My First Beer Brew

I have had a dream for a while now: to start brewing my own beer.
It’s not that I drink lots of beer. More that I like good beers, and those tend to be the craft ones. So I wanted to better understand how that was made, by making my own.

I opened the first bottles of my first brew this week. So in this post, I am going to explain the process I followed to get there!

my first beer

The Preparation

Around a year ago, kind of on a hunch, I decided to start learning how brewing worked. With the clear intention to make mine, but not right away.
We had just acquired a house that we were starting to renovate, and the deal with my wife was that I wouldn’t start until we had moved in.

I therefore read the Eyrolles book Faire sa Bière (in French), which is great but only prompted me to start learning more to better understand.

In October, all the beer bars in Toulouse are doing a festival, called Octobière.

One of them the Barallel did a public brew that anyone could join and see how they brew the beer they serve in the bar in the evenings.
That was a great experience. Unfortunately, it didn’t help all that much. Brewing 200L of beer isn’t the same thing as brewing 20L, and their process is a lot more industrial.

I kept digging and reading, and discovered Le Barboteur which used to be another craft beer bar in Toulouse (they closed now).
The owners started by brewing their beer at home, and decided to start selling it. Of course, the beer they sell now is a bit more industrialized than what they did when they started.

But they do brewing workshops every saturday morning, during which you can brew beer with similar tools as you could do at home.
I did that workshop at the beginning of April, and it was awesome. We brewed 30L of white beer, and I left feeling I could reproduce that at home.

Which, obviously, I did in June.

The Equipment

My equipment isn’t perfect yet. My intention was to start with good tooling, but not buy anything I wouldn’t need right away, and invest more later.

My first acquisition was a Polsinelli 50L pot, and a filter for grains.

I then switched to a more local reseller, Rolling Beers, and acquired:

This is all I used to brew my first beer.
Today, I have acquired a refractometer, to properly calculate the amount of sugar/alcohol my future beers will have. And a filter for hops.

Then, I started brewing.

The brewing

A few days before my scheduled brew, I acquired all the ingredients:

  • 10g yeast (US West Coast M44)
  • 100g pellet hops (CITRA)
  • 5kg Maris Otter Ale Malt and 0.4kg Wheat Flakes, pre-crushed

I picked an IPA because the recipe I found was one of the easiest ones I saw.
The basic process was the following:

  • Heat 20L water at 73°C

  • Brew the malt in that water for 75 minutes

  • Rince with 10L water at 75°C

  • Bring the water at 100°C

  • Put 5g hops into the water

  • Wait for 40 minutes

  • Put 20g hops into the water

  • Wait for 10 minutes

  • Put 30g hops into the water

  • Wait for 10 minutes

  • Stop the heating

  • Put 40g hops into the water

  • Wait for 20 minutes

Then remove all the hops, move all the liquid into the fermentation pot, close it and wait until the next morning for it to be cold.
On that morning, I added the yeast to the mix, closed again and waited.

I was supposed to wait for 20 days. But due to high heat, and not having a fridge to keep the brew in, I feared the yeast wasn’t working as efficiently as it should, and decided to keep it fermenting for an additional month.

4 days before bottling, I opened the pot and added the rest of the hops into the liquid, for dry hopping which adds more aroma to the beer.
I bottled, and waited for 3 more weeks before being able to drink.

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The Drinking

I am extremely happy with the beer I have. I feared there would be no froth, and it does this nice “pschitt” that you expect when the bottle is opened.
The scent is really great. Like a true IPA.
I expected a stronger taste. But it’s still a very good beer.

One tricky thing is that I wasn’t able to remove all of the hops, and some of it remains at the bottom of every bottle. So I need to be extra cautious when serving it to avoid putting the extra hops into the glass.
As mentioned before, I just acquired a hop filter which should make things better for my next batch.

What’s next

Well, first, I have 15L of beer to drink. That should keep me busy for about a week.
I am going to brew again in a couple weeks with a christmas beer that will include sweet orange, cinnamon and cocoa.

After that, I want to brew 2 to 4 times a year, depending how quickly the previous batch can be drunk, and whether I can convince some friends to join me in the fun (it shouldn’t be all that hard).