I’ve been trying out all sorts of new things while in lockdowns and social-distancing life this year, I’ve baked bread, I’ve picked up Animal Crossing, I’ve made cheese, I’ve cut my own hair, I’ve foraged for mushrooms, I’ve repotted plants, and I’ve started running, so I thought it was time to try out something that I’ve always thought was more for Dads and rogue uncles in the months before Christmas – trying to brew beer at home.
Let me tell you, I’ve got a newfound appreciation for all you homebrewers out there because this was a fiddly thing to try and get reasonably right the first time. Much respect to you all, especially those who just somehow churn froths out on the reg.
The legends over at Coopers sent me a DIY brew kit a month or so ago – literally how long it took me to get this bloody first brew done – and it all seemed very straightforward and simple.
After an initial mess-making session where it took me way too long to find the instructions, and then didn’t bloody realise the tin of brewing extract would be as thick and sticky as honey, I had a whole 25ish litres of beer (?) all mixed together and ready to brew at home for a couple of weeks.
Turns out for a beer to brew properly, it needs a bit more warmth than a cold Melbourne garage in the middle of winter. According to the instructions, I should have been able to get an identical reading on the hydrometer (which measures specific gravity) two days in a row after letting it funk for a couple of weeks. When I realised it wasn’t warm enough (brews like to be kept at around 16ºC if possible), I wrapped a blanket around it.
After still no luck, I had to move it inside – still in its little blanket – inside and under the stairs so it could get a bit warmer. The process begins again.
It took about three weeks before I could get a good two solid days of the same gravity reading, and then it was time to bottle, which is messy again, but this time an anticipated messy.
We got the big George Frothington outside (to prepare for the mess) and got ourselves ready to bottle and carbonate the beer. It was surprisingly a very easy job once we got a handle on how the beer pours and the right way to hold the bottle.
But that’s not the end of it, the home brew beer then had to sit for another two weeks (!!!) for a second ferment, and so all the carbonation tablets could settle into the beer properly. So the beer – now in its little bottles – went back under the stairs under its blanket. Again.
After two weeks, it was time to crack the scab off one and test it out. Grabbing a bottle I could feel the carbonation had done its thing, because this thing felt like it was ready to pop. And in traditional Coopers bevvies style, it had a good amount of sediment at the bottom.
On the first pour, it wasn’t as frothy as I had imagined. There was a minimal amount of head, but this bitch is golden and smelled like a lager.
And the taste? Look, it’s pretty good. Looks like a beer, smells like a beer, tastes like a bog-standard beer, and makes me burp like a beer. Which is fucking lucky because I have another 29 bottles to work my way through. Pls, help me.
Next time I brew beer at home, I’ll up the temperature of my starter water to try and hit that perfect initial temperature, keep the big baby inside and out of the cold, and maybe not try and brew in the middle of winter in Melbourne.
Cheers to that.