That Darn First Homebrew

While some people remember their first homebrew as something that brought great fun and great taste it’s not my story. My story is one that is far greater than the simple beer that started it all for a hobbyist. See, it was a comedy of errors that taught me much more than a simple yet tasty first batch could have.

My very first attempt at homebrewing was a hefeweizen. I chose a hefeweizen for a few reasons. First it’s one of my favorite styles of beer. There is something about the esters and light ody that draws me in. Then there was the temperature control factor. I believed, correctly I might add, it to be easier to keep my place warm than keep it cool even in winter. Since esters are wanted in the hefeweizen style and esters are more common in higher brewing tempature it seemed like the perfect fit.

What I didn’t think about was that my first try was going to be with such a delicate style. In fact Big Beard Brewconsin even noted this after I wrote my first Homebrew post. It’s not like attempting a hop bombed IPA or a malty stout where mistakes can be overpowered by the primary flavors. With a lighter beer hiding defects isn’t so easy and my beer was full of mistakes.

The first big mistake was in my boil. As I noted previously I let it boil over. Luckily it was only for a second and I was able to recover before losing too much. This was probably the most minor of all your mistakes.

Up next was a common rookie mistake. I didn’t know that the tempature in the primary could be 5 or more degrees warmer than the outside. I had my ambient temperature at 72F thinking that I was keeping the fermentation somewhere around there. In reality in was keeping things somewhere in the upper 70s! I’m sure this caused the yeast to be stressed and put out byproducts.

But the mistakes kept rolling and I let the beer stay in primary too long. The beer really was done after a week and half, maybe two but I kept it in primary for almost three weeks. Why? Because it seemed like that’s what many homebrewers were recommending on forums, blogs, etc.. Keeping that beer for a week and a half after fermentation was done is one of the causes for an infusion of extreme bitterness to not the back end. When it was time to dispose of the trub it had a very distinct smell which was present in the bitter aftertaste of the beer.

When it came time to bottle I misused the autosiphon. I should have had the primary higher and the bottle bucket lower but I put them on the same level. This caused me to more or less pump the beer from bucket to bucket causing a lot of aeration. The taste of cardboard that seeped in is likely from this error.

I believe the first process showed me what can happen when specific things go wrong. So far I’ve avoided all of the mistakes I made with my first try with my second homebrew: A partial grain American IPA. It’s currently in primary and resting inside a slightly larger water container (to help keep temperature). More to come soon, I’m sure!

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Homebrew: Second Look

Earlier I posted about my not so great early look at my first homebrew. That was from a test done earlier in this week using a bottle which had matured 1 week and then stayed in the fridge for a little under a week. Today is the two week in bottle mark so I decided to pull one bottle from the batch to pour it and test it. To be totally honest I figured it would be not too far off from my original test but the results were dramatically different.

There is carbonation. A good amount of it. I still think it will be a better move to use the sugar in the bottling bucket next time but this does alleviate one of my fears relating to that I may have to drain the entire batch due to flatness. As a side note I also believe my fridge may have been set a bit too cold as well which could have been a (small) factor in the lackluster carbonation in the first trial.

The smell is much improved. The smell from the first test is hard to describe but the best I can come up with is banana, sugar and some spices. It wasn’t un-heffe like but it was still off. The smell now is much more of a solid banana and spice aroma.

The look has improved as well. The first test had a darker tone to it. Maybe it was related to flatness but, no matter what the reason, this has a darker (but not dark) wheat look to it.

My Hefeweizen in poor light
English: wheat beer Deutsch: Weizenbier
Wheat Beer in amazing light (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This makes me feel a lot better about homebrewing. I’ve been a bit rocky thinking I made too many mistakes and preparing for the worst but things are looking up!