Friday, September 08, 2006

Getting the Ball Rolling - John Palmer

To get the ball really rolling I read as much as I could on the internet for a couple of months, then I took the plunge and invested in a decent brewing book. After some advice from a UK web forum – see links – I bought John Palmers How to Brew. This is a real “tome” and fundamentally tackles the hows and why’s of homebrewing beer encompassing some deep science. The book takes you on 3 steps from brewing with malt extract then moving into steeping speciality grains such as crystal malt (to create a more authentic flavour) and finally into all grain mashing. There aren’t a lot or recipes in here but they are excellent recipes and cover all the popular beer styles, by the time you’ve understood the book you’ll be more than well equipped to confidently make your own recipes.

My own aim is to brew some fine Lagers once I’ve eventually got the hang of all grain brewing.

A Good Start

Starting off making Bitters using malt extract is a good idea for several reasons. The beer can be fermented and matured at room temperature and great bitters can be made using malt extract which is straight forward to work with. The stronger flavours of bitters mean that it’s more forgiving, you are more likely to achieve a drinkable beer even if you make a few small mistakes.

Basic Skills & Calculations

Working out hop utilisations is essential. GCSE maths will get you through the straightforward calculations. The reason this is so important is that quite often, particularly with American recipes, the hop variety specified can not be found and a substitute has to be made. The substitute will nearly always have a different Alpha Acid content (% AAU) and so the weight of hops you use will have to be altered to make up for this.

To keep things simple I decided to stop fighting it and stick with using the recipes often “old fashioned units,” each of Palmers recipes makes 5 US gals and this is fortunately the same as 1 Cornelius 19L keg so it suits me fine. Converting weights and measures all the time is one of the most likely sources of confusion/ mistake in a recipe so I decide to just follow the units in the recipes.

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