All Grain, (Almost) All Pain — My First Homebrew

My first homebrew attempt was a rough one — but despite the many challenges (inconsitent instructions, jargon, various tubes and temperature control) my all-grain batch tastes and smells like beer — and it’s officially bottled.

I purchased a full 5-gallon kit from Brookly Brew Shop for a Grapefruit Honey Ale thinking it’d be a nice end of summer brew. It was probably unecessary considering the abundant equipment resources available in Chicago (I’m stoked about BrewCamp being so close!) but what can I say — I’m a sucker for typography and small business bios (they were covered in the lovely new mag: Anthology). 

First, why are there no pics of the brewing process? Well, mostly because after turning on the stove and snapping that first pic, it was traumatic. I didn’t realize I was getting into an all-grain batch (Doug, my assisting homebrew expert noticed immediately). If you’re unfamiliar, is exponentially more time-consuming and tricky than extract brewing. In extract, you start the process with the extracted malt sugars in hand. In all grain, you start with a bag of grain and have to extraxt your own malts. Even Doug was intimidated by an all-grain — it’s a bitch. Tons of boiling, circulating and waiting. It’s like making oatmeal for a small army. I also made some first-time blunders, like forgetting to use the strainer in my fancy pot, so I had to deal with a lot of sediment as I transferred to the carboy — probably the messiest part of the whole ordeal. Next time, now that I know what I’m in for, I’ll be able to better document the process instead of being so neurotic about santizing and temperature control and a million other things. 

Bottling, however, was fun! Hillary did the dirty work of removing all the labels from our bottles-in-waiting, including smothering everything in sight with Goo-Gone. If this turns out well, we plan to make our own labels, of course. Meanwhile, I dissolved more honey and water to run the beer through before bottling, giving the yeast something to chew on. 

The auto-siphon helped control the transfer from carboy to bottles nicely. We used a good bit of bombers to ensure we had enough capacity, and then moved on to capping. The capper came with the Brookly kit and worked like a charm.

We tasted the left-overs and were astonished by how good it tasted. Being my first time, I was convinced I’d do something to contaminate the beer — not brewing hot enough, cooling fast enough, forgetting to sanitize a tube — anything could have ruined the beer. But instead, it had a natural sweetness from the honey, a tinge of citrus from the grapefruit peel and plenty of hop flavor and aroma pulling through. I was ready to carbonate and drink it immediately. But alas, the yeast have more work to do. 2 more weeks!