Hopefully by now you’ll have had a bottle or two of your own beer. If you’ve followed my basic advice you should have an end product which tastes pretty decent and has cost you a fraction of the price of a store bought beer. Plus I hope you had fun doing it. Feels good to have made something you’re proud of.
So what’s next? When I wrote my first post I talked about the few different types of home brewed beer, the first of which I called “Kits & Bits”. In this post I’m going to cover what the “& Bits” part of this entails.
Kits & Bits is still easy to make, doesn’t need any special equipment, and doesn’t cost you much extra in terms of ingredients, but can make a massive improvement to your end product.
For me there are 3 main things which I’d include in the “& Bits” part of Kit brewing.
- Finishing Hops
- Decent Yeast
- Steeping grain
Each of these things by themselves will make a difference to your beer, and depending on the kind of beer you’re making and what you want to achieve will determine which of these you might add to your brew day.
Hops are the things in the picture at the top of this post, and “Finishing Hops” are probably the easiest thing to add to your beer. At your local home brew shop (Country Brewer in Thornleigh is mine) there will be a stack of little packets of hops in foil bags labeled “Finishing Hops”. If you’re making a Pale Ale type beer then Finishing Hops are going to really help. American Pale Ales, IPA’s and basically any beer which has a fruity, floral, resiney, winey, kind of flavour to it, are generally all dry hopped to some extent.
Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to a beer which is already fermenting. It adds much of the flavours of the hops, but doesn’t add the bitterness which you get when you boil the hops. Your extract tins can’t well replicate these flavours because of the way they’re made. So if you’re making an Ale grab yourself some Finishing Hops. Personally I’d go for something like Cascade, Amarillo, Centennial, Citra, or Galaxy. When you go to use it, just open up the foil pack, you’ll find a little tea-bag looking thing inside and chuck it into the fermenter with the rest of your ingredients. That simple.
I’m sure I mentioned before about how kit yeast is pretty
ordinary flexible. In that it’s a mixture of both lager and ale yeasts formulated to work in the widest range of temperatures. Unfortunately it’s also pretty random then in the way your beer actually ferments. There are a multitude of different yeasts out there all designed for different styles and impart different flavours. For example, if you wanted to make a Wheat Beer, then a kit yeast just isn’t going to cut it, as the yeast actually imparts a lot of the flavours (Banana, Cloves, Bubblegum) which are unique to Wheat Beers. So you’d need to go and get a propper Wheat Beer yeast, like Wyeast 3068. However for your Kits & Bits brew you’re probably going to want to start with something simpler.
A true multi-tasking yeast is US-05, also known as American Ale – 1. The great thing about this yeast is it’s a really clean finishing yeast, which doesn’t impart a lot of flavour of its own, it also tends to drop to the bottom of the fermenter really well leaving you a clearer beer, plus if you can keep the temperature down on your fermentation to around the 18 degree mark it makes beer almost lager like, so it’s perfect for your lagers when brewing in the Aussie summer. The way you use it is just like the kit yeast. Just sprinkle the stuff on top of your wort. (There are people who will tell you to re-hydrate it in water, but frankly I think that’s more trouble than it’s worth.) Again, simple.
OK. This is a a little more work than the first 2. But is the precursor to doing “All Grain” brewing. If you’re after a little more body, or some more malt flavour for an Amber Ale then you’ll want to try this. It’s a little more work, but really not that hard. At your home brew shop you can find little grain packs, they’re normally around the 150-200g mark. One of the most common is “Crystal” malt, it often comes in Light, Medium and Dark, which indicates how much colour it’s going to impart on your beer. Grab yourself a bag of the Light Crystal malt. It’s important to mention here that when steeping grains you need to make sure you get a grain which is appropriate for “steeping”, and not “mashing”. The two processes are different, and if you get something which is meant for mashing and you only steep it, then it’s not going to do much for your beer.
When you get home grab a big pot and add 2.5L of water, bring it to the boil, turn it off then add another 1.5L of tap water, this should give you 4L of water between 60-70deg (depending on your tap water temp). Add in your grain and let sit for 30 minutes. DO NOT BOIL THE GRAIN. Now, sieve out the grain somehow. If you’ve got a fine mesh bag you could stick the grain in that and leave it in the water. I’ve got a fine metal sieve which I strain the liquid through into another pot. Now that you’ve got the grain out of the water, you’ll have something which looks a little like tea, and smells a little like beer. Bring that resulting liquid to the boil for about 5 minutes, this will kill any bacteria which may have come from the grain. Now pour this into your fermenter along with all the other ingredients for your Kits & Bits beer. When I was doing this I’d pour in the tin of extract first, then use the steeped liquid to rinse out the tin and pour it into the fermenter too to help mix up the extract, then add in my other 1kg of fermentables stir it all up well, then chuck in my finishing hops, then top up to the 22L, then sprinkle on my US-05 and seal it up.
That’s my take on the “& Bits” part of Kits & Bits brewing.
So as an example recipe here’s a Golden Ale, should turn out something like James Squires Chancer (before Lion Nathan bought them and then the Golden Ale quality went down).
- 1 can Thomas Coopers Sparking Ale
- 1 can Coopers Wheat Malt
- 200-250g Light Crystal grain steeped
- 1 bag of Amarillo finishing hops boiled with your steeped grain for 10 minutes
- 1 more bag Amarillo finishing hops straight into the fermenter (make sure the first bag goes into the fermenter too)
- Top up to 20L – Your OG should be around 1.048
- Yeast – US-05
- Ferment as close to 20 degrees as possible, should take around 10 days (I normally leave 2 weeks).
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