Posted by: b44hanson | February 20, 2009

Matty B, Where Are You?

This weekend I will firing back up a hobby, that my good friend, Matty B introduced me to in the late 80s, home brewing. Matt was my brewing mentor. He not only enjoyed the end result, but he relished in the scientific aspects of the process. Matt became a phenomenal home brewer and his Super Bowl parties, featuring 3 or 4 of his home brews pouring endlessly from his garage refrigerator tap system are legendary amongst my circle of close ultimate friends.

When we brewed together, basically I provided the grunt labor and Matt provided the know how. We made some really good beers, highlighted by some Pale Ales that would give Sierra Nevada a run for their money. I tried brewing on my own, probably around 10 times and never was able to produce as high a quality brew as I did under Matty’s watchful eye. I always struggled with trying to eliminate off tastes and my most successful batches were the heavy Porters that had enough ummph that if there was an off taste, it was masked. I wasn’t much of a cook back then and on my own probably didn’t prep enough and keep things sterile enough to avoid the off taste. Now keep in mind, the beers were still drinkable and good, just not as good as Matty’s as I was my own worst critic.

Fast forward to now. I am a much more experienced cook now and understand and value the benefits of prep work. In fact, I won’t do a real meal unless I have adequate time to prep, relegating most of my gourmet meals to the weekend. I have moved up into the rich beer culture of the Pacific Northwest and have decided to give home brewing another whirl.

Two of my challenges will be that I don’t have Matty’s watchful eye, looking over my shoulder and guiding me and as of this writing, I don’t have a gas burner, only an electric stove. Now I might break down and go buy a gas burner (probably something designed for a Turkey Fryer) tonight or I may try the electric stove. The difficulty of the electric stove is the lag between when you adjust the knob and when you see the change in the actual heat. Heat regulation as you “cook” your beer is very important. There is a specific range of temps that produce the best breakdown of the grain’s starches into sugars for the yeast to eat. Gas gives you much more precise control and instant feedback (hey an Agile concept in brewing!)

My favorite all time beer is Sierra Nevada and my first batch of beer will be a Pale Ale patterned after it. Basically the timing works like this. This weekend will be the kickoff which will be a few hour job of creating the wort, or raw beer. After cooking the wort to create the sugars and adding the hops which add bitterness to balance the beer, it gets cooled to room temp and then yeast is added and the beer is moved into a glass carboy for primary fermentation. This is a very cool stage, where you can watch the live yeast going crazy eating all of the sugars and creating the alcohol content. After about a week, the yeast goes dormant and you move the beer from primary to secondary fermentation. In secondary basically the beer is just settling down and the schmeg as I like to call it moves to the bottom.

After two weeks, the beer is ready for bottling. A little sugar is added back into the beer at bottling, so the yeast will come back alive in the bottle and produce your carbonation. Roughly 2 weeks after bottling, your beer is ready to enjoy. Once you get the cost of the equipment out of the way, a batch of beer will cost you about $20-30 in raw ingredients and produce around 10 six packs. Not a bad cost per six pack provided your batch turns out.

I will keep posting updates as this batch goes through its gestation period. 



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