A Birthday Brew

Oliver is always curious about what I’m brewing up in the kitchen. This has been a big wine making year for me. I’ve made nearly a dozen different types. He was dying to try out the process for himself, which then led to a lot of questions about how beer is made and if the process is similar.

Today is his birthday so I thought it might be a fun treat for him to get to do some brewing. First he made a batch of pear wine, which is pretty simple. You cut up the fruit, pour some boiling sugar water over it. Let it cool and pitch your yeast. Then wait.

Now I’ve never made beer before so I had to do some research. I was pretty intimidated when I saw the directions online – so many different things to add and temperature ranges you have to keep it in at different stages…

I decided a kit would be a good place to start. I picked this one up at Jungle Jim’s, along with two cases of bottles, some caps and a capper.

We started just after breakfast, steeping the grains at 150 degrees for 45 minutes. We really had to keep a close watch on it to keep the temperature in the right range.

Oliver read every inch of the box while we waited.

After the grains were done soaking, we started adding the various ingredients from the box, according to the schedule in our directions. First was the malt extract, followed by a series of spices, dry malt and hops.

We kept it at a boil while adding all the items. After the dry malt, it almost boiled over once. After that we kept a closer eye and turned the temp down!

When we finished adding all the ingredients, we put the pot into an ice bath in the sink to cool it down as quickly as possible to 70 degrees.

I added a bit of room temp water to help it cool down as well.

Next we had to siphon it into the crock, leaving as much of the sludge in the bottom as possible.

At this point, we had about 2.5 gallons of liquid. We added to added another 2.5 gallons of water to make a total of 5.

We checked our initial potential alcohol content. We put the hydrometer in and waited until it slowed enough to read the numbers.

Our initial value is 6%. I’ll check it in 4-6 days and make sure our number is going down. Our end goal is 2.5%, which will mean we have about 4.5% ABV.

Lastly, Oliver pitched the yeast and gave it a quick stir.

We covered the crock with two layers of clean dish towel and tied it up.

We’re using my great grandparents’ 6 gallon crock. My aunt passed it down to me and I’m hoping it will work for this beer. Most of what I read said to use a closed fermenter with an airlock but I also found some historic info about how all ancient alcohol was brewed in open crocks… fingers crossed!

This process led to so many interesting questions from Oliver:

– how exactly does a thermometer work?

– how does grain grow?

– which of our ingredients are actually grains?

– how do hops grow and what else are they used for?

– what is naturally occurring yeast and how does it get into things?

– how does a siphon work?

…and more!

I love that kitchen projects like this lead to such great conversations, questions and research.

Should be a week or two until it’s ready to bottle. I’ll share that process when we get there.

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