The photo above is the building block of many great beers: malted barley. I tried my hand at making beer with a homebrew beer ingredient kit from the U.S.
The Beer Bug
I lived in Seattle before moving to the Philippines. One of the things Seattle has a lot of (besides rain!) is craft beer.
There were several craft breweries close by as well as ones in the nearby states of Oregon and California that distributed their beers in the Seattle area. I drank a lot of really good craft beer. With so many beers and so much quality, I truly had the beer bug.
I tried to tell myself that when I moved to Davao, I’d be fine drinking San Miguel. But it didn’t take long before I was yearning for a different taste in my favorite beverage.
At about the time I was getting tired of drinking SanMig, I heard about a local bar that was just starting up. It was a bar dedicated to craft beer! Yesss!
Get The Brew
I dragged my wife down to the craft beer bar more than a few times and spent a nice chunk of change trying different beers. I even did a bunch of beer reviews for the blog after I bought the beer.
That photo above is how I bought craft beer at the bar. I asked about what they had, drank a couple, checked my wallet, and got about a dozen to take home.
At the time, the bar was only really carrying enough stock for take-home quantities from The Cebruery. It had a bit to do with the distribution of the beer but also because of what they envisioned themselves as being as an establishment. After all, it was a bar. They kind of wanted you to stay and drink.
But I don’t enjoy hanging out and drinking in a bar anymore and my wife isn’t really a drinker, to begin with. So we had a couple of beers there and took a bunch of Cebruery beers home.
Craft beer is still really hard to find in stores here in Davao, two years after I wrote those beer reviews. And it’s still much more expensive than good old SanMig. It’s hard to justify making a craft beer run by taxi and paying ₱150+ per 360ml bottle of beer when 1000ml of SanMig can be had for ₱78.
That’s part of what got me interested in homebrew beer. The other part is, it looked like something I’d enjoy trying and maybe making a hobby.
I did my homework and discovered that making my own homebrew beer would wind up being cheaper than buying craft beer. You’re making 5-gallons (that’s about 50 360ml bottles) at a time. At about the 3rd batch of homebrew, I figured the equipment costs would be paid and I’d be drinking good beer for anywhere from less than 90-cents (₱49) a bottle to $1.25 (₱68) or so per bottle for the more expensive kits.
Kits? Yes, kits
The Kits Come
Making homebrew beer in the Philippines is still a baby hobby. By that I mean that there aren’t a lot of devotees to it when compared to, say the hobby of following AlDub.
It’s a growing hobby to be sure but it’s still pretty hard to get the ingredients needed to brew your own beer unless you live near, or in, Manila. That’s changing but that’s infomation for another post.
I bought two kits from Northern Brewer. I chose a simple one for my first attempt: their Nut Brown Ale. The second kit I chose is a little more complicated: Dead Ringer Pale Ale.
The kits come with all of the ingredients you need to make 5-gallons of beer: malt extract, hops, yeast and any “specialty” grains for color or flavor.
I bought some of the equipment needed from Northern Brewer and the rest from Amazon.com. I bought 5-gallon fermenters and some other small equipment from a fellow here in the Philippines who runs a Facebook group for craft beer and homebrew fans.
The kits came in our regular Balikbayan Box thanks to our friend in Las Vegas.
I followed the directions for the Nut Brown Ale, steeping the grains included in the kit in 3.5 gallons of water.
Steeping the grains only lasts 20 minutes or until the water reaches 170ºF. The steeping makes a sort of “grain tea”.
The burners on our stovetop are screwy. The flame seems to come out at odd angles on the two largest “fry burners”. This is how I had to situate the pot to get the flame in the center of the bottom so it would finally boil. I also had to put a lid on the pot which is a big no-no in home brewing because doing so can cause boil overs and a huge, sticky mess all over the stovetop. But I was careful and didn’t have any problems – other than trying to get the wort to boil.
After I was finished cooking up this batch, I realized that I hadn’t got what’s called a “rolling boil” from our stove. The burners were just too whacky.
This was the extent of “foam” that formed during the boil. In brewer’s terms, this is the beginning of the “hot break” during the hour-long boil. The “wort” in the pot reaches a point where it can boil over if you’re not careful and then suddenly “breaks” and the foam disappears, taking some solids down to the bottom of the pot with it.
The “boil” lasts for an hour for this beer.
After The Boil
My mind was so preoccupied with doing things right during the next steps that I forgot to take photos.
The next steps were to give the covered pot an ice water bath in the kitchen sink to rapidly cool it down to 80ºF or so, add water to the fermenter to make 5 gallons (our pot had 3.5 gallons in it already), pour the wort from the pot into the fermenter, check the specific gravity with a hydrometer, and sprinkle the yeast on top of the wort.
After that, I put the wort into the chiller and taped my temperature probe to the side of the fermenter.
I fermented at 68ºF.
I was really worried about this first attempt because I didn’t wind up with much residue in the bottom of the pot, what brewers call “trub”. In fact, when I poured the wort into the fermenter, I saw a bunch of solids go by in the stream. I don’t think that my wort boiled hard enough or got cold enough, quickly enough in the ice water bath.
Homebrew Beer: Right Now
This beer has spent a week and a half in the chiller at 68ºF. I tested a sample with the hydrometer today and I think it’s just about finished fermenting. I’ll test it again in two days to see if there’s been a change. If not, the next step is bottling.
Below is the wort in the fermenter, in the cooler, today.