Unsinkable Porter

by EJ

I brewed up a batch of (what I hope will become) beer this morning. The type is one of my major favourites called Robust Porter and I’ve named my version of it “Unsinkable Porter.” Click on the photos to enlarge if need be.

Starting with the big bottle in the first photo, that’s called a carboy. It’s where the brew (called “wort”) ferments into beer. Clockwise from the carboy we have the malted grains in those clear plastic bags. There are four types (light crystal, chocolate, roast malt and amber). We then have the yeast (London Ale type made by WYeast). We then have dry malt extract; 3 kgs of Golden Light and 1kg of the slightly darker Sparkling Amber. Sitting atop the dry malt extract (DME for short), is the vacuum sealed packets of hops; Northern Brewer and Tettnang. Do me a favour and read over those names again. Aren’t they beautiful? I could eat it all with a spoon, I reckon.

The process starts with putting all the loose grain into a grain bag, kind of like a big sock, and soaking it in water at 65c for 30 minutes. Once 30 minutes passes I gently squeezed the water out of the grain bag (not too tightly though) and proceeded to add my dry malt to the water at the same temperature. You can see from the next shot that I had a problem with saucepan space, so I had to split it into two. But that didn’t cause any problems. Into this water also go the Northern Brewer hops. These are the “stronger” of the two styles I’m using and they soaked away for a good sixty minutes.

The below, left photo is a shot of the grain bag after it has steeped all its goodness. Look in the bowl below it and see how dark the extract is. So rich and tasty!

Below the grain bag is a shot of the hops. They come in pellet form so for ease of use I put them into tea bags that I’d normally use for loose green tea. The tea bags make them really easy to manage.

The second type of hop I used was added to the brew with only about ten minutes remaining on the clock. This is because its main function is to add a nice smell to the beer (which is why it’s referred to as an aroma hop). The aroma comes from lovely oils which we don’t want to simmer away, so they go in for just a short time. They smell pretty citrus like, earthly and kind of remind me of damp hay or grass. Nice.

Once the sixty minutes is up (total boil time 90 minutes) I place both containers in ice because I want them to cool down as quickly as possible. I then tip the liquid into a fermenter and take a sample of the brew for a quick test of its original gravity (maybe more on that later). I read the temperature and, finding it at aprox 22c, I throw in, or pitch, the yeast. I don’t have photos of any of that so here’s the end product. It’s nestling snuggly in a foam blanket for insulation with an airlock sticking out of the top. I can see air bubbles passing through it which means the yeast is starting to turn the sugars into CO2 and alcohol. IT LIVES!!

Now I play the waiting game. Depending on the temperature and a multitude of other factors I’m hoping to bottle the beer in two weeks time (a rough guesstimate).

Ok. This is the part where I confess that not all went according to plan. For a variety of reasons I was not able to get a brew going yesterday and I was really disappointed. Deciding to not through in the towel I started heating a big pot of water (8 litres or so) and for some reason had it in my head that I would add it to my fermenter, let it cool, and have it ready for when the wort was finished and added. Upon seeing the water boil, I picked up the pot and carefully poured it via a funnel into the carboy. Had a checked their website I would have found pretty quickly that the upper temperature limit for their plastic carboy is 60c. Much lower than boiling water, in other words. Much lower. Compare to top photo for a laugh.

Next time I’m NOT going to start a brew at 10:30pm after a long day and a fair few drinks. Hope you enjoyed the post. Thanks to Steve for ably assisting at crucial moments when two hands wouldn’t have cut it. I highly recommend you get yourself a brewing partner and get brewing, too. Peace out.