Thrills! (Well, fresh beer is pretty damn thrilling.) Spills! (OK, not really). Chills! (If quickly cooling boiled wort counts). And never-before-seen-photos! It's… it's… homebrew!
A quick note that will help this post make more sense
For our first full-on batch of the new fall brewing season, I did something I've never done before: I "live-tweeted" the entire 4-hour brew session. From getting out equipment to final cleanup, I posted updates to my Twitter account, twitter.com/antsaint, on the #homebrew hashtag. In addition to the usual details about the beer style and recipe, below you'll find the full live-tweet session, including photos not in the original tweets.
Ah, brewing, how I've missed you.
After our usual brewless summer, we warmed up for the brew season with our annual batch of Crisp Hard Apple Cider. Now it was time to really get back into things, with our first brew of the St. Clair household's new homebrewing season.
Why a break?
I don't enjoy brewing in summer. I'd rather be outside grilling grub and drinking beer, than inside making beer. Plus, hotter ambient temperatures make it harder to keep the fermenting and conditioning beer at good temperatures, so I just don't bother.
The summer brewing break is also a good time to reflect on the year's brews, and to dream and ponder of the brews to come. From July through September… October(ish), we put away the brew pot and enjoy Oregon's summer, the outdoors, fine beers, brewing books, magazines… Man, just reflecting on this is making me thirsty.
Anyway. Come fall, it's perfect brewing weather again. There's nothing like rainy days, stoked fires and brightly colored leaves to get me hankering for some fresh-brewed, hoppy malty goodness.
Break's over, time for Scotch Ale
On Sunday, Nov. 7, freshly inspired off Saturday's Learn to Homebrew Day at Eugene's Oakshire Brewing, I brought out the brew pot and got to work. After leaving Oakshire on Saturday afternoon, I finished up research on what I planned to be this year's holiday ale: a Scotch Ale, also known as a Wee Heavy.
These malty, textured, higher alcohol brews reflect their Sco'ish roots by being a true "winter warmer." Or, as Don Russell describes it in his article "Scotch Ale," in Beer Northwest magazine:
"the malt aroma of a classic Scotch Ale rises in an earthy, perhaps smoky haze of sweetness. It possesses a clean, caramel character, the product of a long, cool fermentation and the near absence of hops. The alcohol might climb to 8 percent or more, but you won't notice will the warmth reaches your toes."
For the actual recipe, I decided on a Wee Heavy talked up in the Home Brew Forums:
"As you can see this is a very slightly hopped recipe; the end result is wonderfully malty."
The recipe below mostly follows their ingredients, but with a different yeast and the addition of aroma hops at the end of the boil. After the recipe, the live-tweets follow.
Recipe: The Yet-to-be-Named Wee Heavy Scotch Ale
- Brew Date: Nov. 7, 2010
- Initial Gravity Reading (O.G.): 1.076
Approximate Target Values (per original recipe, may vary due to alterations)
- Target Original Gravity: 1.089
- Approx. Final Gravity: 1.021 – 1.025
- IBU: Approx. 17.1
- Approx. Color: 21.9 SRM
- 1 lb. Crystal Malt from Home Fermenter Center, Eugene, OR (put in grain sock)
9 lbs. Light dried malt extract from Home Fermenter Center, Eugene, OR
1/4 lbs. Chocolate Malt
2 oz. Black Patent Malt
@60 minute boil, 1-1/2 oz. Goldings hops
@60 minute boil, 12 cones Sterling hops (from our garden, our first hop harvest)
@15 minute 1/2 tsp. Irish moss
@2 minute aroma/boil, 1/2 oz. Goldings hops
Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast
@ bottling: 1-1/4c. dried malt extract
Brewing & Fermentation
Place crushed grains in 2 gallons of 150 water and steep for 30 minutes. Strain out and sparge with ~2 quarts hot water. Add malt extract and bring to a boil. Boil 15 minutes, then add 60-minute hops. Total boil time will be 75 minutes.
Clean/sanitize carboy and other equipment during this time. Add 1 gallon cold water to sanitized carboy. At 45 minute mark, add Irish moss. At 2 minute mark, add aroma hops.
Remove from heat and cool wort to 80-90ºF.
Strain wort into carboy, sparging through hops. Add cold water until total amount of liquid in carboy is 5 gallons. Shake to aerate. Take a sample for initial gravity reading.
When wort temperature is between 68-76ºF, pitch yeast. Cap carboy and set in a warm, quiet place.
Ferment at approx. 72 degrees F for 3-30 days. Bottle with DME solution. Age one month.
