Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Going All-Grain

My brother David went to a NOmeansno show back in Spring 2005. After the show, he made his way over to their merch table to see the goods. Among all the albums and t-shirts he found something just a bit unusual…a home made video about making home made beer. Looks like these legendary punk rockers were also big into brewing their own beer! And they were doing it all-grain!

So David bought the video as a bit of a surprise. Its a rad video. It clearly shows the punk rock way to make beer…which is pretty much the same way anyone else would make the stuff, but they’re punk rockers, and infuse the video with their own punk songs about brewing beer. It’s a must see. Oh, the only way you'd see it is to go to their show, or ask me to lend it to you. Thanks to Mr. John Hanson's video, I am now an all-grain brewer.

All-grain brewing totally rocks! The BIG difference is that with all-grain brewing you are in total control of the malt profile (aroma, taste & color) in the finished beer. My experience with malt extract has resulted in a similar “fruity” malt flavor and aroma no matter what style of beer I tried to make. On the contrary, all of the all-grain batches taste completely different, and much closer to what the style calls for. It’s a lot more fun, it requires a better understating of the large variety of malts, and the finished beer tastes loads better.

For our first batch, I decided to go with the recipe they had on the video. Its a light Scottish style, and very simple. This beer came out great!

Johnny's Rockin' Ale
Approx. 4.5%

7.5 lbs. Pale Malt (2-row)
0.5 lbs. Crystal Malt
2.0 oz. Chocolate Malt
2.0 oz. N. Brewer Hops (Pellets), 60min.
Irish Moss & Gypsum
Dry Yeast
Cost: Under $20
(about 30 cents per bottle)

Much like music or art, creative choices implemented within every step of the all-grain procedures provides the opportunity to express myself fully. In the beginning, I had to familiarize myself with it through practice. I was adjusting to the "science" and methodology of it all. After gaining experience with technicalities of many different beer styles, I now understand and appreciate the finer elements/variables. Using the AG method, I'm in total control over how the finished beer will taste. I'm sure bakers, coffee roasters, and other culinary artisans feel similarly. It is really a great feeling. And at this point I see how artistic expression is starting to blend with the practical/scientific element.

AG brewing is surely a more lengthy process, but it's much more fun and rewarding. I especially appreciate the assistance of my brother David and old HS friend Brian Mateja (they are always ready to help out). We're like a team that can easily work through difficulties and tighten productivity. Most of all, the finished beer is usually quite good. Most beers I make don't have outstanding negative traits, but I do have some areas to improve on...mainly malty, hop aroma, and alcoholic presence.

After a couple years of AG brewing, I've become a little more "scientific." It seems to be a natural inclination due to the required attention at every step in the process. After brewing experimental batches, I see how my beers can take on a sort of "artistic" expression. I plan to explore and write about these topics of "science" and "art" as it applies to our beers. I welcome everyone back to read those in the future..

Thanks for checking out my brewing journal. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed putting it together. It's definitely fun writing about brewing in between brewing. I plan on keeping up with it often. I'm also looking forward to changing the scope by periodically adding posts about bread making and fermenting foods such as kimchi, krauts, pickling and kombucha.

1 comment:

Travis said...

Agreed...I held off on the AG until this past December (maybe late November) and I am glad I waited, but I love AG.

It was a big benefit for me to hold off until brewing extract became a little "too easy" for me and I felt the need for the next level. Now that I have everything dialed in on my AG, I am a happy man.