Ever since I met my friend Phil, I’ve had the itch to make my own beer. Phil has been brewing his own beer, cider, and other fermented potables for a while now, and assured me it wasn’t terribly difficult. At the time, Virginia and I were living in a one-bedroom apartment, so I didn’t really have a good place to brew. Once we moved to St. John’s, it was a whole different story.
My first few experiments in fermenting were ciders. They were made with a simple mix of store-bought apple juice, sugar, a bit of black tea for tannins, and a packet of champagne yeast. Since I was new to fermentation in general, the first few batches were a bit…unrefined. Still, nothing I made was foul or undrinkable, soit seemed like a good time to take it up a notch.
Deciding on a beer style was a tough decision, since both Virginia and I like a wide variety of beers. In the end, a pilsner seemed like a good bet, since summer is fast approaching. I picked up the kit, along with a few extra bits of hardware and some fantastic advice, from Brewery Lane. The kit was manufactured by RJS Craft Winemaking, and is from their Brew House line.
After cleaning and sterilizing the required equipment, I started mixing up the ingredients. The nice thing about the Brew House kits is that the wort is concentrate-in-a-bag, so you only need to add a bit of Potassium Bicarbonate to balance the acidity, and some water to bring the volume up. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of adding 8 cups of water, instead of 8 litres. Luckily, the team at Brewery Lane helped me realize the error, and assured me that adding the remaining water within the first day or so would be fine. The Specific Gravity (SG) measured 1.052, which was still a bit higher than expected, but a LOT closer to the right value.
The instructions that came with the kit indicated that within about 5 days, the beer should be moved from the primary fermenter (the bucket) to the secondary fermenter (a glass carboy), and that the SG should be at 1.020 or lower. On Day 8 (yes, a bit late) I siphoned off the beer, and then took a measurement. 1.031? That seemed wrong. In retrospect, I should’ve measured before moving the beer to the secondary. Anyway, I proceeded to put the airlock in place, and crossed my fingers.
On Day 9, I went down and took a look at the beer. I was hoping to see at least a little bit of activity – some bubbles on the surface, maybe a little bit of movement in the airlock. Unfortunately, the beer seemed pretty much still. After some discussion with some friends on Facebook, as well as the team at Brewery Lane, I decided to re-pitch the beer with a fresh batch of yeast. Day 10 arrived, and after another round of gear sterilization, I transferred the beer from the secondary fermenter to the primary, agitated the beer, and pitched a freshly rehydrated pouch of Nottingham yeast.
After a few days, I went and checked on the SG…and it was only down to 1.021. Darn! Samples on the following few days showed the same SG, so it seemed like it might be time to bottle. After conferring with the forums over at HomeBrewTalk, I decided that bottling should happen.
Boy, did I end up side tracked! Since my parents were coming from out-of-town to visit for a few days, Virginia and I were focused on getting things done around the house, which meant that the bottling had to be put on the back burner (figuratively, of course).
While the beer waited for my life to get slightly less hectic, I picked away at a related project – designing the label. My previous adventures in fermentation had been poorly (if at all) marked, and I was determined to do a better job this time. While browsing Facebook, I came across the mention of calling beers “Monday” so that it would be ok to have a case of the Mondays. That really struck my funny bone, so I decided to call my beer The Monday Pilsner.
The kit instructions indicated that bottling could/should happen on Day 20. Well, I overshot that a bit – Day 44, it was finally time to bottle! The kit came with 190 g of dextrose, which the instructions said to mix with 1 cup of boiling water. I’ve read that the amount of dextrose that comes with some kits is a bit much, and I like a low-carbonated beer (most of the time, anyway), so I decided to scale it back to 110 g. With the dextrose solution in the bottom, I got started on transferring the beer back to the primary fermenter. Everything on the bottling front went quite well. In fact, I think the bottling might have almost been the easiest part of the whole thing!
By the time all the bottling was done, I had just over 20 L of beer. Here’s the breakdown: