Hard Lemonade 3-6-11

As classy as my mom is, the only alcoholic beverage she can stand to consume is Mike’s hard lemonade.  So brother and I decided it would be great to present her with some homebrewed hard lemonade on Mother’s Day.  Lots of recipes exist online from people that have made a similar drink, which let us pick and choose exactly how we wanted to brew this one.

We started with a malt base by using 2 lb of Golden light dry malt extract.  The extract was boiled with about 4 lbs of sugar for around half an hour to dissolve everything.  That was set aside to cool while we prepared all the lemon concentrate, etc.  For the lemon flavor we used a mix of  frozen lemonade, frozen lemon juice concentrate, and 1 can of orange juice.  This was all stirred up together in the primary fermenter bucket along with 2.5 gallons of water. We then added the wort made from our dry malt extract to the fermenter. This brought our total liquid volume up to right around 4 gallons and as luck would have it we had hit our target specific gravity of 1.080.

That high of a gravity has the potential for around 10 percent alcohol, which is a bit high because I don’t think Mother could handle much more than 1 bottle at a time.  Hopefully the yeast will die out early, and leave us with quite a bit of sweetness.  Or we may have to use something to stop the yeast, and then back sweeten the lemonade to taste.

From what I’ve found online it can be slow to ferment a beverage like this. Basically because the acid in all the lemon juice can be hard for the yeast to work in.  So I made a starter for the yeast packet, just using warm water, and then slowly adding in some of the lemonade.  I also added some yeast nutrient to the primary when I pitched the yeast.

Ingredients list

2 lb Briess Golden Light dme

4 lb Corn sugar

3 Cans Minute Maid Lemonade

1 can Orange juice

6 bottles of Minute Maid lemon juice concentrate

1 packet Lalvin EC-1118 Champagne yeast

OG 1.080

4 gallons

Brewer’s Best IPA

I just can’t stand to have any empty fermenters.  So after I transferred my  Oktoberfest to the secondary, it was time to get something cooking in the primary again.  Of course its another Brewer’s best kit… hey they were buy one get one half off!

Now it seems like all the breweries have been trying to “out hop” one another and make the hoppiest, yet drinkable, beers.  These beers may not be everyones cup of tea, but I rather enjoy a very strong hop presence.  Which led me to try and “hop” this kit up a little bit.  This pre-packaged kit came with 4 oz. of  hops total. 2 oz. of cascade and 1 ounce of Columbus for bittering. and 1 oz. of cascade for aroma.  I added 2 more oz. of Columbus and 1 more of cascade.

Again these kits are very simple, and I won’t bore with the same process that is basically repetetive, but I will share the basics of the recipe.

  • 2 3.3lb cans of  Munton’s light malt extract
  • 1 lb of Light spray malt dry extract
  • 1lb Crystal malt 40l
  • 80z. Victory malt

And my hop schedule was as follows:

Based on a 60 minute boil

  • 60 min.-    2 oz. Cascade
  •                      1 oz. Columbus
  • 40 min.-  .5 oz. Colulmbus   
  • 30 min.-   .5 oz Columbus
  • 20 min.-   .5 oz. Columbus
  • 10 min.-   .5 oz. Columbus
  • 5 min.-     1 oz. Cascade
  •                 .5 oz cascade dry hopped in primary bucket
  •                  And .5 oz reserved to dry hop in the secondary

This kit claims 45-49 IBU so with my additional hop additions I’m hoping to be somewhere around the 70 IBU mark.  But I’m no mathlete, and to lazy to figure out any formulas.

I was also pretty much spot on as far as my gravity is concerned. With the kit stating 1.061-1.065,  my gravity reading just before yeast addition came in at 1.060.

Brewer’s Best German Oktoberfest 1-29-11

Well, here in Michigan its colder than a well diggers ass.  Which makes my cement block basement also cold.   The low temperatures make it hard to enjoy the man cave in the basement, but on the plus side its still perfect for lagering some beer.  The thermometer next to my brewing station stays pretty steady around 50 degrees, and that is right where I want it for primary fermentation of my German Oktoberfest.

