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A Portrait of the Homebrewer as a Young Man [A Beer Journal]

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houstonbg

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Hi all,

Name's Houston. I'm brand new here. You can read my introduction thread here.

Welcome to A Portrait of the Homebrewer as a Young Man, my beer journal. I've found that I learn much faster if I keep a written record of my venture into any new hobby, so this is where I'll be keeping that record as it pertains to homebrewing.

That said, today -- August 2nd, 2014 -- marks the day I made my first real step into homebrewing. Though I've been drinking beer for a while now, I've never made an attempt to brew my own. It's been a part of my "I should..." list for a bit, but I just never got around to it.

This all changed today when I brewed my first batch of beer courtesy of the Mr. Beer kit my little brother gave me for my 23rd birthday last month on the 2nd.

As I opened the box, unpacked its contents, and unraveled the instructions, my mind raced. I was excited... nervous...



"Look, ma'! I've made it! I'm brewing my own beer. I'm a real boy, now!"

I rode this wave of excitement and nervousness for all of 5 minutes before finally coming to grips with the fact that people weren't kidding around when they told me how important and tedious sanitization was to the brewing process.

Alright, small steps... minor compromises. Cleanliness is godliness, right? Easy enough concept to understand, but holy hops did it deflate my balloon. I rebounded pretty quick, though. I'd rather go through the pains of having to sanitize ad nauseum than the pains of botching my very first attempt at making my own beer.

So, I sanitized.

Next step: Getting the motherhoppin' plastic top off the can of hopped malt extract to remove it and the bag of yeast underneath it. I had to have been on Candid Camera. I damn near lost the tips of my fingers trying to pry the sucker off the can.

This is how I felt. I'm Popeye, by the way.



Ultimately, I had to run the handle-end of a spoon under the lip of the top to get it off.

Anyways, with the hopped malt extract in hand, and my manhood mostly intact, I put 4 cups of water to boil on the stove while I ran the extract under hot water for as close to 15 minutes as I could bear.

Taking the extract out from under the water, I popped it open with a can opener (after attempting to open it from the bottom, which doesn't work in case you were wondering).

The smell was intoxicating. It was novel and it seemed to stay with me throughout the day.

So, I added the extract to the water (that I had taken off the stove), stirred it up real good, added it to the keg with the appropriate amount of water, threw on the yeast, put the top on the keg and fist-pumped till I was blue in the face.

I had done it! I had brewed my first batch of beer... kinda. I was the Man of the Hour. I texted my brother a picture of the keg sitting atop the box it came in (below) letting him know he can taste the nectar of the demi-god Houston in about a month.



I ran to Facebook with that same picture and introduced the brew to my friends as "Sneaky Pete's" Classic American Light, offering the ability to pre-order a half-liter bottle once all was said and done.

Not long after, the doubt set in. It was all-consuming.

Is the tap water going to mess everything up?
Should I have refrigerated the water longer?
Did I sanitize everything properly?
What year is it?
Who is John Galt?



... and that's where I stand, though the doubt isn't as consuming as it was.

My biggest worry now is that the temperature of my apartment is too high to allow proper fermentation. It's always set at 75, but some awesome HBTers let me know in my fermentation temperature question thread that adding 5 degrees to the ambient temp gives you what the temp will be at peak fermentation aka the yeast in my precious little keg of "Sneaky Pete's" Classic American Light would be working under an inhumane 80 degrees at peak fermentation.

I've been looking up ways to cool down the brewski, and have a few things I'm going to try, but I'm currently away from my apartment and won't be back till tomorrow and am experiencing a little bit of separation anxiety as a result.

Please tell me it gets better...

Till next time!
 
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houstonbg

houstonbg

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The more I learn, the more I worry.

Just realized I might've pitched the yeast before letting the wort cool to an acceptable temp, and according to what I've read, the worst case scenario is that I either shocked or straight murdered the yeast and fermentation will be stuck.

Or, a lesser worst case scenario is that an excessive amount of diacetyl was produced and the buttery flavor of that compound is going to dominate the beer and turn "Sneaky Pete's" Classic American Light into "Sneak Pete's Athlete's Foot."

