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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adventures in Homebrewing

Two months ago, I showed off my budding hop vines from my backyard garden. My husband Ben and I harvested the hops in late August, over the course of two weekends, and got about six pounds of fresh hops from three vines. We dried the hops using a method recommended by my home-brewing friend and guru, Dave Selden: fill paper grocery bags 1/5 full with hops, staple them shut and stored the in a warm, dry place for about a week, turning the bags over every other day. Once dry and measuring in at about 1/4 their original weight, we stuffed the hops into freezer bags, doing our best to vacuum seal them, and we stored the harvest in our freezer (hops should keep in the freezer for up to about a year).

Last weekend, we decided to brew our first batch of beer with the help of our fearless leader Dave and a trusty copy of The Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian. The recipe we used (below) may look a little complicated, but it was actually pretty simple with the book in hand, a little guidance and the reminder Papazian repeats like a mantra: "Don't worry, have a homebrew." Lucky for us, hanging with a home brewer, there was plenty of homemade beer available to keep us inspired, from a deliciously bright Saison to a Bourbon Spiced Mystery Ale.

With our abundance of hops, we opted to brew an IPA, and since we hadn't used any pesticides on our vines, and organic grains cost a mere 30 cents more per pound, the decision to brew organic was easy. During our party, another friend decided to use chocolate malt in a Scottish red ale, which inspired me to make an ESB for my next batch. But first, I'll have to see how our IPA turns out—I'll report back in a few weeks after we bottle.

In the meantime, I'll be building up my collection of empty bottles and pondering a name. Any ideas? —Siobhan Crosby

Palilalia India Pale Ale
7 lbs. malt extract-light
1 lb. crystal malt, cracked (most brewing supply stores have a grinder, or you can use a rolling pin to crack the grain)
1/2 lb. malted barley, toasted
2 tsp. gypsum (we didn't use gypsum, because our local water already has levels of the calcium that gypsum is intended to add)
1 1/2 oz. northern brewer hops for boiling (we used about 3 1/2 oz. of cascade hops)
3/4 oz. cascade hops for finishing
1 package ale yeast (we used American Ale II yeast)
3/4 cup corn sugar for bottling
Tools: Large 5-gallon pot, heating element, mesh bags for grains and hops, wort chiller (optional), glass carboy

Toast malted barley at 350 for 10 minutes. Add cracked crystal malt and malted barley, in bags, to 5 gallons of cold water and remove when boiling commences (about 160° F). Add the malt extract, Northern Brewer hops (we added the hops in small batches over time) and gypsum (if using), and boil for 45-60 min. Add finishing hops during final minute of boil. Sparge (rinse bags with cold water over pot) into fermenter and cool with wort chiller, stirring to aerate. Once cool, funnel into glass carboy, add water to the wort and add activated yeast. Should age 3 to 4 weeks before drinking for best results.

From The Complete Joy of Homebrewing

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