- Based recipe from – Just a Wee Heavy – Home Brew Forums – Highlands Scotch Ale
- BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines – Category 09 – 9E. Strong Scotch Ale
- Scottish Wee Heavy – Home Brew Forums
- Brew Your Own: The How-To Homebrew Beer Magazine – Recipe Locator – English & Scottish Strong Ale – Smoked Wee Heavy – by Scott Russell
The Brew Session: Live Tweets from Sunday Morning's Homebrew Session
Want more info on craft beer, good food, the Pacific Northwest and more? Follow Anthony St. Clair at twitter.com/antsaint
Here's the live-tweet session, from beginning to end, plus daily updates about how the Wee Heavy is coming along.
Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010: Brew Day
Crisp Hard Apple Cider is clearing beautifully, while on the stove Wee Heavy Scotch Ale is getting to the boil. Viva la #homebrew! 9:18 AM
First time brewing on our new electric range. Heats the wort so much faster than our old stove ever could! 09:32:24 2010
Whoa. 9 lbs. dried malt extract in an canning pot nearly = 2 boilovers. Moved off heat twice, stirred like a madman. All good now #homebrew 09:50:23 2010
You know, I've never live-tweeted a #homebrew session before. This is fun. 09:50:49 2010
Go on 15-minute boil. Usual #homebrew boil is 60 minutes. This gets extra to help caramalize malt sugars for depth & sweetness in wee heavy 09:52:25 2010
1728 Wyeast Scottish Ale Yeast (liquid) smack-pack is smacked & filling as yeast warm up for their Scotch Ale feature presentation 09:54:17 2010
More coffee. While boil continues, will sanitize glass carboy fermentation vessel 09:55:06 2010
Egads, Wee Heavy #homebrew wort is deep, rich, mahogony brown. Indeed fit for a cold dark holiday night 10:01:45 2010
What do I sanitize #homebrew equipment with? I'm a Star San man http://bit.ly/apr8xo 10:02:51 2010
5 minutes to go before adding 60-minute boil hops: 1.5 oz. Goldings (4.5 alpha) + ~dozen Sterling hop cones, our 1st hop harvest 🙂 10:05:06 2010
Source recipe for this #homebrew beer: Just a Wee Heavy – Home Brew Forums – Highlands Scotch Ale http://bit.ly/aevS0e 10:07:35 2010
#homebrew 60-minute boiling hops are go! 10:11:53 2010
#homebrew Timer set for 45 min, at which time will add Irish moss. This removes proteins, and therefore visual cloudiness, clearing the beer 10:12:55 2010
Couple of quick catch-up notes from start of the Wee Heavy #homebrew session… 10:14:33 2010
Wee Heavy #homebrew grain: 1/4 lb. chocolate malt, 2 oz. black patent malt, 1 lb. crystal malt, steeped in 2 gal. water for 30 min @ 150ºF 10:14:46 2010
Why steep? When extract #homebrewing, steeping grains (similar to steeping tea), provides color, sugars and some flavor = better beer 10:15:42 2010
After 30-min #homebrew steep, rinsed grains with kettle-full of hot water, to maximize goodness extraction 10:17:28 2010
Today's #homebrew grains then went on the compost. Someday I'll remember NOT to do that straightaway, and instead try baking with them… 10:18:13 2010
Stirred in 9 lbs. light dried malt extract (or DME). Now back to our regularly scheduled #homebrew session, picking up at… 10:19:50 2010
…Picking up at the amazing hoppy malty #homebrew boil aroma filling the house. Earthy, bit of sweet, and a touch of freshly-split wood 10:21:01 2010
BTW, wondering why live-tweet a #homebrew session? Answer is simple… 10:21:57 2010
… Answer: #homebrew is social, but with my beloved @stringsandyarn out of town, I'm on my own. Sounded fun to share brewing with you 10:24:12 2010
OK, now that hops are boiling away, back to sanitizing #homebrew equipment. Back in a few, w prepped gear & dry hands 10:24:50 2010
OK, back in the #homebrew tweeting saddle. 10:46:29 2010
My #homebrew fermentation vessel of choice: 6.5 gallon glass carboy (or maybe 7 gal. I forget.) Cleaned, sanitized & ready for liquid 10:47:30 2010
5 minutes till Irish moss. #homebrew 10:51:52 2010
#homebrew water-saving conservation tip: sanitize carboy 1st, then pour solution into stoppered sink, then add all other gear for sanitizing 10:52:45 2010
#homebrew water-saving conservation tip: if using blow-off hose (I am), 1 end goes in a jar. Sanitize jar, then fill with solution. Wala! 10:53:36 2010
