Sunday, September 27, 2009

Brewing up a batch of Blind Ambition Amber Ale

It's said that when you get to hell, they play a video of your first date over and over for all eternity. If I don't make it to the pearly gates, maybe the Devil will instead play a video my first homebrew.

Despite my bet efforts to plan ahead and make things predictable as possible, there were plenty of chaotic moments, and I did things that would likely make a good brewer cringe.Part of this was due to Didi, the lovable but slightly brain damaged cat who generally got in my way in the kitchen.
I chose to make a pretty straightforward Amber Ale from a single kit I bought at MoreBeer! in nearby Los Altos. With basically little idea of what I was doing, but have plans to keep homebrewing, I decided to call it Blind Ambition Amber Ale.

The Recipe
The recipe below is straight from the More Beer! kit.

8 lbs. Ultralight Malt Extract
1 lb Crystal 60L Steeping Grain
1 once Galena Hops, Bittering Hops boiled for 60 minutes
1 once Willamette Hops, Flavoring Hops boiled in the last 5 minutes
1 once Willamette Hops, Aroma Hops added for the last minute
5 gallons distilled water
Yeast strain: California Ale Yeast? (from memory, didn't actually write down the strain)

Original gravity: ???? (Not measured, recipe estimates it should be 1.060)
Final gravity: 1.008

Brewing Notes
OK, I didn't get the original gravity because once the wort was in the carboy, I was reluctant extract some of the wort back out of the carboy, potentially introducing a source of contamination. The crystal malt was steeped at about 120-150 Fahrenheit, which may have been a little low. Did a partial boil of about 3 gallons of wort, cooled it in my bath tub to something that seemed like room temperature, and then poured it into the carboy. To that, I added the remaining 2 gallons of water which was chilled in the fridge. After about 1 1/2 days, active fermentation was observed. The wort fermented for 15 days, then 2 cups of water with 4 ounces of corn sugar dissolved into it was added to prior to bottling the final product.

I kicked up a lot of the yeast from the bottom of the carboy lifting it up from the floor into the kitchen sink to siphon the beer into the bottle filling bucket. With about 4 out of the 5 gallons of beer siphoned out, I started noticing large particulates in the siphoning hose, and with that, abruptly stopped filling any more bottles.

Tasting Notes
As you can see from the picture above, a pretty solid white head floating above the hazy light brown brew. I really liked the spicy, aromatic character imparted by the Galena and Willamette hops. The malt was there, but was a little thin, as would might expect with the low final gravity. However, there was a noticeable grainy character to the beer. I also noticed that a few of the bottles had a noticeable harshness, which seemed like an alcohol presence to them, which is really an off-flavor for the style. Differing levels of carbonation in the bottles suggest I need to mix in the priming sugar more evenly next time.

My final, highly biased, verdict. Not a bad beer. It's maybe as good or better than 10-15% of the craft beers I've tried, whhich includes a few clunkers from craft breweries where something went horribly wrong. But Blind Ambition Amber Ale is certainly not a good beer. But I enjoy drinking it, and quite frankly, the only person I really have to satisfy is me so on that score, it is a modest success.

If you're wandering on by and read this, and have any thoughts or advice, don't hesitate to let me know. I would love to get any advice from any real home brewers out there.

1 comment:

  1. Didi sure is cute- I think you should keep her around as a helper.

    I don't have any tips on brewing, but it looks good from the picture!