I thought it was about time I told you a bit more about my beer than just that it tastes good so I think it’s time to share some secrets.
I am an extract brewer (or I was at the time of writing this post). Big statement… But what’s that?
Extract brewing is the most popular type of home brewing in the US and it’s quickly picking up popularity in the UK too.
It’s a bit simpler than its big brother “All Grain” where you have to coax all the sugars out of the grains through a variety of processing to make your liquid wort. Wort is the sugary liquid which fermented to become beer.
Extract brewing jumps in after the sugary stuff has been done. You can buy this malt extract already to use. Saving time and the need for equipment. Which leaves you able to add speciality grains to alter the colour or flavour and hops for bitterness and aroma.
Of course if that sounds too involved, you can buy kits where all the hard work is already done, you just add water and yeast and let it ferment.
“Hello Dolly” was the first extract brew I tried and also my first attempt at creating my own recipe. It’s amazing what you can do in a large huge stockpot.
“Hello Dolly” came about because Kate and I are both fans of a particular ale called “Black Sheep”. So my recipe was an attempt to copy it. When you copy an other beer it’s called a clone beer. Hence Hello Dolly… (Sheep, clone, Dolly the sheep).
Ok so here’s the skinny on “Hello Dolly”
||Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L
||Light Dry Extract
||Wheat Dry Extract
||Goldings, East Kent [5.22 %]
||Fuggles [4.80 %]
||Ringwood Ale (Wyeast Labs #1187)
Step 1 – the steep
I steep the grains to extract the sugars, colours, flavours and aromas they contain— I am not talking about “mashing“, steeping is quicker and easier and temperature is nowhere near as important as with “mashing” .
So I start with three times as much water as grain by weight, e.g. 400g of grain should be mixed with 1.2L of water, 500g grain with 1.5L water so basically I have a watery porridge in my big stock pot. (To help with clean up and to stop unwanted bits and pieces getting into my finished wort, I use a large mesh bag to hold all the grain – nice and easy to lift out again).
For the “Hello Dolly” recipe I steeped 0.30 kg of crystal malt and 0.05kg of roasted barley, the guy at my local brew shop had cracked these for me.
I steep these grains for 45 mins at as constant a temperature as I can get – between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit and keep them moving to make sure all the grain gets wet and I get as much colour and flavour from them as I can. If you go to high in temperature you get a funny taste in your beer.
Once I have left the grains steeping for the required time, I take the bag out and sit it in a colander which fits nicely on top of the stock pot to let all the good stuff drain out of the grain bag (I help this along with a little warm water pouring it gently over the grains). I do this with the heat off.
When there is no more run off from the grains, they come out and go in the compost.
Step 2 – Adding the Malt Extract
The malt extract is the bit that makes this type of brewing simpler. I don’t make my own, I buy it from my local brew shop. You can get it as a dry powder or as a thick syrup. I prefer dry powder. It keeps longer and it’s easier to measure but everyone has their preferences.
I let the hot liquid that the grains have been steeping in cool until there is no steam, as any moisture hitting my dry malt extract powder makes it go cloggy. Usually once the grains have released all their excess water and stopped dripping, the water is cool enough so I can then add the malt extract to the pot, stirring like a mad stirry thing to get the lumps out (although as you start to heat and stir these lumps do go away).
So as I said, put the heat back on once you have your dry malt extract in there and keep stirring. You want to get rid of all the lumps but you also want to make sure you don’t get anything stuck to the bottom of the pan where it can burn.
What you are doing now is called the boil, basically all the recipes have a timeframe attached, this one is a 1 hour boil, so once the malt is added, turn up the heat and the timer starts once I bring it to a boil.
Step 3 – The boil and adding your hops
As I’ve said, this recipe is a one hour boil, but as well as just boiling the liquid in the pan, I add hops at various times throughout the boil. The purpose of the hops is to add the bitterness needed in the beer (otherwise it would be sickly sweet) and also to add aroma.
So hops, in the ingredients lists you’ll see that I used two types;
· Goldings, East Kent, and
These are both English hops, so you’ see these used frequently in English beers. In this recipe I add them at these intervals and amounts.
1. At the start of the boil – 40 grams – Goldings
2. 40 mins into the boil – 15 grams – Fuggles & 15 grams – Goldings
3. 55 mins into the boil – – 15 grams – Fuggles & 15 grams – Goldings
Once the 60 minute boil is over, it’s time to cool the wort as quickly as possible. I only boils a small percentage of the finished amount so I can easily cool it by adding the boiled wort to the big fermenting bucket and then topping it up to the desired amount with sterile, cold water. In this case 21 litres.
Make sure you give this a really good stir, you want to get lots of oxygen into the mix for the yeast to live on.
So we’ve added the water and got things up to 21 litres and hopefully cooled the wort down to the temperature that your yeast likes, time to add the yeast then. Once the yeast is in, you have to put the bucket away out of eye level and be patient for a couple of weeks while it makes beer.
The last thing I did, in this process was dry hop. This means I added some hops to the fermenting bucket after about 4 days to add aroma to my beer. This is where I learned a valuable lesson. I just added the hops straight into the fermenting bucket thinking I’d scoop them out later before I bottled the beer, right? WRONG!
Those things are a nightmare to get out, some sink to the bottom, some float, some break up……. arrrrrrggggggg. I have since learned to add the hops to a mesh bag and add them that way!!!
So the joy of that experience means that our beer is lovely, really enjoyable and every other bottle or so, if you are lucky, you get a free hop flower, or bit of hop flower in your beer – oops!!!