If you think #hombrew is hard: I'm brewing in my jammies, with the hair I woke up with, on my own, on a Sunday morning. You can do it too. 10:54:33 2010
Shout-out + thanks to Jeff Althouse @Oakshire & Cascade Brewers Society www.cascade-brewers.com for Sat's excellent Learn to #Homebrew Day 10:56:23 2010
Let me be clear: there will be clear beer. 1/2 tsp. Irish Moss added to #homebrew wort, for visual clarity. In layman's terms: pretty beer. 10:57:58 2010
What I love about #homebrew extract brewing #173: From getting out brew pot till final cleanup is about 3 hours, most of which is waiting 10:59:03 2010
Seriously. Most of brewing — probably 65% — is waiting for something with your #homebrew to either heat up or cool down 10:59:32 2010
After Irish Moss, #homebrew timer set to 13 minutes. Then we'll add the 2-minute 1/2 oz. Goldings hops for a bit o' aroma 11:00:10 2010
Adding 1 gal. cold water to glass carboy. Helps against thermal shock once cooled wort is added 11:04:35 2010
All #homebrew equipment is in sanitizer solution: strainer, funnel, tongs, scissors 11:05:03 2010
5 minutes till aroma hops #homebrew 11:06:06 2010
Why scissors in sanitizer? They'll cut corner off liquid yeast packet (fresh edge will be sprayed w vodka) Why all this for #homebrew? 11:07:07 2010
Answer: if it touches post-boil #homebrew, it gets sanitized. Period. 11:07:55 2010
Pre-boil #homebrew, not a big deal. Brew pot, spoon, etc, will be sanitized by boiling 11:08:24 2010
As an aside, far as I'm concerned, anything that survived an hour+ #homebrew boil has earned its right to live 11:09:22 2010
#homebrew aroma hops added. 2 minutes till cool-down — we're nearly there! 11:11:40 2010
How I cool my #homebrew: set brew pot in sink basin filled with ice and cold water. Should be at target temp (under 80ºF) in ~20-30 min 11:12:47 2010
#homebrew boil is done! From here on out, nothing touches beer but sanitized strainer, funnel & the inside of carboy. Now for cooling stage 11:13:58 2010
Over the next 30 minutes or so of cooling #homebrew wort, I'll use every piece of ice in my freezer, plus 2 sink basins of cold water 11:17:50 2010
Why cool #homebrew wort? Too hot will kill yeast. Not quite cool enough will make yeast do weird stuff, like mutate. Not good news for beer 11:19:20 2010
I try to cool my #homebrew wort to under ~80ºF for happy yeast. Though I have done 80-90ºF and been fine. 11:20:06 2010
In these few minutes alone, #homebrew thermometer in pot already has dipped from 212ºF to 175ºF 11:20:53 2010
If you're wondering what the #homebrew
hell is going on, I'm live-tweeting today's brew session of an extract Wee Heavy Scotch Ale 11:22:17 2010
Old bath towels are a homebrewer's friend. The uses of a #homebrew towel are topped only by the uses of a towel for a hitchhiker. 11:23:19 2010
#homebrew towel 1: put on floor, under carboy while cleaning/sanitizing, so floor doesn't get wet. Also easy to mop up spills. 11:24:02 2010
#homebrew towel 2: once carboy in place, wrap with towel to keep hop-skunking light off your beer 11:24:42 2010
In our house, we have a bunch of gray bath towels that we have designated as "craft towels", for use when dyeing wool, #homebrew beer, etc 11:25:39 2010
#homebrew thermometer has dropped from 175ºF to 140ºF. 60 degrees to go! 11:26:11 2010
The trouble with #homebrew: in my experience, a pot full of wort and hops is just not very photogenic 11:28:15 2010
Though that could also my my limitations as a photographer. It's not the wort's fault — #homebrew is mean to taste brilliant, screw the pix! 11:28:55 2010
#homebrew thermometer has dropped from 140ºF to 120ºF. 40 degrees to go! ra-ra, shish-koom-ba… 11:29:44 2010
Wow, Wyeast bag is fat & happily full of yeast cells chomping at the bit to colonize Wee Heavy #homebrew wort 11:31:56 2010
Easier to focus on text for #homebrew live tweets, but have been taking photos too. Will reproduce tweets + pix on antsaint.com this week 11:33:07 2010
#homebrew thermometer has dropped from 120ºF to 100ºF! Nearly there — 20 degrees to go! 11:33:50 2010
Challenge of brewing solo: no one to steady strainer/funnel as you pour from #homebrew pot to carboy. Steady hands, St. Clair, steady hands 11:40:04 2010
