Brewing with the Kids: Day One

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step and six days of homebrewing for me began with a Cream Ale. My original recipe called for 4.75 lbs. of 2-row, 4.75 lbs. of Pilsner, 1 lb. of Flaked Maize, 12 oz. of Dextrose and bittering and flavor additions of Liberty hops. I only had 1.5 lbs. of 2-row, so I just made up the difference with 8 lbs. of Pilsner malt. I also didn’t have any Liberty hops, so I bittered with Mt. Hood and flavored with Styrian Celeia. The reason for the substitutions is two-fold. First, I haven’t had time to get to the homebrew store, and if you read my introductory post you know that I don’t sweat the small stuff. Second, I’ve never played around with the original recipe, so this gives me a chance to experiment. I don’t get too hung up about exactly duplicating a recipe. I know my system well enough that I also know that the exact same recipe will yield pretty much the same beer. I find it much more interesting to find out what happens when the process remains the same, but some of the ingredients change.
For this recipe, I added my 7 gallons of 158.7F strike water to my 10.5 lbs. of grain to achieve a mash temp of 151.5F. You may recall that I attempt to mash everything at 152F. I have no problem with a half degree difference. I mashed for about an hour-and-a-half (my timer went off after an hour, but we were watching a movie so I just waited until it was over) and filled my kettle with 5.5 gallons of 1.051 pre-boil wort. My pre-boil target was 1.052. I added the dextrose to the kettle and then went through the entire boiling process. 1 oz. of Mt. Hood was added at 60 min. and 1 oz. of Styrian Celeia was added at 10 min. After cooling the wort, I transferred into a carboy and took an OG reading: 1.063 (Target OG: 1.062). The carboy is now in the temp-controlled fridge set at 64F. This week I will be making a Stout and a Mild again and will allow them to ferment at the basement temp of 72F, but I like a crisp, clean cream ale, so that one will go slow and low.
I think any brewer would be happy to hit the numbers as closely as I did and I hope it translates into a great refreshing lawnmower beer. I will continue to update throughout fermentation, but I will not update with tasting notes when it’s done. I’d rather keep that a surprise until the club can try it.
Tomorrow’s Brew: Chocolate Stout

UPDATE: I transferred into my fermentor at 6:30pm on Sunday and fully expected to see active fermentation when I woke up on Monday.  Apparently the yeast were still in their lag phase because there was no sign of activation fermentation until about 2pm Monday afternoon. We have mentioned it in meetings before, but it bears repeating: please do not rely on airlock activity as an indicator of fermentation.  The main purpose of an airlock is to release CO2 from your fermentation vessel while blocking O2 from entering it.  My airlock often will not bubble but I always use transparent (Better Bottles) or translucent (7G plastic conical) fermentors so I can see the krausen.