16 June 2008

Beer should be this easy

I picked up brewing as a hobby for two very important reasons.

  1. I love beer.
  2. I'm very lazy.

I cannot imagine brewing beer the way many home brewers do it -- a pretty lengthy process of extracting sugars from grain and mixing individual ingredients, usually with a 5-gallon carboy as the fermentation vessel, and sometimes even with a secondary carboy for settling, and then a hand-capping bottling process.

Not for me! I bought a Mr. Beer kit for $30, which included my first mix and everything but the bottles that I'd need for brewing two gallons. For bottles, I started hoarding Grolsch with the swing-top bottles, taking my empties home from bars and restaurants. With Mr. Beer, it takes maybe an hour to prepare the wort for fermentation and to bottle the batch coming out of the fermentation "keg" (a kitschy plastic barrel-shaped 2-gallon container with an lid that allows air to escape but not seep in and has its own tap for bottling).

See? Easy? It's like the Easy Bake Oven for Beer. Perfect hobby to satisfy both my laziness and my love of beer. Maybe not the most creative process, but I can add fruits or other ingredients to vary the flavor, etc. I don't feel limited by fact that the main ingredients are pre-mixed and canned for my convenience. For the first 3-4 years I was happy to have my own brew, slightly cheaper than even the cheap domestic brands and much more potent. (If you haven't figured out that I'm too lazy to measure alcohol content, you haven't been paying attention.)

Since we've moved to Colorado, the fun has been ... not so much. Batch after batch seemed to have no or very low alcohol content. That's pretty important to me in a beer. I thought my fermentation "keg" might be defective, so I bought a new one. Same results. I thought the yeast might be ineffective, so I tried fresh yeast, both powdered and liquid, from a local store. Same results. I thought the temperature in my basement might be too cold, so I moved it upstairs. The recipes and yeast information indicate successful fermentations at temperatures as low as 50 degrees F. Same results.

I missed my lazy hobby. An hour a week is just great if you get decent beer at a decent price. It's bullshit if you get malt juice or worse.

Well, this week, I left the fermentation "keg" in an insulated tote on my kitchen counter, instead of the cupboard.

Bubbles up the wazoo! So, I'm guessing alcohol content will be just fine in this next batch, due for bottling next weekend. I'll know with acceptable certainty the weekend after that.

Film at 11.

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