  The Brewer’s Best German Oktoberfest kits was the first partial mash kit I tried and I had really good luck with it.  It was a big hit all my friends that came over, even ones that don’t usually drink craft beer explanation.   The local home brew store just happened to have it on sale so I couldn’t say no. Especially since the last batch has been long gone.

  The brewing process of this kit is very simple.  There are 2 small amounts of Crystal malt included as the specialty grain, which we steeped at around 160 for 20 minutes.  Then after bringing the wort to a nice boil we added the 1lb bag of Amber Dried malt extract and the 2-3.3lb cans of Munich Liquid malt extract.

  Upon bringing the water back to a boil it was time for start the hop schedule.  This kit only included 2 oz. of hops, 1 oz. of Willamette hops was added for bittering as soon as the water reached its boil.  Then with 20 minutes to go  in the 60 minute boil we added the other 1oz. package of Willamette for the flavoring hops.  Let it boil for that final 20 minutes then it was time to start cooling the  wort.

   Our “Ghetto” cooling contraption is basically just a large metal tub we fill with ice or snow, in this case snow, and set the brew kettle down into.  It usually works quite well especially with  such a low quantity of water as this kit was designed for only a 2.5 gallon boil.  Once the water cool off considerably it was poured into the primary fermentor and topped off with cool water.  The bucket was capped and airlock filled, and we let everything sit for about another hourto cool before pitching the yeast, since the yeast in the this kit was designed to work between 48-58. 

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take an Original gravity reading since my dumbass broke my last hydrometer as I was sterilizing all my equipment before makeing this batch.  But visually the beer was fermenting quite nicely after a few days, and should hopefully be juat about fermented out in 2 weeks when I will transfer to a secondary.

Holiday Ale

Well I hate Christmas, and all the other “Hallmark Holidays” surrounding it. Rushing around visiting people you luckily only have to deal with maybe twice a year, yeah thats always a JOY. So I decided to make something to at least help take the edge off of it. A cranberry infused holiday ale.

As is normal we started with a simple recipe and then twisted it up a bit. I found a simple partial mash recipe online and we deviated from it just a bit, well probably a little bit more than that. For our main base malts we used 2 cans of Liquid malt extract. One Briess Golden, the other a Briess Bavarian Wheat. The only specialty grain used was 1lb of Crystal (25L). Also around 2lbs of honey was added to the boil, this beer has the potential to be as sweet as me!

Since only a small amount of grain was used, I was able to steep it on the stove in a medium sized pot. I kept it at a temp of around 160 for 25 minutes before adding it to our electric brew kettle, which already had some water heating up in it. I then sparged the grains with some hot water and continued to bring everything up to a boil. Once a nice boil was achieved both cans of malt extract and the honey were added. That cooled the kettle down just a bit and I waited till it came back to a boil before it was hop time.

Our hop schedule was fairly simple on this beer since it wasn’t going to be an overly hoppy beer. A 1 hour boil was planned and the first addition was 1oz. of Willamette. We then played the waiting game for half an hour, and relaxed watching some more 3 stooges(see Pilsner post). At the half hour mark 1/2oz. of Kent Goldings hops was added, along with the peel of 3 oranges and some spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Boy if this beer doesn’t taste good I’m it coulu just be warmed on the stove and used as an air freshner. Our last addidtion came at ten minutes from the end of boil, which was our last half of the Kent Goldings. The final ten minutes of boil and then removed from the heat.

Upon terminating the boil I added some cranberry. Now I don’t much like fruity beers, and don’t want a whole lot of fruit taste, but I think a little may not hurt. And Cranberry sounded good in a wheat beer. So I only added an 8oz. can of cranberry sauce. I didn’t want to mess with the actual berries, so that seemed like the next best thing. Hopefully it gives just a hint of flavor to our beer.

