Welcome back to a special blog centred on mine and my friend Andrews experience with the Northern Brew homebrew kit (available here if you fancy giving it a go yourself), and how we got on brewing our very own ‘Block Party Amber Ale’. This blog will focus on the brewing stage of the operation, followed by another blog on bottling and the finished product!
Remember it’s Sheffield Beer Week, so there’s a new blog coming every day! Check out their website for all the events and activities happening this week and into the weekend!
I’m hoping that as well as being a review of the kit, it can showcase just how easy brewing can be (though we did use an easier method malt extract rather than all grain) and encourage others to give it a go!
The kit consists of a wide array of components needed for brewing up a storm, including two 25 gallon plastic tubs, a 5 gallon kettle pot, bottling equipment and best of all a big spoon! The only real purchases you would need in addition are a thermometer and a hydrometer, both fairly cheap.
Included within the purchase was a recipe kit for ‘Block Party Amber Ale’ and this is what I’ll be describing in this blog. Before you get started though you have the most fun job of all – sanitising everything! The most boring but unfortunately essential part of brewing!
We started off by filling the brew kettle with 2.5 gallons (the recipe comes with US measurements – slightly annoying!) of water, before filling a muslin bag with grains and submerging the bag in the water. This process is called ‘Steeping’ and imparts the roasted malty notes from the grains into the finished beer.
With that done we needed to add the Malt extract (6 lbs of gold malt syrup) and bring the liquid up to temperature as it is dissolved. Utilising malt extract replaces the usual method of ‘mashing’ in regular brewing. You now have ‘wort’ which is Basically unfermented beer!
Once the malt extract was completely dissolved it was time to add a very important ingredient – the Hops! It’s worth noting at this point that adding these in at this point imparts very little aroma and bitterness into the final product, and if that’s the kind of beer you are after then it’s best adding the Hops much later in the process. For this recipe we boiled the wort for 60 minutes.
Now we need to get this recently boiling liquid down to a much lower temperature as quickly as possible. Depending on your space availability then this could be done in a sink, via specialist equipment or in our case, sling it in the bath! Once it was down to around 37°C we were good to go.
Once the liquid has cooled down, it’s time to add it into the primary fermenter. It’s not a case of just sloshing it all in however as we need to lose some of the sediment that’s developed over the course of the other steps. Therefore you need to use the included siphon to transfer the liquid from the kettle to the tub! Once the liquid is in the fermenter, you can top it up to the desired level, in this case it was 5 gallons. After this is done you need to aerate the wort, imparting as much oxygen as possible into the liquid by basically just vigorous mixing and sloshing!
And the final flourish on the actual ‘brewing’ part of the journey is the addition of yeast. Some recipies ask you to stir in the yeast, others just sprinkle it on top like we did. Just prior to yeast addition we took our original gravity reading with the hydrometer, which is essential for determining the finish ABV!
And with that all done, its time to fit the fermentation lock and seal the fermenter. Our fermentation period was about 2 weeks, but other recipes ask for longer, or with addition of hops just before bottling.
I’ll wait until Part 2 of the blog for the full review of the kit, but as you can see this is truly brewing made simple! If you’ve always wanted to try brewing, I would say to you why not give it a go? It’s way easier than you would anticipate, especially with one of these all in one kits that can be used again and again. Tune in next time to see how we got on with bottling day, and with sampling the finished product!