It sure looks like beer...but the verdict is still out on the taste. Stay tuned for an update. I titled this post Beer Making 100 because the photos should walk you through the steps, and will hopefully convince you the process is really fun and easy, but you'll definitely need Beer Making 101 (not found on this gardening blog) to really gain the confidence to make your own. This post is simply an account of my project.
So just for some very quick background, in lieu of multiple gifts exchanged, my husband, sister, and brother-in-law have been doing a Secret Santa type gift exchange for the past several years. The gift must be homemade and should be inexpensive - about $20 or so. Part of the reason I pushed for this Secret Santa activity to begin with was to cut back on the ideas I have to generate for presents for my husband. I count my lucky stars about this guy, but honestly, after so many years, I'm plumb out of bright ideas. Of course, I repeatedly draw his name in our Secret Santa hat year after year!
I cool the wort (that's lingo that we homebrewers use to describe the stuff in the pot) by putting it in the sink with cold water. Hours later, when cool, I sanitize all the rest of the equipment I'm going to use tonight and then slowly pour the wort into the plastic fermenter leaving the sludge at the bottom of the pot. I top it off with water until I have 5 gallons of liquid. I add the yeast (and notice it now instantly smells like beer) and stir. I put the lid on and add the airlock to the top. I fill the airlock with water and then hope for the best! Apparently I'll start to see bubbles in the airlock in a day or so, indicating that the beer is fermenting.
This is how the project is being hidden during the fermenting process. A cover on top read, "Do not open or Santa will not come". I'm taking advantage of the fact that my 42 year old husband believes in the jolly old white guy.
DAY 3: THERE ARE BUBBLES IN MY AIRLOCK!!! THERE ARE BUBBLES IN MY AIRLOCK!!! This is a really good thing. A harbinger of proper fermentation.
DAY 7: TRANSFERRING TO CARBOY
There is really weird vocab related to beer-making. On day 7, it is time to transfer the beer to the glass "carboy". See the nasty ring around the bucket in the photo above? That's also a good thing (really. It says so in my directions). That's another sign that the beer has been fermenting (and settling down).
I now see the benefit in transferring this stuff from container to container. The transfer leaves a layer of (easily cleaned) sludge at the bottom. Anyway, the beer goes into the carboy and then it's plugged with a rubber cap that has a hole in it for another airlock. It goes back into hiding for another 7 days. I'm not constantly checking, so I'm not sure if there are bubbles in the airlock. It's supposed to still be fermenting, but at this point, I'm a little over the excitement of watching for bubbles.
DAY 14: BOTTLING DAY!!!
The most time consuming thing about beer-making is sanitizing all the equipment. There's a concentrated dark solution that must be diluted a gazillion times with water. Everything that comes into contact with the beer must sit in (or be filled with) the solution for several minutes, then drip dried. An easy way to do this is to fill the big buckets with solution and throw the cleaned equipment in there as well. That sanitizes the equipment and the bucket. Not rocket science, but something I didn't think of until the guy at the store explained it. In the photo below, I have the bottles sanitized and am using the dishwasher racks to dry and hold the bottles until they're ready to be filled. Another important thing to mention, the siphon thingy is a must-buy if you're going to make your own beer. It has a little hand pump thing that starts the siphoning process and the bottom of the rod that goes in the full container has a little rubber cap on the bottom that prevents the sludgy stuff from being sucked into the new container.
So anyway, the beer in the carboy is siphoned into another plastic bucket. This bucket looks almost exactly like the same one from the first step, except it has a spigot at the bottom. The beer is beer-brown in color, but when I stir the priming sugar in, it immediately starts foaming. Knowing the beer-brewing industry, I'm sure there's an interesting word for this chemical process.
I'm not a beer convert, but I can say that there is definitely a not-unpleasant earthy/organic aroma to this beer. It was actually very lovely compared to the canned shit (in my humble opinion) my husband typically drinks. As I've found with just about any project, there's a specialness to homemade that doesn't compare to commercially manufactured. Voila - the finished product - 3 of many, many bottles of my home-brewed Kolsch!
Kölsch is a pale, mildly hopped ale, with a unique soft fruitiness in the finish. Developed in the German city of Cologne, Kölsch has become increasingly popular in Germany in recent years, perhaps due to its unique quality of being an ale with the refreshing lightness of a lager, yet with the more complex, fruity finish of an ale. True German Kölsch is rarely seen bottled in the United States, probably due to German law which states Kólsch can only be brewed in Cologne, and only by one of the 22 licensed Kölsch breweries. Alcohol: 3.8%, IBU's 27. William's Kölsch is an authentic rendering of this famous Cologne beer style, and can be either consumed quickly like an ale, or lagered (stored cold) after bottling for 8 weeks to develop the milder traditional flavor.