Making your own beer: Greatest. Hobby. Ever.
I recently got into home brewing and I absolutely love it. I thought I'd share my experience as a first-time brewer, because I still can't get over the idea that, even though I made a few blunders along the way, I made a beer that tastes way better than stuff I normally buy - and for just a fraction of the cost.
Anyway, here are my beer notes:
Batch no. 1 - Pacific Pale Ale
Beer kit brand: Morgan’s
Brewing date: 21 May 2023
Bottling date: 30 May 2023
Tasting date: 25 June 2023
Batch size: 23 L
Sugars / malts: Aussie Brewmakers Beer Improver (1 kg)
Yeast: supplied with beer kit (1 sachet), and later SafAle S-04 (11.5 g sachet)
Pitching temperature: circa. 26 degrees Celsius
Fermentation temperature: 22.5 – 23.5 degrees Celsius with Kegland controller
21/5 Beer brewed.
Specifically, what I did was heat a 1.5 kg beer kit and add it to my fermenting vessel (FV) with the Beer Improver and 23 L of water. I pitched the sachet of yeast that came with the kit, filled my airlock with vodka, and set up a temperature controller to keep the wort at a steady temperature of about 23 degrees Celsius. The original specific gravity (OSG) was 1.034
22/5 Vigorous airlock activity noted circa. 16 hours after pitching
23/5 Airlock activity slowed on the second night/third day and then stopped. Thinking I had a stuck fermentation, I opened the FV to agitate the wort (it was very fizzy), and then set the temperature to cycle between 24 and 25 degrees Celsius. Little did I know that my airlock actually had a tiny hole in it, and I didn't have a stuck fermentation at all! I didn't discover this until a few weeks later while making my second batch of beer...
24/5 No airlock activity. It occurred to me that I might have an air leak, but I couldn't locate the source. I measured the specific gravity at 1.010 (i.e. 3.26% estimated ABV) but it should be lower than that since I was aiming for around 4.2% ABV. Thinking I had more fermenting to do but not knowing any better, I bought and pitched a sachet of 11.5 g of SafAle S-04. On sprinkling it in, the wort was immediately very fizzy, but only for a short time. I returned the wort to my original fermentation temperature of 22.5 – 23.5 degrees Celsius
25/5 No airlock activity. I agitated the wort again, noting that it was not fizzy at all
28/5 Still no airlock activity. I took a SG reading and noted that it remained at 1.010
30/5 With the SG remaining at 1.010, I bottled in 30 X 750 mL PET bottles with 2 carbonation drops in each. I avoided shaking the bottles so as not to oxidise the brew. Happily, I bottled the whole batch of beer in exactly 30 bottles with barely a drop to spare!
SPECIFIC GRAVITY / ESTIMATED ABV
Original Specific Gravity (OSG): 1.034
Final Specific Gravity (FSG): 1.010
Estimated ABV calculated as follows:
OSG - FSG = XX, / 7.36 = XX, + 0.5* = % estimated ABV
1034 - 1010 = 24 / 7.36 = 3.26 + 0.5 = 3.76 % estimated ABV
* 0.5 added because secondary fermentation was done in bottles
After a wait of about 3 weeks for secondary fermentation and bottle conditioning to complete, I finally sampled my first batch of beer. Here are my notes:
Appearance: pale yellow
Aroma: mild hops
Flavour: hoppy, fruity, slightly yeasty
Overall: light body, easy to drink
If I'd known about the hole in the airlock, I wouldn't have pitched the extra yeast, I wouldn't have opened the FV to agitate the wort, and I wouldn't have increased the temperature. Live and learn. Even so, the end result was beyond expectation!
The slightly yeasty tang that I noted during sampling was completely gone after 6 weeks. The flavour obviously improves with time
I do think that, since I didn't wait for my beer to go flat, my FSG measurement might have been off. I can't be sure, but I suspect that the estimated ABV is probably closer to my target of 4.2 %
I find it interesting that I might have completed my initial fermentation in only 3 days. If true, it suggests that SafAle S-04 is a real beast...
At the time of writing, I have a clear pale ale that tastes wonderful!
I hope these notes are helpful to anyone else brewing their first batch of beer.