Last night I attended the second class in my home brewing course at the Vancouver Pastry School. We learned how to prime our beer (how to make our beer carbonated by adding sugar), we transferred our beer from the secondary (carboy) back to the primary (five gallon paint pail), and we got down to the business of bottling. As a group we swapped stories on our individual adventures in brewing. Luckily no one had any major catastrophes – at least none they were willing to fess up to. However, it seems we all had a tough time cooling our wort and managing our time so we weren’t brewing well into the morning. Temperature regulation was a bit of an issue since it is pretty difficult to maintain a constant temperature when the Vancouver weather is doing silly things. The bottling, though monotonous, is not too complicated and having a mini assembly line of classmates definitely sped things up. We all tried our hands at filling and capping and yet more sanitising. After our class brew was put to bed so to speak we got down to other beer geekiness such as learning about fermentation temperatures, how to get rid of head the sample in your hydrometer (just use an oily finger), beer judging criteria and using beer software to create our own home brew recipes. Look out world (and Russian River) I am making an IPA and a coffee stout.
With respect to beer evaluation, we sampled two wit (white) beers (one home brew and one commercial) to explore the different facets of what makes a good beer. According to our instructor Adam, home brews are assessed using the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines, which look at Aroma, Appearance, Flavour, Mouthfeel and Overall Impressions for each style of beer. This was an interesting exercise to do as a class because it really highlights the differences in people’s palates and the usefulness of having a standard by which to measure a beer. Left to our own devices there would be an unending list of tastes and smells that people perceive in their beers. Notably we all seemed to prefer the homebrew to the commercial beer. It seems like home brews have both a freshness and a subtlety that can be lacking in commercial brews – perhaps fear of ruining a batch lets the home brewer err on the side less is more when adding flavour elements or perhaps the smaller scale contributes to the difference. More tasting is required to be sure.
Now back to the business or brewing: This morning I transferred my beer from the primary to the secondary. This step can be skipped but it contributes to the clarity when you siphon the beer off and leave the gunk in the bottom of your container. Hauling all the equipment around can be a bit of a challenge so make sure you intersperse your home brewing with trips to the gym, and if you have too much space and too much money get yourself a giant sink to bath all your brewing paraphernalia. I set my primary on the counter and the carboy on the floor to assist the laws of physics. I practiced siphoning with my sanitizer, which does not really taste that great despite being food safe. Then I got my beer going into the carboy and it was a beautiful thing; my brew had been hidden away in the primary for so long I had forgotten how lovely it looked. Transferring was quick and easy and I managed to avoid sucking up the spent yeast in the bottom of the pail. I had a little trouble getting my airlock to fit in the carboy, it seems to want to pop back out, but a heavy text book has taken care of the issue. The amount of beer looks good right around the top line on the carboy before it tapers. I liked this quick and easy step and here’s hoping bottling goes well …stay tuned.
*Warning: With the rising price of gas and my newfound talent at siphoning I would like to extend fair warning to my neighbours to keep their garages locked at night : )