Good Beer Hunting

Critical Drinking

Homebrew — Take Two

After struggling through my first homebrew, an all-grain honey ale from Brooklyn Brew Shop, I decided to back up and get comfortable with an extract brew this time out. I stopped in to see the boys at BrewCamp, the new homebrew supply shop in North Center, explained my situation, and walked out with a kit for a Baltic Porter from Brewer’s Best. I figured if I could simplify the process by doing an extract, I could get more comfortable with the equipment, procedure, and have some mental energy left over to think about introducing some secondary ingredients.

Doug and I unboxed everything and acquainted ourselves with the various malts and hops we would be using. A ton of malt was going into this brew — about 7.5lbs of liquid malt as well as chocolate, caramel and Munich grains. A haul like this helps get to the higher gravity and ABV of a Baltic, also known as an Imperial Porter.

We bagged the grains and got them soaking. The entire apartment immediately smelled like chocolate, toasted bread. And that’s when we started drinking.

I popped a bottle of Ta Henket from Dogfish Head while we made our beer “tea.” Speaking of tea, Ta Henket might be the closest to tea a beer has ever tasted. Chamomile and herbal qualities pervade the aroma, followed by some funky, never-before-tasted sour-citrus notes no doubt coming from the doum fruit. No idea what to make of this one — alongside a well-chosen charcuterie, it might be heaven.

Back to the beer making — we have a nice wort coming to fruition. The bag repeatedly stuck to the bottom of the pot, and some of the grain got toasted (good, bad?), but otherwise, this is as simple as can be. We added the abundance of malts, both liquid and powder and brought it back to a boil.

Time to add the hops. The Kent bittering hops had a nice, complex aroma, almost sweet under the initial hit of of the hotter notes. For flavoring hops the kit came with Tettnang, which had a familiar-enough aroma and intensity. After adding the Kent, we put the pot on to boil for 45 minutes. After adjusting the temperature a bit and ensuring it didn’t boil over, it was time for some downtime.

Alongside some MW3 live, we decided to give in to the roasty atmosphere and try the Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter from Grand Teton in Idaho. What a nice little kick this one had. The coffee was smooth (not burnt or acidic) and the underlying roastiness and chocolate was well balanced against the booziness. A nice, heady brew to calm the nerves and trigger fingers.

Cooling with the copper coils was a breeze (well worth the expense) and transferring to the carboy was smooth, although I still haven’t gotten the auto-siphon to keep running. I gave the carboy a big bear hug and pitched the yeast to kick off fermentation.

Mission accomplished (so far). Two hours from set-up to carboy and my Porter was bubbling along. Now I’m off to daydream about late-addition ingredients. A friend from Intelligensia is guiding me to a great cold-brew bean for adding coffee to the mix before bottling. Thanks to @KyleIsDesign, @otrejo and @LoCoHomebrewers for droppin’ some knowledge in that department.

Michael Kiser