Sunday, September 30, 2012

Coopers Stout

Continuing my series of quick-and-dirty brew kits, I brewed up a Coopers Stout last weekend (apparently different from the Coopers Irish Stout that I brewed last year).

The procedure was pretty much the same as the Muntons nut brown ale kit I did recently. Boil 2 pounds of dry amber malt extract in ~0.75 gallons of water, take off the boil and stir in the can of hopped liquid malt extract. This time, to avoid the problems of trying to get it to cool down fast enough for yeast pitching, I put a lid on the brew pot and stuck it in the fridge for a few hours. That evening (Saturday, September 22), I dumped the cooled wort in the primary fermenter, and topped up to 5 gallons of water. The pitching temperature was 80 degrees, and the starting gravity was 1.042 (at pitching temp). This time, I just pitched the yeast that came with the kit, and put the lid on the fermenter.

The fermentation was vigorous! Within a day it was spilling out the fermenter. . .because I had this same issue last year with the Irish stout kit, I wonder if it is not something inherent to the yeast strain. In any case, a week went by and the gravity was down to 1.016 at 60 degrees. So, time to bottle!

I transferred the beer into my bottling bucket, and stirred in 3/4 cup of priming sugar that had been boiled in 2 cups of water. The end result was 7 22-oz. bottles, 7 18-oz. bottles, and 33-12 oz. bottles. Not bad at all! And the taste is pretty good, too (guess the vigorous fermentation isn't a bad thing in the end). Estimated a.b.v. is 3.7%.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Muntons Nut Brown Ale

September is a desperate time for me. All of my home brew from the previous brewing season is gone. And it's still too hot to do much in the way of new brews. . .the warm temperatures (and fact that I am unwilling to run the air conditioning all day) mean a potential for off-flavors, unintended fruity aromas, and the like. Spending $40 and many hours of careful craft-brewing just don't seem worth it if the end product isn't up to par.

Thankfully, there are some quick-and-easy kits out there! Last year I tried Coopers Irish Stout and was quite pleased with the results. So, it seemed like a good idea to try another kit. This time, it was Muntons Nut Brown Ale (from their Connoisseurs Range product line). The kit was cheap (only $21 from Vanguard Home Brew, plus another $10 for three pounds of amber malt DME), and promised to be a fast brew session.

The kit itself comprised a 1.8 kg can of hopped liquid malt extract, along with a packet of yeast. I soaked the can in a bath of hot water (to loosen up the extract). Meanwhile, I boiled up a few liters of water with the DME. I turned off the heat and added the hopped LME, and then added all of this to my fermenter. Then, I topped it up to around 5 gallons (with cold water). Unfortunately, the temperature was still too hot to pitch the yeast (90 degrees or more), so I sanitized some gallon freezer bags, put ice packs in them, and then let them soak in the wort to cool the whole mess down. Once it reached 84 degrees, I removed the ice packs and pitched the yeast. In addition to the mystery default yeast that came in the package, I also added a packet of Nottingham yeast that had been sitting in the fridge since last season. Not elegant, but it worked. During fermentation, the average temperature in the bucket was around 80 degrees!

I let it ferment for one week (from Sept. 2 to Sept. 9), and then bottled on Sept. 9 with 3/4 cup of corn sugar boiled in 2 cups of water. The original gravity was 1.050, and the final gravity was 1.012 (meaning an a.b.v. of 5.0%). I ended up with 23 18 oz. bottles, 6 22 oz. bottles, and 9 12 oz. bottles.

Despite the simple nature of the brew and the high temperature fermentation, I'm pretty pleased with the results. The taste (three weeks after bottling) is pretty clean, with a fairly malty aroma but not quite as malty taste. It's not too bitter, so the brew ends up as something you can enjoy for quite awhile without blasting the taste buds. The head is adequate, but not insanely great. And finally, it's way cheaper than buying a nut brown at the store. Just based on the malts and yeast, I only spent around $33 for the equivalent of 54 12-oz. bottles of beer. That works out to around $3.89 for a six-pack! Of course, cost isn't why I do this, but it's still nice to know I'm not overpaying.