Sunday, March 18, 2012

Homebrew Update: The Finished Product

After several long weeks of waiting, our first homebrew is finally ready. It has been a fun and exciting process, but this is the moment of truth. This is when we'll know if all time and energy we've invested have paid off, or if it was all a tremendous waste. Going into the project, we told ourselves that this beer really only had to be slightly better than Bud Light for it to be economically worthwhile. Let's find out if that's the case.

At each step in the brewing process there was a certain amount of anxiety over whether or not we were doing everything correctly. Is that fermenter sanitized well enough? Is the yeast still alive? Will our beer sour? Is it carbonated enough? The worst possible scenario would be to open that first bottle, taste it, and realize we'd be dumping 50 bottles down the drain.

I admit I was nervous as we opened the first bottles, but my nerves ease a bit when I hear the first "Tssss" as the cap is pried off of the bottle. Well, at least we know it's carbonated, I say to myself, becoming more excited as the realization begins to set in that we may have actually done this right!

The beer pours a rich amber color with a lot of haze, which is to be expected since we did not filter out the yeast. I'm surprised by the two fingers-worth of thick, creamy, off-white head; it was considerably more than I had expected. I am also struck by just how carbonated it is; I can see a lot bubbles rising to the top from the bottom of the glass. So now we know it sounds like beer and it looks like beer. But does it smell like beer?

In short, Yes. The aroma is dominated by bread malts, no doubt due to the six-plus pounds of malt extract used in the brewing process. There is some noticeable hops aroma as well, but not as much as I would have expected. In fact, there actually seems to be a bit of a sweetness to the aroma that I didn't really expect.

So, how does it taste? I raise the glass and sip the beer from beneath the thick layer of frothy head and the first thing that hits me is the malt. There is some caramel flavor present which adds a bit of sweetness to the taste. There is only a small amount of hops bitterness on the finish, which is a bit of a disappointment. Where I would expect the get a bite from the hops, as in other  Pale Ales, there is a bit of emptiness in this beer. It's not a bad taste, it just tastes like something is missing. Since we did not have a hydrometer at the beginning of the process, we don't know exactly how much alcohol is in the beer. If I had to guess, though, I'd say it's in the 5% to 5 1/2% range. Overall I am pleased with the outcome, considering this is our first foray into beer-making.

This has been an exciting process and something that I'm sure will become a regular hobby for Jason and I. In fact, just a couple days ago we began brewing our second batch of beer. We've learned from this first batch and we've added our own twist to an existing recipe and, hopefully, we'll end up with an even better brew. We'll have more on this in a later post, though. Until then, I'm going to go enjoy some more homebrew! Cheers!

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