Saturday, November 21, 2009

Adventures in Home Brewing

The big project in the Owen-Harmon household lately has been our first attempt at home brewing. The beer won't be ready for another week but I thought I'd post some photos of the brewing process.

Our adventure began with a visit to Great Fermentations, our local brewing supply shop. We'd purchased some equipment on Craigslist for quite a bargain and needed ingredients. For our first brew we selected an Oatmeal Stout, because, well, we like oatmeal stout and darker beers are more forgiving of minor mistakes!

This first beer is brewed from extract (as opposed to all grain brewing) which means that the kit we purchased contained several bags of pre-processed malt. Because it's an oatmeal stout the kit also contained a bag of specialty grains (the oatmeal, some coarsely ground, dark roasted barley).

Here are the grains in 2 cheesecloth sacks, kinda like big tea bags.

Here's Bill tossing them in to 3 gallons of 160 degree water.

We left the grains to steep for 45 minutes or so and got on with the business of sanitizing the equipment. The majority of home brewing failures are the result of improper cleaning and sanitation.
Here's the fermenting bucket, filled with sanitizer and some of the other brewing tools.

Frothy, grainy goodness. This steeping process creates fermentable sugars for the yeast to eat, which is what makes the beer!

Stirring. And stirring. And stirring some more.

The grain bags have been removed, extract powder added, and once all the extract (like, 5 pounds of it) is dissovled the mixture is brought to a boil. Which took an hour. Then hops are added and it boils for an hour.
Chilling the wort.

After the hour of boiling the wort must be chilled quicky to prevent contamination and oxidation. We put the covered pot in a sink full of ice. Chilling takes about 30 minutes.

Once the beer is below 80 degrees it's time to aerate it (stir and splash it so oxygen gets in it for the yeast.) We swished and poured it into the fermenting bucket and once it was under 70 degrees we pitched the yeast.
These special brewing yeast packs are specially selected for the type of beer you're brewing and come with an activating solution in the pouch. This gets the yeast multiplying before it's tossed in to the wort.

Finally, it was time to cover the bucket and let it sit. It stays in the bucket for 2 weeks prior to bottling, plenty of time for the yeast to work its magic.
See the bubbles? The yeast is in action!

We bottled the beer last weekend, at which point a small amount of additional sugar was added to spur on a little more fermentation in the sealed bottles. This is what creates carbonation. We did taste the beer before bottling and, while it was totally flat (it should have been at that point), the flavor was very nice. So long as we got our bottles clean enough and the priming sugar mixed well I think our beer should be pretty darn good! We're so optimistic, in fact, that Bill is all set to brew another batch this weekend, a Chocolate Porter. mmm ... with any luck we'll have 2 batches ready before Christmas.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday Craftiness

With Halloween over, Thanksgiving bearing down, and a weekend of watching tech rehearsal for A Christmas Carol, I finally got inspired to get our Christmas Cards going.

Being the cheap frugal and creative person that I am, I decided to make cards again this year. I started out with the same stack of holiday scrapbook paper and plain white envelopes as last year (with a box of 250 it will take a while for us to run out). Once again I made cards by spray adhering the holiday paper to some cardstock remnants found in the recycling bin of the printing company located in our props storage warehouse (free and up-cycled! beat that!). However, this year I improved on the design by making coordinating envelope liners and mailing labels. A sign of my incredible creativity or a huge, pathetic red flag that I need to make some friends here in Indy? I'll let you decide.

Now I just have to write in and address them all ... and manage to get them to the post office. Eeeep.