. Welcome to the world of home brewing! Once you get started its hard to stop...

    My only piece of unsolicited advice is to make sure to follow those cleaning and sanitizing instructions... it may be a pain in the ass but it is definitely worth it. I found that using a chlorine free dye free bleach like this


    and distilled water does the best for sanitizing and rinsing equipment.

    Looking forward to hearing how the Jalapeno Saison turns out... sounds good!

  2. Yeah, I know about the sanitizing thing. I really should have known when I said "I used antibacterial soap," and Ben looked at me like I was an idiot. But I was impatient.

    I've already bought a bottle of sanitizer and the mix for a Tripel to be used in the next batch.

  3. lol... sorry to pile on.

    I did a Tripel last fall, that one will test your patience... the longer you let it age the better it gets.

    Congrats on the Jalapeno Saison success! Carly had rave reviews for it.