OK, time to for the potential disaster of pouring #homebrew from pot to carboy. Wish me luck! 11:44:01 2010
Disaster averted, spilled nary a drop of #homebrew wort. Now to top up with water to 5 gallons 11:49:37 2010
Another challenge of pouring from #homebrew pot to strainer: watching pour while not breathing germy human breath in the direction of wort 11:50:09 2010
Pour done & carboy filled to 5 gal. (ish) level. Sanitized #hombrew tongs now pressing on hops in strainer for full goodness extraction 11:55:08 2010
Damn this Wee Heavy Scotch Ale #homebrew is DARK! You'd damn near think I was brewing stout. Will be a pretty, pretty beer. 11:55:39 2010
Temperature in carboy: ~75ºF. Now to aerate #homebrew. In other words, shake sumbitch back & forth while not spilling everything everywhere 11:57:22 2010
Aerated carboy 2 minutes. Because of the back & forth shaking motion + how I sit, @stringsandyarn often calls this "humping the #homebrew" 12:03:45 2010
Now… are you ready to pitch some yeast? I said, #homebrew, "Are you ready to pitch some yeast?" 12:04:13 2010
Hell yes! Me too. But we've got one more thing to do to this #homebrew first (and no, it's not more humping) 12:04:41 2010
Sanitizing hydrometer + my favoritely named piece of #homebrew gear: "the beer thief" 12:06:48 2010
Target OG for Wee Heavy Scotch Ale #homebrew: 1.089. Reading on mine: 1.076. A bit lower than spec says. Am I worried? Nah. 12:14:20 2010
Beer thief: long tube w stopper valve. Insert into carboy, it sucks up #homebrew. Insert into hydrometer & press valve to side, beer empties 12:15:55 2010
Now the fun part: tasting the wort pulled for #homebrew readings. Oh my. 12:18:01 2010
Dark mahogony caramel #homebrew color. Great malt tones, lots of sweetness, balanced with some nice English hoppy bitterness 12:18:53 2010
I have high hopes for this season's first batch of #homebrew! Wow. Now to pitch yeast, cap & put in resting place for fermentation 12:19:31 2010
Pre-pitch temperature in #homebrew carboy is 72ºF. Pitch time! 12:21:14 2010
#homebrew yeast, Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast, is pitched 12:27:59 2010
#homebrew carboy is now in place, cozied up in our living room next to the pellet stove 12:28:41 2010
I've made wort, now it's up to the yeast. My job? Keep the yeast happy — because, really, they make #homebrew, not me 12:30:33 2010
Wow. Thanks to all who've followed this live tweeting of #homebrew session! I can't believe it's done. Oh wait… time to clean the kitchen 12:31:20 2010
I'll spare you that part. Now to do dishes, listen to @fftonklcc (Food for Thought on KLCC) & wait for #homebrew ferm to get underway 12:32:37 2010
It's been fun live tweeting #homebrew. I hope you had a good time! Live tweeting will continue throughout the week with daily beer checks 12:33:26 2010
Will also post Wee Heavy Scotch Ale #homebrew tweets, updates & photos to antsaint.com later this week. Thanks for following, TTFN! 12:34:12 2010
P.S.: With cleanup + longer boil time (75 min. instead of 60 min.), total #homebrew time ~ 4 hours. 12:38:06 2010
P.P.S.: Thanks to Jim at #Eugene www.homefermenter.com for great shop, advice & source for today's #homebrew ingredients. Later Tweeps! 12:39:37 2010
Monday, Nov. 8, 2010, Wee Heavy Scotch Ale #homebrew report: wort is bubbling, thick ol' fluffy krausen head has pillowed up, fermentation is well underway
Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010, Wee Heavy Scotch Ale #homebrew report: Day 3 has thick krausen, steady bubbling, and a 75ºF temp. Looking pretty in there.
Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010, Wee Heavy Scotch Ale #homebrew report: Day 4 krausen is thinning some, ferm and temp still steady
Live-tweeting the brew session was a lot of fun, and I plan on tweeting future brews (and perhaps bottling sessions). Watching the Wee Heavy ferment and develop is a lot of fun too — there are few things like watching the day to day changes of fermenting beer (well, other than drinking the finished product). From the steady bloop of the "beer's heartbeat" as yeast converts sugars into alcohol, to the rich dark color of the beer itself, I'm stoked for this Scotch Ale.