I remember thinking the keg felt warm when I was moving it, though it wasn't hot to the touch. The plastic obviously mutes a lot of the actual temp, so I could've very well shot myself in the foot by not allowing the wort to cool.

The instructions don't make any mention of letting the wort cool, but I'm assuming the refrigerated water is meant to square that away.

I'll keep an eye on the keg to see if I can spot any signs of fermentation...
 
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houstonbg

houstonbg

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I just spent the past few hours researching some of the chemistry behind brewing. Surprisingly enough, I actually enjoyed what I read.

I started with the basics of alcohol fermentation then segued into what happens when wort oxidizes, and what happens when ethanol oxidizes and reverts back to acetylaldehyde.

The way I understand it is that wort contains dissolved oxygen. During a boil, much of this oxygen is released. If the yeast is pitched before the wort is able to cool to sub-80*F temps, the wort continues to release the aforementioned oxygen which binds with lipids and melanoidins faster than the yeast is able to utilize it to reproduce.

As a result, it quickly jumps into 2nd gear, breaking down glucose to ethanol. However, so long as the wort is burnin' up above 80*F, it is releasing oxygen as the yeast does its thing, and ultimately reverting any glucose it breaks down into ethanol right back into acetylaldehyde.

Later, the oxygen that binded to the lipids and melanoidins gets broken down into compounds that lead to off-flavors such as diacetyl and fusel alcohols.

Hope I got that mostly right. Correct me if I'm wrong, please!
 
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houstonbg

houstonbg

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Just checked in on how my little family of yeast was doing. All looks well (sorry for the poor picture quality)!



Never thought something 3 - 4 micrometers in diameter could make me so happy!

 

flars

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Put your LME in a bucket and add hot water. You don't need to hold it in your hand to warm it.
Liked the post.
 
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houstonbg

houstonbg

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Put your LME in a bucket and add hot water. You don't need to hold it in your hand to warm it.
Liked the post.
Hi flars,

Good news is I didn't hold it in my hand. I placed it in the sink and let the hot water run over it.

Thanks for the like! I intend to update this thread regularly if for no one else but myself. Always good to know I'm not shouting into an echo chamber, though.
 

wdwalter

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Thanks for posting. I was entertained. Welcome to the forum, keep the updates coming!
 
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houstonbg

houstonbg

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Hey there, wdwalter!

Glad I could keep you entertained and thank you for the welcome.

I'm shooting to update this journal once every other day, but there will probably be times where things are slow when an update isn't warranted, i.e. right now. Since my beergasm this morning after laying eyes on my little yeast homies hard at work munchin' on glucose and spittin' out ethanol, there hasn't been much to report back on.

There is a very nice layer of krausen that has built up, however. So cool to look at!
 
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houstonbg

houstonbg

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Not much to update today. I'm normally a very patient person, but I guess the thrill of tasting a beer I made is making me super antsy.

Anyways, over the weekend I joined the Arizona Society of Homebrewers. I'm very excited to be a part of it and look forward to meeting other homebrewers in the very near future. I've only 1 friend I know who is even truly interested in the hobby. Coincidentally, he's a member of ASH, as well.

He said he hasn't gone to a meeting in a while 'cause he never felt welcome, which was disconcerting, though there's a very good chance it's a false perception. The good news is that he's agreed to tag along with me to a meeting.

Thinkin' of trolling and bringing my batch of Mr. Beer "Classic American Light" to a meeting once its ready. I'll make up a grand story regarding how it was brewed and require people to drink it from pilsner glasses. Might be a good icebreaker. ;)

That aside, I signed up for the University of Oklahoma's MOOC Chemistry of Beer. It starts on the 18th, if anyone wants to join!
 

dmbobo

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Congrats on your first brew! You have a gift for writing. I enjoyed your posts!

Make sure you don't disturb the fermentation process too much by jostling or moving the fermentation vessel. You don't want to stir up the fermentation byproducts (called trub).
 

ChelisHubby

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Go buy a second Kit and this time do what you have read and compare the differences you will like what happens, I am warning you that this hobby is addictive and fun, you will always have someone who is willing to help you drink it. If you like what you get from this you might want to step up to a starter kit from one of the local brew shops or buy a online kit. Cheers!
 
