What to do when you only have a tin of malt and no yeast? You stock up on ingredients, go crazy and experiment with a IPA Lager Hops Monster.
I had one tin of malt extract in the cupboard. It was expiring in October, and the month before I had accidentally thrown out the un-branded packet of yeast along with some other expired stuff in my fridge, so from a brewing point of view I really had nothing.
Luckily, during a well-timed trip to Singapore, I managed to stock up. Feeling experimental, I got a tin of Coopers Select IPA, Cooper Select English Bitter and a tin of Crystal Malt, each with their own packets of yeast.
For a recipe from Home Brewing for Dummies I planned to follow, I also got 3 different types of hops and Nottingham Ale yeast.
All set, I started preparations for Batch III on Friday, 28 May.
My previous brew was delicious, if a little light, and that was with 1kg of brewing sugars. Following the advice from my ever-trusted guru, Marty Nachel from Home Brewing for Dummies, I decided to use 2 tins of malt extract instead of 1 with brewing sugars.
As the Morgan’s Australian Lager tin was expiring soon, and I now didn’t have any lager yeast (forget the fact that my house is too hot to actually brew a proper lager), I decided to use that as the second tin to my Cooper’s Select IPA. It’s extra brewing sugars, I thought, with an interesting twist.
So, in an hour boil I combined the IPA (a strong ale with robust malt characters and very high hopping levels) with the Lager extract and at 45 minutes added 1/2 ounce of EK Golding Hops, intending it to serve as flavouring as I’m sure the IPA is plenty hopped up already.
But really, I illustrated that although I know about the concepts combining certain ingredients at certain time, I still don’t have a firm grasp on reality (Note to self: study more).
After the Boil
Because it has been a particularly hot few days leading up to the brew, my house was extra hot. So instead of giving my wort a cooling bath, I simply drained it over ice.
I topped it up with cool water and found the temperature was almost exactly right for pitching. I took a gravity reading, adjusted it for the 28°C of the water, and ended up with a gravity reading of 1.042 – officially my highest gravity brew so far.
Earlier on I had woken up 1 packet of yeast that came with the IPA kit, plus 1 packet of Nottingham Yeast, by soaking it in a cup of warm water. I didn’t think it was too warm, but I fed it some cooled down wort thinking it would get it started. It’s these little off-the-script things I do that makes me doubt my methods later on when things go not-quite-as-planned.
After the gravity reading was done and I aerated the wort sufficiently, I pitched the cup of yeast and stirred it briskly to mix with the worth.
Cooling Chamber V.3
My first brew stood out in the open. That was back when I thought my living room was naturally cool enough to actually brew beer in. It wasn’t.
For my second brew I patched together a Styrofoam box which I kept sufficiently cool by swapping out 2x 1.5 liter bottles of ice every 8-12 hours. Although that was effective, it was very labour intensive.
On the post about my 2nd batch, Ben left a comment saying he immersed the fermenter in water and cooled the water. This worked famously.
I have a new dustbin which I bought for beer brewing purposes, so I knew I would put the fermenter in there. Problem is, it’s a tad too small, and I had to take the tap of the fermenter before it could fit.
It kept the water temperature nice and even though, and the water was easy to keep cool. I also wrapped the bin in several layers of material (capes of various shapes and sizes left over from theme parties and Halloween) to add extra insulation.
Don’t blink – you’ll miss the fermentation
So at 2.30am on 28 May my brew officially started.
The evening when I got home there was no evidence of brewing. Not even foam, no activity what so ever. And my first reaction? Panic, of course.
So I added the second packet of Nottingham yeast and stirred vigorously, in case it wasn’t aerated enough.
The next morning I noticed the traces of where the brew had bubbled up to the top of the fermenter, but no bubbles coming through the airlock. Again I wanted to panic, but then Marty Nachel’s wise words formed in my mind: “Just because it’s not bubbling doesn’t mean it’s not working”. Or something like that.
I decided to give it 5 days and bottle is as I normally would.
6 days later I started the bottling process. My first challenge was the fact that I had to replace the tap, which I removed for the fermenter to fit in the bin.
I gently titled the fermenter back so as to not disturb the yeast at the bottom, unscrewed the plug and inserted the tap, all without making too much of a mess or stirring up the yeast.
I was convinced no fermenting had taken place and that was about to taste spoiled beer. I smelled it first, and a strong hop flavou filled my nostrils. The taste was also quite bitter – something I hope will mellow with the aging process.
I took a gravity reading – adjusted for the temperature of the wort, it was 1.009 – a reading that indicates an alcohol potential of 4.33%. This was great news, as not only was it my most complete fermentation to date, it would also yield my strongest beer to date.
The bulk of the brew went into my 19 liter keg, and the remainder was enough to fill up 8x 750ml beer bottles. I ended up with 7 bottles though, as 1 tragically broke while I was hammering on the bottle cap – luckily though it was on a fairly woolly doormat, which prevented a serious mess.
As a primer, half the bottles got 1 drop each of some brewing sugar drops I had left, and the rest got the appropriate measures of crushed rock sugar I had in the fridge.
The bottles went back in the cooling bin, and the keg went into the fridge. That is, after taking everything else out of the fridge, of course. These are the sacrifices I make to brew.
Week 1 Sample
On 11 June I had the first bottle to taste the progress. The first thing that shocked me was it was quite dark – like Coca Cola dark, but not quite as dark as stout – I can’t quite explain the colour – my first IPA wasn’t so dark, and lagers are certainly not this dark.
The taste was quite harsh, quite bitter – clearly I’m not experienced with IPAs. The first sip had a bit of a metallic taste too, although only the first sip. I wonder if it had something to with the bottle cap?
I felt the beer was a bit hard to drink – although there are layers in the flavour, it certainly isn’t an easy drinking beer, and definitely takes a few sips to get used to. I guess it’s because of all the hops.
My conclusion from this bottle was that it would need to be aged for at least 1 month, and not 2 weeks like I had planned. The flavours need much more time to blend.
Week 2 Sample
On 18 June we had a braai at John’s house and I shared the second sample with him. Again, the bitterness was quite pronounced in the first few sips, but the flavours seemed to have mellowed a bit, and it’s certainly a beer worth appreciating.
I had a chat with one of the Birdboys that played Ultimate with us, he’s also somewhat of a Beer Appreciator, and he talked about a porter. Although I don’t think I had the right ingredients here for a porter, I certainly can imagine it tasting like one – save for the bitterness though. But what do I know.
The next day I had another sample and I think it’s one of the ones I used the rock sugar in. It had more bubbles in it, and was certainly easier to drink. I’m keen to see what the keg will taste like, but for that we have to wait.