Having been gifted a beer making kit earlier this year, myself and some friends recently ventured into brewing our first batch. As it turned out, one accomplice, Matt, had his own kit too, so we decided to join forces and produce 30 litres each of two beers. So we have much to look forward to come Christmas this year.
I'm normally the kind of guy who simply cannot follow recipes, much to the frustration of my very bakingly-abled girlfriend. However having been repeatedly told the smallest mistake can wreck a whole batch of beer, I was keen to follow every last instruction in the cleaning, sterilising, brewing and bottling processes. Being a bunch of lads though, we were relaxed in keeping to temperatures, times, etc., so we just had to wait and see how it would turn out.
Matt, who has more experience than the rest of us having previously produced brewing honey mead, 'prison brew' cider and actual beer, was more adventurous with his batch. He went with a Mexican Lager with the pack yeast and instead of Dextrose or an enhancer, used honey, aiming for a very interesting, hopefully summery, falvoured and sharp lager. Or it could go completely balls up. I am definitely keen to experiment with my future brews having seen Matt's approach to trying things out.
We left the beers in the fermenter for 2 weeks instead of the recommended 5 to 7 days, simply because it was easier for us to get together at that point, we wanted to give the beer time to settle after being moved to a better spot for pouring, and we wanted extra time to add finings which enhance beer clearness and remove sediment before bottling.
We filled our 60 bottles, including sugar carbonation cubes, and continued the waiting game. We left them for a little over 4 weeks, and broke them out between Christmas and New Year.
The end result of both batches proved to be very good indeed, exceeding my expectations. A good thing when you've so much to get through! Matt's Mexican Honey beer is a heavy lager with a strong honey flavour on the nose and taste, and finishing bitterly. It has a deep amber colour with very little head. The honey sweetness that some might expect isn't there as the sugar has been fermented.
Our Ale'y Porter immediately revealed a strong head and a bitter, liquorice flavour both on the nose and in the tasting. They were certainly the notes I picked up above nut or caramel, although there were more traces of the latter as the beer warmed. As with most porters, drinking this beer at a warmer temperature, 10-12 degrees, is the way to go.
All-in-all our first pair of batches were deemed a great success, maybe more through fortune than skill. The consistency, which was something we were ready to be frustrated by, has also been surprisingly good. We've already got ingredients for 2 more batches, keen to not let the dust settle on our new pass-time. Onwards and upwards!