Sunday, April 02, 2006

Making Beer

Sometimes I feel the need to take a break from all the politics, news, world affairs and such and simply relax my brain. Well, there's no better way to relax your brain than to make a batch of beer.

And it's not as complicated as you might think. I started homebrewing several years ago when I went to a brewing supply store called San Francisco Brewcraft on Clement Street to find out how to make mead (wine made with honey instead of grapes).

After making a few successful batches of mead, the owner of the supply shop suggested I try making beer. I thought, "Why not?". So the first batch of beer I made was an India Pale Ale (IPA). The name of the recipe was Nipples of Venus, and it turned out really good. So good, in fact, that I started making other types of beer. I tried a few Stouts and a California Common (Steam Beer) and entered a few of them in competitions. I didn't win any awards, but got some valuable feedback on how to improve on my brews.

And so, yesterday I found myself wondering what to do (or more precisely, what needed to be done) and realized that I had a container of Oatmeal Stout in the back room that needed to be bottled. Here's what it looks like in the secondary fermenter (carboy)....

Since my wife was off to the dance school with the girls and it was just me and my son, I figured I'd do the fatherly thing and teach him one of the most important of all life skills .... Homebrewing.

I started off by showing him the importance of sanitizing the bottles prior to bottling. I'm pretty anal when it comes to cleaning the bottles and equipment.

OK, anal is probably not the best way to describe bottle cleaning, but you get my point.

After being thoroughly washed and rinsed in piping hot water, I put the bottles on this tree to let the water drain out of them.

After draining, the bottles get placed in the oven at low heat for further sanitizing. Those are some clean bottles.

I should take a moment to point out what is probably the most important step in making beer, and that is popping open a bottle of the last batch of brew you made and enjoying it throughout the process.

Pictured above is a pint of IPA that I made last summer.

OK, back to bottling. While letting the bottles warm up in the oven, I pour a little sugar syrup into the carboy and stir it to wake up the yeast and give them one final meal. They'll eat the sugar syrup inside the bottles over the next two weeks which will give the beer it's carbonation.

Here's a shot of the beer ready to be racked (siphoned) into the bottles.

As you can see on the counter, I'm already into my second IPA and looking forward to the day when this Oatmeal Stout will be ready to drink.

Last but certainly not least, here's my faithful sidekick, "Mini-me", learning how to operate the bottle capper. It takes a little effort to get the caps on, but he seems to be picking up the technique quite well. Go Mini-me, go!

When the weather turns more pleasant, I'll head down to the Brewcraft store once again and get supplies for another batch. I'll take pictures and post them here.

Well, that's about it. I hope you enjoyed reading about making your own beer as much as I enjoyed creating it. Thanks go out to Mini-me for most of the photography and for hanging out with his old man for the day.


At April 02, 2006 7:03 PM, Blogger Rory Shock said...

Hey PT. Nice post. Looks tasty. Glad to so your takin' care of your soul. You know that quote from old Ben Franklin, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy?" but I thought I read somewhere that Franklin was an atheist ... maybe I'm just imagining that ... still, maybe the quote should be more like [good] beer IS God ...

At April 02, 2006 7:14 PM, Blogger PTCruiser said...

Rory, you're absolutely correct. It WAS Benjamin Franklin who said, "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Thanks for bringing that up, Rory. I like how you've brought my love of quotes into this post.

At April 02, 2006 8:06 PM, Blogger thepoetryman said...

Do you deliver? ;>)

At April 02, 2006 8:39 PM, Blogger PTCruiser said...

I'll gladly deliver for a wonderful poem extolling the virtues of good organic homemade beer.

At April 02, 2006 10:21 PM, Blogger FreedomGirl said...

Obsidian Stout from Deschutes Brewery...if I could make it at home, I'd be in BIG trouble.

At April 03, 2006 4:21 AM, Blogger a rose is a rose said...

many love ipas but they are WAY too hoppy (hops should be used for sleep pillows NOT beverages)

mead wine? if i wasn't 3,500 miles away and you weren't married, i'd say i was in love with you

At April 03, 2006 9:38 AM, Blogger Kathleen Callon said...

This looks awesome. Have to show this to my hubby.

At April 03, 2006 1:15 PM, Blogger celticfire said...

Damn, you made me thirsy for home brewed beer!

We in Portland have a lot of local breweries (spelling..?), butI am a sucker for Windmer.

Looks great, and a cool way not to give money to the capitalists!:)

At April 03, 2006 1:16 PM, Blogger celticfire said...

Oh yeah, and a shout out to all the Red Daddies out there :)
I'm one too! :)

At April 04, 2006 12:50 PM, Blogger pinkfem said...

