30 October 2011

Fall = Beer Time!

So the last year or so Donald and I have been experimenting with homebrewing. We have most consistantly been brewing an English Bitter recipe from the Microbrewed Adventures. We've played around with it a little bit but we both really like the resulting beer so it's defiantly in our standard rotation. A couple of months ago for our anniversary we had a brew day. Most "normal" people go out for a nice dinner or something of the like for their wedding anniversary, but us, we brewed beer! After a marathon trip out to Adventures in Homebrewing's shiny new location on the west side of Ann Arbor we had three batches that we were going to brew that day. A batch of the English Bitter, a English Strong Ale, and a Pumpkin Ale.

 The Strong Ale recipe called for a yeast starter to make sure that there were enough yeast to deal with the massive amounts of sugar that the recipe had. So "we" (this being the non-royal we of mostly just Donald) decided to do a starter for both the Bitter and the Strong. Got everything prepped and in the buckets, put the airlocks in the top of the buckets and put them away in the awesome pantry of doom to bubble away. Welllll so when you make a starter with your yeast, the yeast are already really happy when you put them into the wort - and they get more excited from there. Luckily before he went to bed Donald noticed that the Bitter was throwing foam into it's airlock. So the Strong Ale and the Bitter both got shiny new blowoff tubes and then we went to bed. We both got up the next morning and then went to work. When Donald got home the top of the Strong Ale bucket was a little bit bowed up. So Donald went to move it out and thats when he discovered that the bottom of the bucket was bowed out as well - so much so that the bucket was basically about to blow. So after a careful extraction of the bucket from the closet he switched the blowoff tube for a much larger diameter one and that seemed to do the trick. Beer that isn't blowing up = good!

The Pumpkin Ale was much more straightforward. I added the optional pie pumpkin to the recipe. We went and got a cute little 2lb pumpkin from the farm stand at the end of the road. After it roasted for about 45 minutes in the oven it got added to the mash and the pulled out with the grain bag so that it added a little bit of pumpkin flavor but not overwhelmingly strong. A touch of pie spices and away we went.

 So after the requisite aging time and then going into kegs for the Strong and the Bitter and into bottles for the Pumpkin Ale. The Strong Ale is still a bit raw after a couple of weeks of aging, so it's in time-out. The Bitter turned out a little bit more "American" then "English", and it's getting a little bit better as it ages, but I still don't know that I really like this batch. The Pumpkin Ale on the other hand, is sooooo delicious! I opened the first bottle tonight and wow. The pumpkin and spice are subtle and balanced, and the mouthfeel is almost creamy. I already grabbed the ingredients for a second batch that I'll be starting some time this week. I am going to be very selfish with this first batch though, no sharing!