Red Ale Number 1

I started my first brew, which I’ll call Red Ale Number 1, a few weeks before I started the blog. Also, this is a kit (put together on the spot – I think I like this better than the typical “boxed” kit!) sold by my local home brew supplier. Thus, I am missing a few details on ingredients.

3.3 pounds light liquid malt extract (Briess CBW brand)
2 pounds light dry malt extract
12 ounces 60L crystal malt mixed with 1 ounce black crystal malt
2 ounces Willamette hop pellets (1 ounce for the main boil, 1 ounce for the finish)

What I Did
I pretty much just followed the directions on the sheet that the store manager gave me. Here’s the outline. . .

  1. I heated two gallons of water from cold to 160 degrees, with the grains (bagged in cheesecloth) steeping the whole time. Once the water reached 170 degrees, I took out the grains and let them drain into the pot before throwing them away.
  2. I heated the brewpot water to boiling, and added the malt extracts (dry and liquid) as well as the bittering hops. I boiled the whole thing for 55 minutes, and then added the finishing hops for an additional five minutes. My hops bags burst partway through, resulting in a bit of a mess.
  3. I cooled the wort in the sink (using a sink full of ice cubes and cold water) to 70 degrees, before pouring it into a 6 gallon plastic fermenter. I added enough water to fill it up to 4.5 gallons (I decided against a full five because I had a little boil-over, and lost just a touch of the wort).
  4. I took a sample, cooled it to 60 degrees, and measured the starting gravity — 1.045. Right at the upper end of the range suggested by my supplier.
  5. I sprinkled a package of dry brewer’s yeast (Nottingham strain) on top, sealed the fermenter, put in the airlock, and put the whole thing in my closet (around 70 degrees).
  6. After a day or two, I didn’t notice any bubbling in the airlock. I did, however, see that there had been some serious bubbling at some point, because there was the remains of foam and hoppy bits a few inches up the side. I chalk this up to a not-quite-complete seal on the lid of the fermenter (a little gas was probably able to escape and relieve the pressure). A quick check to the internet showed that this isn’t a huge cause of worry. On the third day, I measured the specific gravity of a sample (1.012), and found that the beer had indeed been fermenting along.
  7. Seven days after the start of fermentation, I decided to bottle. The final s.g. was 1.010 (for an estimated alcohol content of 4.5 percent). I added 5 ounces of priming sugar (boiled in two cups of water), and bottled up everything. The end yield was 41 bottles of home brew.
  8. I aged the bottles at about 70 degrees (in the closet, as always) for a week before sampling.

End Results (seven days post-bottling)
I threw a few bottles in the fridge, and decided to sample them and see what I can expect with this recipe. Even after only seven days, the beer is nicely carbonated. I found that the colder bottle (one I left in for a few hours, rather than just one hour) had much better head than the first (which had almost none). There might be just a little bit of a chill haze to the beer, because the second, colder one I tried was definitely hazier than the first (which was quite clear).

True to its name, my red ale has a very pleasant reddish-brown color. The aroma is quite nice, with no unpleasant whiffs from this batch. The taste is very smooth, and this one goes down pretty easy. There’s a modest hop finish to it, but certainly not overpowering. All in all, I rate Red Ale Number 1 quite well so far! I won’t be ashamed to share this batch with friends.