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houstonbg

houstonbg

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Go buy a second Kit and this time do what you have read and compare the differences you will like what happens, I am warning you that this hobby is addictive and fun, you will always have someone who is willing to help you drink it. If you like what you get from this you might want to step up to a starter kit from one of the local brew shops or buy a online kit. Cheers!
I've already reached out to one of the local brew shops with a ton of questions. They got back to me with a super thorough, super helpful email, and recommended I jump up to a partial mash kit (rather than all-grain until I can put a good rig together and have a bit more experience).

I'm already addicted, to be honest. It's been really fun so far and everyone here at HBT has been incredibly helpful.

Thanks for the words of advice, ChelisHubby, it's greatly appreciated.
 

HarborTownBrewing

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Anxiety? I don't think it ever goes away - at least, not for me.

As I got a better feel for what worked and got my systems down, my anxiety died down. I am always anxious once I pitch the yeast, just to see activity. Then every time I open the first bottle of a batch I have nervous anxiety. But my anxiety levels have gone down a bit over the past couple years. I was pretty nervous for my first batch though haha.
 

charliehorse

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I've already reached out to one of the local brew shops with a ton of questions. They got back to me with a super thorough, super helpful email, and recommended I jump up to a partial mash kit (rather than all-grain until I can put a good rig together and have a bit more experience).
The reality is that you can jump right into all-grain brewing without going through the Extract kit phase. By cutting your teeth on Mr. Beer, you've already learned the most important step to making beer, keeping everything that your beer comes in contact with sanitary. Save your money up for a big ol' pot (at least 32 quarts), a cooler (48 quarts is what I use), a way to get your wort to boiling temperature quickly (like an outdoor gas burner) and a way to cool your wort down to yeast pitching temperature (I stated out with a homemade immersion chiller, made from a roll of soft copper, a bit of vinyl tubing and some fittings). Of course, you'll want the same equipment kit that you'd buy if you went the kit route.

To learn how (it really is "so easy a cave man can do it"), watch a bunch of youTube videos and brew with an experienced brewer. If you think that the can of pre-hopped liquid malt extract smelled good, wait until you mash your first grains in, it smells like you've died and gone to heaven. On your first all-grain batch, you'll literally hear every brewer from the past applauding that yet another has taken up the gauntlet.
 

WayFrae

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Nice job with your first batch! It might be the beer you were expecting but it will be beer. I am not very proud of my first batch but it was drinkable and I drank it all. Before you upgrade your set up, look up BIAB (Brew In A Bag), I really like it and it isn't as expensive as a full all grain, 3 vessel set up. I really enjoy your writing style so keep the posts coming!
 

PrinceOfThePoint

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I started five months ago, headed straight to all-grain. I have brewed I think 12 5-gallon batches. That's quite a bit depending on who you ask... my point being that it truly is an addiction! I find myself thinking about making beer more often than is appropriate haha. Planning and then brewing a batch is thrilling, and drinking the beer is thrilling as well, but the long waiting period in between is not good for those of us who are impatient (me). This is what leads to multiple batches happening simultaneously. I now have 2-4 fermentations going at once, brew once or twice a week if possible. Most people here are not unlike me and many are probably worse. And it's the best!!! :D
 
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houstonbg

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Anxiety? I don't think it ever goes away - at least, not for me.
I'm not even a worry-wart usually, but this process has had me on edge (not bad edge, just edge!) Thanks for your input, though. Always appreciated.

The reality is that you can jump right into all-grain brewing without going through the Extract kit phase.
My biggest constraint right now is space. I'm in an apartment right now with my fiancée and though she's supportive of my hobby, I have the luxury of the Little Brown Keg taking up relatively no space whatsoever.

Because of that, I need to keep in mind how much space the kit will take up, though I might just hold off until we move into our house in 3 months, and then it's all fair game.

On your first all-grain batch, you'll literally hear every brewer from the past applauding that yet another has taken up the gauntlet.
This is probably the best thing I've heard on HBT to-date. Might even make an appearance in my signature. Good stuff! Thanks so much, charliehorse.