My dad used to brew his own and he had bottles with rubber and ceramic caps that were attached ith heavy metal wires. It was so good.

What a great dad. You son will always remember these times together with you.

At April 04, 2006 3:31 PM, Blogger pissed off patricia said...

My ex husband tried making beer one time and we named the results equine urine (making urine rhyme with equine)
I was the capper in that little escapade.

Tell me how to make gin that tastes like Sapphire and we'll do some serious talking.

At April 04, 2006 5:48 PM, Blogger LadyCelticFire said...

I LOVE Home Brew... Its MUCH better than anything store bought.... Think I can talk Celtic into learnin the trade???? Actually strike that, he can't make popcorn without supervision LMAO

At April 05, 2006 3:37 AM, Blogger dada said...

Nice post PT Cruiser. I don't know if I discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago from a comment you left over at the Enigma Cafe or it was when I was in the market for a new car and researching different makes, but this is a nice little corner of the blogsphere. Kind of a place to stop and catch one's breath.

Enjoyed this beer post and the comments from some folks talking of Deschutes and Widmer's, some living in Oregon and other beer literate areas of the nation who have the fortune to go into any nearby grocer's and be confronted with beer over choice. Anyway, while I like very much where I live, save for the fact it's a vast wasteland of beerlessness, it's nice to stumble across someone's experience with that fair quaff.

At the risk of being redundant at something that may have been said here before, when it comes to beer quotes, one of my favorites is from Frank Zappa. Excuse if I'm repeating:

"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer."

In these days of US empire building, I've grown to love the taste of IPA's developed by the Brits in order to get beer to its troops all the way over in India before it rotted. How different history may have been without it!

At April 05, 2006 9:30 AM, Blogger Kathleen Callon said...

Next week is our anniversary, and I want to get my husband a brewing kit. Is there one you'd recommend?

At April 05, 2006 10:08 AM, Blogger Jeremy said...

PT - thanks for this post, this was great. I tried my own batch with a friend in college, and it came out great - except it was totally flat.

We still drank the whole thing. Ahh, how my beer tastes have matured in 6 years...

At April 05, 2006 11:30 AM, Blogger teh l4m3 said...

Now that's what I call a carboy...

Screw the 12 oz. bottles shiznit.

At April 05, 2006 12:03 PM, Blogger thepoetryman said...

Hop on this train!
Swill to contentment!
Lather and slap it through
There are few
finer things
than a breathing,
smooth brew!

Like a fine cigar, royal,
the taste stays light
upon your lips and tongue
dancing its sensuous tango to realms untouched by turmoil.

A good swill is heaven.

At April 05, 2006 5:42 PM, Blogger PTCruiser said...

Wow, this post was more popular than I would have expected. Guess I should've checked back in here sooner.

Well, thanks everyone for your comments, compliments and suggestions.

Poetryman, great poem as usual. For that, you get your pick of the litter when the beer is done.

Teh, I was contemplating lying on the ground and just shoving the siphon in my mouth.

Jeremy, I agree. My taste in beer has changed a great deal as well. Thinking back to the days when a 40-oz bottle of King Cobra was the perfect start of an evening. (Shiver)

Kat, I wish I could help you. I'm not sure about any kits. Like I said, I was lucky enough to find a brew guru nearby who took me under his wing so he could sell me grain. My best suggestion to you would be to find a homebrewing supply store near you. They'll be able to set you up with every thing you need. Good luck.

Dada, glad to see you enjoyed the post. And thank you very much for the Zappa quote. It's a good one.

LadyCF, I agree. Nothing compares to homebrew. And the process of brewing is just slightly more complicated than making popcorn. I suggest you get a crash helmet for Celtic and keep him away from sharp objects.

PoP, you've got excellent taste! I make my martinis exclusively with Bombay Sapphire. If I ever figure out a way to duplicate it, you'll be the first to know.
Disclaimer: For all government officials reading this blog, I am not making or condoning the creation of distilled spirits at home. :)

Celtic, thanks for commenting, man. Red Daddies unite!

Pinkfem, thank you for visiting and commenting. I have some of those bottles with the ceramic caps as well. I save them for special brews or wines that I make.

At April 06, 2006 5:08 PM, Blogger Kathleen Callon said...

Thanks. I'll look.

At April 07, 2006 12:04 PM, Blogger celticfire said...

Now to be fair, the instructions on the popcorn bag said specifically allow 5 minutes to make.

5 minutes later popcorn smelling smoke filled the house...

At April 07, 2006 4:13 PM, Blogger PTCruiser said...

Hey, it's good to know you can follow instructions to the letter, Celtic. I think that popcorn was designed for a much weaker microwave. No way it could be your fault.


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