August 15, 2009

Happy Bitter

It had been a long week. It was a hot day. There was only one thing to do.

Relax, stop worrying, and do some homebrewing.

This Saturday morning, Nahum came to the 2JB Brewery to cook up a pot of bitter. Which is not a grumpy euphemism: I'd found a recipe for Palace Bitter in the Papazian book, and with its mix of light malt and frequent hopping, it sounded like a summer-drinkin' version of the flavorful UK bitter ales I'd enjoyed over in Scotland.

Now, I should point out when I say "light malt," I do not mean this recipe didn't call for some serious malt to go in the mix. When Dan at the Gaslight brought out the 4.5 lbs. of light dried malt extract, I initially went into a small panic. Could this flour-sack-sized bag of powdered malt really be right? But since the Palace Bitter recipe doesn't call for any liquid malt extract, it seems to make it up with more dried stuff. The bag of malt was big, heavy, and kind of exciting.

So after steeping a grain bag with 12 oz. of crystal malt in 2 gallons of water (30 min. @ 150-160 degrees), we dumped in the full 4.5 lbs of malt. Holy crap...there was so much of it that it wasn't dissolving! Nahum had to whip out the whisk and have at the pot for several minutes to get it to stop looking like batter and start looking like beer.

It finally dissolved and hit the boil point, which called for 1/2 oz. of Fuggles hops and 3/4 oz. of Kent Goldings hops. 30 minutes later, we flavored the wort with 1/4 oz. each of Fuggles and Goldings, and 15 minutes later there was further flavoring with another 1/2 oz. of Goldings (plus 1 tsp. of Irish Moss about midway through the hopping). With 2 minutes left to go in the boil, we added a final 1/2 oz. of Goldings for aroma...the whole process was very satisfying, with the timed-out additions of hops allowing tight control over the flavor characteristics of the bitter.

We then grabbed 2 gallons of water that had been chilling in the freezer (even with the a/c going it was pretty warm in the kitchen, and we needed an edge to cool the wort), poured them into the Ale Pail and strained in the brew. After topping off to 5 gallons, we had a bucket o' beer that had a delightfully light brown color, a gently hoppy aroma (surprisingly restrained, considering we kept hopping every 15-30 minutes) and a flavor that was already refreshing. Another 15 minutes or so passed before it got down to 80 degrees and we could pitch 11 g. of Windsor ale yeast (in 4 oz. warm water) and seal up the pail.

Now it's down in the basement at 74 degrees while the fermenting magic happens. If there's one downside to the whole thing, it's that we both got pretty excited to drink the bitter...and have to find the patience to let it ferment and carbonate. I want my happy bitter now!

P.S. - One of Papazian's tips that we don't always follow is to make sure to enjoy some homebrew while homebrewing. Today, about halfway through the process I reached into the back of the fridge and pulled out the final bottle of our deeply delicious stout. It wasn't exactly the right thing for a hot day, but splitting that last bottle was nothing short of a total treat.

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