A blog about making things - one small batch at a time

Brew day!!!!!

Finally. Brew day is here. It’s basically a national holiday.

Today we’re brewing our imperial red. This is the first recipe I ever designed, so I’m a little proud of it. The recipe calls for a variety of malts (some cara amber for example) and brown sugar. BROWN SUGAR people. Additive sugars can add alcohol, mouthfeel, or flavor to beer. Brown sugar does a bit of each, which is very helpful in achieving our high-alcohol content, caramel flavored amber ale.

As with all brew days, picking up an appropriate six pack, or three, is necessary. We opted for trying a few “holiday” beers, starting with the Great Lakes Christmas Ale.
This beer is good. Not my favorite Christmas beer I’ve ever had, but still quite tasty. In my opinion Christmas-style beers can be really hit or miss. This one has enough spice to recognize as a Christmas style, but not so much that you breathe cinnamon and nutmeg for the next few hours. There is something missing though. Don’t get me wrong, its good, I just wish there was something… else. Maybe some more mouthfeel? Maybe some more sweetness? Somebody try it and tell me, please.








To compare, we also tried the Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. Seriously, yum. I love Sierra Nevada. They have so many great beers, and this is one of them. This holiday seasonal beer is definitely different from the Great Lakes. WAY more hop character. It still has a holiday vibe, but I would call it more of a Celebration IPA, if I’m being honest, which I always am. For those of you looking for a traditional, spiced “Christmas” beer, this agnostic, hoppy version might not be your cup of tea. But for you hop-agreeable folk (my kind of peeps), this is the perfect balance between seasonal brew and pine-y hop kick. Mm. Mm. Mmmmmmm.

For those of you completely unfamiliar with the brew process, this is basically how liquid magic is made:


Step 1: The Mash. We start with 10-15 pounds of cracked grain. We then add hot water in batches. This activates an enzymatic process which converts the grain starches into fermentable sugars. These are the kinds we like. They make alcohol. Need I say more.

Step 2: The Sparge. This process rinses the sugars off the grains by adding more hot water that filters through the grain, leaving us with a very sweet, malty liquid called wort.

Step 3: The Boil. We take our sweet, malty wort and boil it for 60-90 minutes, adding hops and other additives throughout. Adding hops at the beginning of the boil will create bitterness, while adding toward the middle will create hop-flavor in the beer. If you add hops toward the end of your boil, you’ll get that great hop aroma. We wanted a bit of each for our imperial red.

Step 4: Cool Down. We have this nifty copper tubing that helps us cool off our wort by running cold water through the hot liquid. We let this process go on until the temperature is more like-able to our yeast. Yeast, as you probably know, is a living organism that will die at too hot temps, so we get ours down to about 75 degrees. Then we pour our wort through a strainer into our beer bucket (so we can get out any business left floating around), dump in our yeast, and boom, primary fermentation commences.

Obviously, that is the very short story. Beer brewing really is just so awesomely fun. If you’re not already into it, and are looking for a hobby of which the end product is BEER, it’s the only one I know of… so just do it.

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