The mash tun was cooled, then added to our primary fermenter bucket. I filled it back up to 5 gallons with cool water and then let it settle back down to around 75 degrees. A gravity reading at this time was at 1.064, which should leave a fairly high alcohol beer. PERFECT! I added a packet of Safbrew wheat ale yeast, and placed the lid on the bucket and went back to watching my stooges. By morning a good amount of bubbles were forming, and the smell was delightful. Spices and hops really hit my nose when I opened the bucket. Lets see how it turns out in a few weeks.


Pumpkin Ale in the Making?

About a month ago I embarked on a quest to make an ale that would go well with the upcoming seasons. I have always been a fan of Pumpkin Ales and being falltime I figured why not. I searched recipes and decided I didn’t want to spend a significant amount of money because I had no idea how it might turn out. I decided on a Cooper’s Real Ale extract kit. Seemed simple enough so I set to work.

I boiled about 3 gallons of water and mixed in a 15oz. can of Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Mix…what the hell was I thinking? After the can was mixed in, the aroma of pumpkin was in the air and I felt like this would be a success. With all going well I mixed in the Cooper’s Real Ale extract kit which comes pre-hopped, therefore requiring no additional hops. The side of the can instructed me to mix in 1000 grams of sugar…1000 grams? This took a while for me to figure out and the only sugar about was the brown kind. So I mixed it in.

After cooling I added the yeast and closed up the fermenter. It was now time to wait. I had a great feeling about this beer until I went home that night and read up on adding too much sugar to beer. It will give it a cidery flavor.I started to worry that I had wasted money on this batch but figured if it was indeed going to be cidery that I could at least counter it with the addition of hop pellets. This method, of adding hops to the wort in the fermenter, is known as dry hopping. Sounded simple.

A few days after adding the yeast I went to the local homebrew store in Alpena and purchased 1 oz. of Cascade hops. I added the hops and let in mingle in with the wort for a few days before checking on it. When I did the aroma of sweet hops hit my nose and I was immediately relieved. It would be time to bottle soon and I couldn’t help but think of what a great tasting brew this would turn out to be.

Bottling came and went…again I had to wait for the priming sugar to carbonate the Pumpkin Ale.  After two weeks I decided it was time to try one…I did. I would not write this article until about three weeks after I tried that first ale…


Extract Pilsner

Most people can find some inspiration in watching The 3 Stooges, if you are normal. So its no surprise that after watching some “Stooges” we were inspired to make a batch of “Panther Pilsner”, like they did in one episode. Although I hope we have a somewhat better result.

Scott and I set up on a saturday night with my new electric kettle and all our other equipment. A mix of both liquid malt extract and dry malt extract and 2 packages of hops. This wasn’t a recipe just us flying by the seat of our pants.

Our plan was a simple 60 minute boil with fairly simple hops additions. We started with adding 2 lbs of the Northwestern golden dry malt, and following that with a 3.3lb can of Briess Pilsen liquid malt extract. Once that reached a boil we added 1 oz. of saaz hops. That was then followed by 2 .5 oz. additions of Gelena hops at the 30 minute and then again with 5 minutes to go.

After cool down the beer was transferred to the primary fermenter bucket. I then drew off a sample to test the gravity, which was right about what I hoped for at 1.040 specific gravity. That should leave us a beer at right around 5% alcohol, anything less and it aint worth drinking;)

Although this wasn’t from any specific recipe, It is similar to many other pilsner recipes. I was a bit dissapointed though, my color was quite a bit darker then I had hoped. Traditionally pilsners are quite light in color, yet ours came out with a bit of a red hue to it. I attribute this in part to the dark color of the Liquid malt extract.

We shall ride this one out and hopefully it will end up with a tasty flavor. Overall in this beer I’m just looking for an easy drinker that even my heathen, “I don’t like dark beer” friends can enjoy.


Bottling Bock

Bottling bock

The bock has been sitting in the secondary fermenter for close to a week and we clearing out nicely. A small yeast cake was forming on the bottom of the carboy, and the gravity at a steady 1.020. Time to bottle it and let the bubbles build.

