Michael Roman just happens to know a thing or two about home brewing, Scottish beer seemed like a logical, (slightly self-serving) choice. Hence a trip to Deja Brew, in Shrewsbury, MA, where I had the time of my life learning to brew my first ever batch of beer with the help of a generous and awesome group of brew masters.
Seeing as I am a total beer brewing newbie, I asked Michael, professional photographer extraordinaire and all around great person, to contribute a guest post, along with the beautiful photographs (with the exception of the beer in the glass and the bottles, which you can tell were taken by me, the wannabe photographer) you see on this page. Please check out the link to view his work or to register for a class. Take it away, Michael.............
To be honest, I have to state up front that “home brew” is a slight misnomer in this case. I actually brew my beers at a place called Deja Brew. They have a vast collection of recipes, all the ingredients necessary, kettles that are larger than anything I could muster at home (so the amount of beer per batch is more rewarding than what one could typically produce at home), and, perhaps best of all, they handle all the clean up. It of course costs more to brew at their facility than it would at home, but the convenience is well worth the extra cost, and the beer still ends up being cheaper than what you can get at a retail store. And the fun of creating something from scratch is enhanced by the fact that you can sample some of the beers Deja Brew has on hand in order to help you decide on a recipe to use either for your batch that day or for one in the future. And it’s also a great social occasion to brew with several friends or coworkers. But on to the main point.
|Happiest behind a camera, Michael |
also has some mad brewing skills!
Okay, so Sarah and I had a mission. A mission to educate her readers to the joy and ease of making your own beer. We had to toil over a hot kettle, albeit one with some wonderful aromas coming from it, and countless time (countless because after enough sampling of the product, the concept of time got a little fuzzy) filling bottles with beer and running the capping machine, but, hey, somebody had to do this for you, the reader. And we were willing (hiccup) to suffer any sacrifice (hiccup) we had to in order to bring this post to the world (hiccup). Joining us were Sarah’s husband Liam and my brew buddy Mike, who was the one who first introduced me to Midnight Porter, which to this day remains another of my favorite recipes.
Here's how the brewing process goes: Many, many thanks to Deja Brew owners Ray and Donna, Head Brewer, Dave and Brewer Joe who patiently guided us through the process, sharing information, a little history and lots of culinary chemistry tips the night we brewed.
Our first step was to go see what was on tap that night and to pour some liquid refreshment to help us get through the task before us. The second step was to go to the recipe books and take out the one for Goibniu. There are so many recipes to choose from it can be a bit overwhelming to decide upon “the one”, but we didn’t have that problem this night.
The next step is to measure out the grains and grind them (called “milling”) in order to expose the starches. Then comes the mash process. This is where the grain, in a basket, is submerged in the kettle and steeped at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. During this time the starches are being converted into sugar, which the yeast will later convert to alcohol. The spent grain is then removed and pale malt extract is added. This is grain-based sugar that is designed to speed up the brewing process. If the extract was not added, the recipe would require a lot more grain, and a lot more time and effort in the mash process. One of the things about the extract is it carries some color and flavor from the grain that it was made from and this is reflected in the color and flavor of the beer.
The wort, as the mixture is now called, is brought to a boil which causes various chemical reactions as well as sterilizing the wort. Sterilization is important to keep wild yeast from spoiling the flavor and character of your beer. After the boil, the wort is simmered at just below the boiling point and hops are added for flavor and aroma.
It’s now time to move the wort to the fermentation tank where the yeast can be added to do their job. But first the wort needs to be cooled down which would otherwise kill the yeast. Deja Brew sends the wort through a heat exchanger on its way to the fermentation tank so there is no delay before adding the yeast. The fermentation process runs for 7 to 10 days during which time either all of the sugar is converted to alcohol or the amount of alcohol reaches the point where it kills off the yeast. I’m thinking the latter happened in our case. Goibniu is a very “high octane” beer. Yeast converts sugar into two waste products – alcohol and carbon dioxide. There is a valve on top of the tank that allows the carbon dioxide to escape but not let anything in from the outside. The valve is transparent and filled with water and you can see the CO2 bubbles going through it which makes it easy to know when the fermentation is done.
At this point the beer is moved to the “bright” tank, being filtered in the transfer process to remove the dead yeast and any other material that may have made it though the filter between the kettle and the fermentation tank. The “bright” tank is pressurized with CO2 and sits in a cold room for up to a week or so, at which point the beer is ready to be bottled.
The final step in the process is a return trip to Deja Brew on bottling day. The bottles are run through a sterilizing process and then the beer is transferred to the bottles and a hand operated capper adds the finishing touch. Again, it’s a rewarding time and a great social get together. And the fruits of your labors can be shared and enjoyed for months to come.
But don’t wait too long to enjoy your beer. There are no preservatives and it will spoil over time, especially if you don’t keep it cool or cold. In fact, the beers all seem to peak in flavor about two weeks after bottling after which point they will slowly go downhill. I find it best to keep the beer in a “beer fridge” and finish them off within three months or so. Beers that are high in alcohol, like Goibniu, and/or lots of hops will last longer, but, hey, it’s beer, so why wait to drink it? My brewing buddy Mike has found some Goibnius in the back of his beer fridge more than a year after they were bottled, and reports that they are still a delicious treat.
Goibniu (recipe courtesy of Deja Brew and Dave Thompson, Head Brewer)
3 lbs. caravienne
3 lbs. crystal
2 lbs. caramalt
1 lb. roasted barley
7 qts. pale malt
2 qts. adjunct
2 lbs. brown sugar
3 oz. kent golding
2 oz. fuggle
1 scoop Irish moss
Irish dry yeat
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