I finally did my first brew today. A Westmalle Dubbel extract kit from Austin Homebrew. On Wednesday night I made a 1500ml starter with Wyeast 3787, and 24 hours later fed it with another 2000ml of wort (Mr. Malty recommended 3.5 liters). This morning I chilled it, decanted off most of the liquid and then heated back up to room temperature.
Using a 20qt stainless stock pot I heated 2.5 gallons to 155 and steeped the grains for 17 minutes or so. Brought it up to a boil, removed from heat and added 9.5lbs of extra pale LME, 4oz. of malto dextrin and 1.5lbs of dark candi syrup. I brought it to a nice steady boil, pitched the hops and let it go for an hour.
Overall everything went pretty smoothly. I aerated as best I could and the fermenter is now sitting in a water bath with an aquarium heater in a cold basement. Right now it's at 66 degrees and I'm going to ramp it up over the next couple of days to 75 or so.
The only hitch was that I was way over my target gravity. The recipe calls for 1.071 and I ended up with 1.080. That's even after I added a little extra water to bring it up to almost 5.5gallons. My hydrometer says it's calibrated for 68 degrees and that's exactly what it was at when I took the reading. Any ideas?
Overall it was a surprisingly exhausting day, and I'm extremely relieved. I've been collecting supplies and preparing for this for a while now, and I feel that everything went pretty well. The only hitch was the higher than expected gravity, but since I'm a fan of high ABV beers, I don't really mind.
*update* Ack!, my airlock is bubbling already and I only pitched the yeast an hour ago. I intended to use a blowoff tube but couldn't find any suitable hose last night. I'm a tad worried. If the mess made by the starter is any indication, this should be a very active fermentation.