After the usual pain in the ass of cleaning out 50+ bottles and sanitizing everything we were able to start filling bottles. This time I decided to try bottling usuing a bottling wand. This made filling the bottles easier, and less messy, but it also slowed down the flow from the siphon tube just a bit. There wasn’t even enough beer spilled on the floor to bring Cash into the kitchen to lick up the mess.

Now we are once again back to being patient. After 3 weeks in fermenters the freshly bottled beer should carbonate in 2-3 weeks, and according to the instructions should be allowed to condition for another 21 days. Which means I’m gunna have to find some Jewish friends and celebrate Hannuka in early December and crack a few of these open.


Mead Making Mishap

I was first introduced to the hobby of homebrewing earlier this year and had no idea what the hell I was doing. I watched people make it and even researched the basics of brewing your own beer. It seemed easy, so I went ahead and purchased a basic equipment kit along with an Amercian Amber ale kit. Lets just say that my first experience in homebrewing was actually my most successful to date as you will find out in this post along with future postings.

After my first kit was brewed, fermented, bottle conditioned, and taste tested I figured it was time to get something else going. As you may know, homebrew kits are fairly pricey and I was looking for something a little on the cheap side…that’s when I came across a simple mead recipe in a home brewing catalog. Simple…very nice! So I ordered up the ingredients (I can’t find the recipe so I don’t know how much of what went into this) and bought three pounds of honey from a local beekeep because I was only going to make one gallon of the stuff. Wise decision on my part.

Having the ingredients in hand, I got down to business. I dissolved the honey in the water and tossed in the other ingredients minus the yeast. I let the concoction of water, honey, and other ingredients cool before I added the yeast and once that was done all I could do was sit back and wait anxiously. The mead started fermenting and seemed like it might never stop. After two weeks it was still bubbling out of the airlock. What the hell, I thought to myself…the recipe claimed it would slow significantly at two weeks and then I could go on with the recipe. Not mine, it just kept going and going.

When it finally did stop bubbling out of the airlock I racked it for the first time, stabilized it with potassium sorbate, and added yet another cup of honey to hopefully sweeten the ‘Viking drink’ out. Then it was more waiting. About a month later, give or take a few, I racked it yet again to rid of any sediment left floating around and continued to let it sit in the one gallon glass carboy for another week or so before bottling. When bottling finally came I had my four wine bottles ready and an abundance of corks because I could only buy a minimum of twenty-five. I was excited…the mead looked good and smelled alright but I just figured it needed some time alone to come together and become a most righteous drink.

Bottling was just as easy and making the mead itself. I siphoned the mead into four wine bottles and corked them with a handcorker…which is simpler to use than you read about. Now it was time to sit back and let my mead age. I had never tried mead up until this point and I was looking forward to the day I could finally try it. As it aged I continually checked on it. What I was looking for is beyond me but I went ahead and did it anyways. As it aged a bit longer I checked on it less and less but still checked on it from time to time.

I figured that by the time October came around this sweet elixir would be ready to test…it was just a matter of when to bust it out. My buddy, Ian, was set to have a Halloween party on the 29th of October and I decided that this would be the best time to crack open a bottle and sample it. People would be there and I would be praised for the intensive labor I put into this mead. Well the time finally came and I showed up to the party dressed as a pirate with a bottle of mead in hand best site. We chilled it prior to sampling and then I saw Ian take the bottle out, open it up, pour a glass, take a sip, and then hand it to me…

I saw no reaction on his face whatsoever so I figured it couldn’t be all that bad. Then I took my sip…huh?!, not what I expected at all. Not sweet enough and it had the overpowering taste of too much alcohol in it. Not a bad thing, because there is never too much alcohol, but it overpowered what I thought would be the pleasantly sweet taste of honey. It was an experiment that I just had to try and I learned that when a recipe says to stabilize after two weeks you should probably just do it because that honey will just continue to ferment and ferment. That and next time I need to sweeten with a lot more honey.

All in all it was a great experience and I look forward to making my next mead…I still have two bottles of this mead left and I’m hoping that it only gets better as it ages. I guess we will just have to wait and see.



Homemade Mead


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