Beer 1 day 1: American Amber

I want to state for the record I’m not a big fan of Amber beer. Sure New Castle is okay, but I wouldn’t go around drinking the stuff or tell people to go out and get a bottle. That said, I love my beer. I haven’t tried it yet – but I can already say it’s like a child to me. A day in and it’s making tiny popping noises in the air lock. But this isn’t the start of the story, it’s the end so let me go back.

This past Christmas I got a beer ‘starter’ kit coupon from Lis, a American Amber Kit and a lesson at a LHBS in St. Charles. Took the class, quelled my fears, picked up my two-stage starter kit and I was ready to kick some ass. Images were posted last week.

I had been checking the temp in the office/brew house with the floating thermometer I got in my kit. I placed it in the kettle Friday morning to avoid sun warmth and checked it that night. The plastic sheath was still on, because it was protecting it – from what I dunno. The thin glass tube shot out the end a popped it’s top against the speckled black enamel. Shit.

So moral of the story is my thermometer looked like this on brew day:
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Yes, that is a headband. Yes, that is box tape. Yes, that is a set of chop sticks.

The problem here is two-fold: My pot is massively wide and so the water isn’t high enough for the thermometer to stay buoyant in, and if it just let it lay in the water, the cavity would fill and be impossible to read. So this was my solution.

So on Saturday I pulled out all the ingredients, all the toys and stood back – it looked a bit overwhelming to say the least.
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Just have to filter – focus on each step and it makes it a whole hell of a lot easier. So I got my two and half gallons of water up to temp (150-165). Filled my sock with the provided 80L grain – it made one hell of a mess and some residuals that I tossed, but maybe should have just tossed in the steep anyway. I put the filled sock in the steeping water and it sounded crazy.
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It sounded as if I was deep trying it, strange low crackles and knocks as it steeped – very weird. I took the steeped grains out after 20 min. We kept the grains and have been using it in almost every meal but breakfast: bread, salads, pasta, etc. Then came the boring part – so hideously terrible I didn’t take a single picture.

See, my pot also sucks because I got the wrong one. It’s really made for a gas stove or campfire or something. Sure, it’s great it steeping grain in, but reaching boil took an hour. Each time. And it needs to reach boiling three times. So I’m on the look out for a tall 5 gallon plus size pot with a flat bottom. See, that is really the trouble, there is a space between the bottom of the pot and the stove – I have an electric flat glass stove top – and the pot has a small bump up in the middle which would be great for a gas stove.

Boil, add bittering hops, boil for an hour, add aroma hops, boil for five min. Here are the aroma hops:
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If it seems like I am annoyed, you should have seen it while it was sitting there being dumb. So while the aroma hops were going I got my yeast ready. Time was up and I put the pot in the sink filled with cold water and ice. I knew I was going to have to add more water anyway so I dropped in about two more gallons into the pot while it cooled.

Finally at temp I dumped it from about waist hight into the first stage fermenter, topped it off with about two more gallons of warm water, took a gravity reading (1.051), and pitched the puffing yeast. I placed a sanitizer doused finger over the opening and shook it like a hurricane.

The air lock was a real pain in the butt because it kept sucking in the sanitizer but I finally figured out that i need to not let it create a vacuum – nearly took on three table spoons of it but I’ve read that it’ll be impossible to taste or notice.
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Pulled it into the office and let it do it’s thing. I’ve just been smelling the air lock and timing between bubbles. I was going to take a gravity reading this saturday when I plan on moving it to a second stage.

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