The planning had been done; the equipment purchased; the recipe decided on and the ingredients gathered.It was time. Time to make my first full mash beer.
I was up early (for me – not a morning person), and spent some time thoroughly sterilizing boiler, bins and other equipment. I carefully measured out each ingredient, and poured the required 8.8 litres of water into the boiler.
I’m not quite sure at what point the water becomes ‘liquor’, but it’s certainly that by the time it reaches 66°Celsius. Just at the critical moment, my friend and brewing mentor, Dr Tristan Robinson arrived. Under his supervision, I gently poured the grain into a mashing bag that I had placed in the boiler. It took some time to get all the malt in, constantly stirring as it went in to ensure there were no clumpy dry patches. Eventually it was all in the bag, and we settled down to wait out the 90 minute mashing period. Every 15 minutes, I checked the temperature and gave the mash a good stir.
My boiler is not very large, so once the mashing had finished, we drained the boiler off into a fermentation bucket before sparging the mash. We sparged the mash with 16 litres of liquor at about 75°C. As we drained off, the sweetness could be tasted. Sparging continued basically until the liquid being drawn off started tasting watery.
By this time, we had about 22 litres of wort, which was put back into the boiler (minus the mashing bag, of course) and the first hops added (25g each of Goldings and Styrian Goldings). The hops come in a vacuum-sealed packet, and look somewhat unappetising, but when loosened between the fingers give off the most glorious smell.
The boil lasted in total about 90 minutes, with some time being lost as we learned the eccentricities of the boiler’s thermostat. I’ll be able to do better next time. For the last ten minutes of the boil, a further 16g of Styrian hops was added, plus a few grams of Irish Moss to help the beer clear. We found that with the lid in place, the wort boiled over somewhat messily, so most of the boil was done in the open boiler. Naturally, after 90 minutes of boiling, the volume had reduced a fair bit, and we ended up with about 13 litres to go into the fermentation bucket.
Next came the long, tedious wait for the wort to cool to a temperature when the yeast could be pitched. I had a great little pot of live moose-like yeast kindly given to me by Jay Krause of the Quantum Brewery in Stockport. I first drew off enough wort to take an original gravity reading, and once the wort reached 30°C, I added the yeast. I had to wait a little longer before taking the OG, as my hydrometer is calibrated for 20°C. It didn’t reach this temperature until about midnight, when the OG was measured at 1.064. I made a note and went to bed.
The following morning I boiled up 7 litres of water, and when it had cooled to the same temperature as the now busily fermenting wort, I added 6 litres to the fermenting bin. Adding the extra water had two vital effects. The target volume for the brew was 19 litres, at which volume the OG was lowered to the target of 1.042. It also ensured that I’d get the correct quantity of beer from the brew. If I’d left the volume low and gone with the 1.064 gravity, the resulting brew would have been considerably stronger, but the taste would probably have been adversely affected.
The recipe I followed was for a beer of similar characteristics to Timothy Taylor Landlord. This is a great beer, and a fairly simple recipe, so is ideal for a first brew. As I write this, it is nearly five days since fermentation began. I’m expecting it to be completed in another couple of days, and then I plan to put the beer into a cask for finishing. I’ll let you know how it tastes in a few weeks.
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