Saturday, 12 October 2013

Part 2: Get yer brew on...

With kit in possession it was time to get down to the nitty-gritty and get some brewing on the go, but we're not going anywhere with the equipment in bits. 

I was always handy with Lego and Meccano when I was a kid, to the point where my mother suspected I might be on the autistic spectrum, so I didn't expect this step to pose any problems...and it didn't. The instructions supplied were concise (not that I really need them of course!) and there was support available should I have needed it. I took extra special care to make sure the tap attached to the bottom of the fermenting bucket was water tight, I didn't fancy cleaning up a 5 gallon puddle of malty mess from the kitchen floor first thing in the morning.
Don't touch it,
don't even look
at it!

If there's one thing that's hammered home whilst I was researching the way of the home brew it was cleanliness. It doesn't matter what you do in any other step of the brew process, if you've got bugs on your kit, your beer will be sh*t! So I wanted to make sure I didn't fall foul at this important step and in my mind I thought I might purchase some clean room overalls. In reality, I wasn't working on a satellite for NASA, so just jeans and t-shirt were fine (although I did wear clean jeans and t-shirt just for peace of mind). I added the recommended amount of sanitiser and hot water into my bucket, chucked in anything else that needed sterilizing, and left it for the required time. Then I rinsed it out numerous times - five swirls left, five swirls right, ditch and repeat. CSI would be hard pushed to find any trace of DNA in that bad boy!

Cleaning chores done, the magic can begin! Following the instructions on the back of the beer kit, I empty the warm gooey contents into the bucket, mixing it with boiling water and the supplied brewing sugar. As I stir the steaming solution like some kind of brew-wizard, a great sense of satisfaction washed over me, I'm only bloody making beer people! No one else was around to enjoy this moment, but I did a little dance. YEAH! *skyward fist thrust*

With the mixture well and truly mixed, I topped it up to the 23 litre mark with cold water and sprinkled on the magic ingredient - the yeast. Like microscopic astronauts, I saluted, wished them luck on their journey and sealed the capsule. At this point I start to become paranoid about the bucket not being air tight, despite the liberal smearing of Vaseline applied around the lid and airlock. Don't panic!

Alfie in action...
I stood watching it expecting some kind of violent chemical reaction, instead I was just watched relaxed dark liquid in a big white tub. Beer brewing isn't a spectacle. At this point you have no idea whether it'll be a success, it's a waiting game and you can't influence the results by just staring at it. I felt so helpless. But wait, it still needs me! The temperature needs to be kept between 20-25°C for optimal fermentation, so with brew belt at the ready, I frequently monitored the thermometer strip to the point where it was manifesting into an obsessive compulsive disorder.

After a few days of around the clock monitoring, the dark liquid (since named Dark Matter) began to show signs of life - foam was forming on the surface and the pressure had started to build leading to some activity in the airlock. Alfie was alive! At this point my first time nerves began to subside and I started to feel a bit more relaxed about the whole process. I'm now counting down the days until phase 3 - the bottling!