Nice job with your first batch! It might be the beer you were expecting but it will be beer. I am not very proud of my first batch but it was drinkable and I drank it all. Before you upgrade your set up, look up BIAB (Brew In A Bag), I really like it and it isn't as expensive as a full all grain, 3 vessel set up. I really enjoy your writing style so keep the posts coming!
I'm not expecting much out of the Mr. Beer, and I am not getting my hopes up that it will taste amazing. Right now, I'm just learning and honestly, the fact that I will be able to drink some brews that I personally made will make up for the lack of quality in the beer.

I will absolutely look into BIAB. I read up on it in brief, but need to do a deeper dive to educate myself.

I'm glad you like my writing style. I wanted to make this beer journal something people can read through and not get bored by.

I find myself thinking about making beer more often than is appropriate haha. Planning and then brewing a batch is thrilling, and drinking the beer is thrilling as well, but the long waiting period in between is not good for those of us who are impatient (me).
I'm right there with you. Since Saturday morning, I've been reading or thinking about beer in some capacity. I can't stop!

With regards to the long waiting period, I'm dying. Ultimately, though, I'll remain patient. I'm already keeping the beer in primary for a lot longer than the Mr. Beer instructions state, and will be doing the same for the bottle conditioning.

Thanks for dropping in, PrinceOfThePoint!
 

stevehardt

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You'll worry less with each batch, because as you become familiar with the process you'll feel more in control (an illusion really).

Remember, the most important thing a new brewer has to learn in patience.

Keep up the good work. We James Joyce fans have to stick together.
 
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houstonbg

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You'll worry less with each batch, because as you become familiar with the process you'll feel more in control (an illusion really).

Remember, the most important thing a new brewer has to learn in patience.

Keep up the good work. We James Joyce fans have to stick together.

I've already made a resolution with myself not to jump the gun. I actually am extending all time periods recommended by Mr. Beer by a multiple of ~2. I might be extending primary by an additional week. So, the patience thing I'm very cognizant about.

Appreciate your input! And +1 for being the 1st person to point out the Joyce reference.
 

sarahs_mrbeer

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First of all, great post! Reading your brewing story made me laugh out loud several times.

Secondly, if you are concerned with keeping your keg cool during fermentation, freeze a few 2 liter soda bottle and place them in an ice chest along with your keg. This is a trick that works great when brewing during the summer months.

Keep the updates coming, I am interested to see how your first time brewing adventure turns out!
 
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houstonbg

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First of all, great post! Reading your brewing story made me laugh out loud several times.

Secondly, if you are concerned with keeping your keg cool during fermentation, freeze a few 2 liter soda bottle and place them in an ice chest along with your keg. This is a trick that works great when brewing during the summer months.

Keep the updates coming, I am interested to see how your first time brewing adventure turns out!
Glad I could make you laugh!

At this point, I'm not as concerned about temperature. Going into my next batch, I'll be doing a lot more to achieve a temp at the low-end of the suggested fermentation temps.

Thanks for the tip, though. I appreciate it.

:)
 
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houstonbg

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Alright, got a question! However, first thing's first. I have named my yeast. Just felt cold not to. They're working so hard for me and they deserve a proper name.

So, I present to you...



That aside, the Yeastie Boys seem to have done much of their vigorous work. The krausen has subsided, though I can still see some bubblin' action when I take a light to the Little Brown Keg.

My question is this: I would like to sample the beer at the 7-day mark (which will be this Saturday). I have no expectation of it tasting good, but I would like to periodically taste the beer at certain intervals during the process to at least gauge how taste progresses at those intervals.

Is this something I shouldn't do? Or, maybe shouldn't do with a Mr. Beer kit?
 

stevehardt

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I understand the temptation to try it, but the more you mess with it the greater the chance of infection.

My advice, and I know this is hard to do, is leave the yeastie boys be while they do their thing. The still have work to do.

Patience, grasshopper
 
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houstonbg

houstonbg

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I understand the temptation to try it, but the more you mess with it the greater the chance of infection.

My advice, and I know this is hard to do, is leave the yeastie boys be while they do their thing. The still have work to do.

Patience, grasshopper
Then that's what I'll do! Thanks, stevehardt!
 
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