The question, my friends, was “but what am I going to do with all that brewing equipment I purchased, while I wait 11 months until next autumn”?
Seems silly to let it all sit idle, doesn’t it?
I have three or four friends that make homebrew ale, with varying degrees of know-how. I have to admit that I’ve always thought of real ale / craft beer / homebrew as a bit beardy-weirdy, perfectly depicted by the Real Ale Twats. I have not-particularly-fond childhood memories of the smell of boiling malt extract permeating the house, and my parents struggling to siphon beer into bottles in the bathroom. I still don’t particularly care for the smell of malt, except if it’s in Maltesers. My old neighbour, a seasoned home-brewer, produces some of the best craft beer I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve always been overawed by his set up, which is really quite advanced. I’m starting with a much simpler operation, that’s for sure. He lent me a copy of How To Brew which is evidently the home brewer’s bible. I read it cover to cover, and it really covers pretty much everything you need to know. The first chapter deals with how to brew a beer using an extract kit, which is where I think I’ll start.
I particularly like Guinness, porters, stouts and other dark treacly bitter stuff so I’ll go for a stout kit, I think. A visit to the supermarket and twenty two bucks later, I’m the proud owner of a tin of Coopers Stout beer kit. I stop by at Baylis for a sachet of decent yeast (as How To Brew tells you not to bother with the stuff that comes with the kit). It takes me at least a month of faffing around to actually get round to having a go at making this. I found it very difficult to source a second hand 40L cooking pot – there were a couple at the auctions, but got outbid. A new one from Total Food Equipment would set me back $300 and I can’t see the board (aka Mrs T) letting me spend that amount at this stage. Perhaps once I’ve got a few successes under my belt, and proved that it’s not just a ‘phase I’m going through’, I might be permitted to splash out.
Anyway, I finally manage to get hold of a 20L pot, which will do fine for now – especially for an extract brew. The other stuff I need at this stage is a thermometer (a candy making one, ‘borrowed’ from the kitchen), and a wort chiller. It’s very important to cool the boiling wort (that’s the beer mixture) as quickly as possible to avoid contamination, and one of the best ways is to pipe cold water through the hot liquid to transfer the heat out. A bit like a car radiator.