Sturm Brauerei: Birth of a home brewer

Posted: August 13, 2015 by Franz Solo in Beer Science, Brewology
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Yup, we have another home brewer in the Crew.

Yup, we have another home brewer in the Crew.

From a wish to an idea to the bottled goodness we call beer, this is my tale concerning how I became a home brewer and the adventures I’ve had along the way. Twenty years ago I was in my parents’ home wondering what in the blazes was this odd aroma coming from the kitchen. My father, who has quite the penchant for making things, fixing things, cooking things, growing things all himself, was brewing beer. I recall bottling with him on a fair number of occasions around this time and perhaps a taste or two for my own curiosity.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2015. My wonderful wife had procured a three-gallon stainless steel stock pot for me some months back and I had made quite a few different turkey and chicken broths therein. It dawned on me that I ought to try brewing my own beer since I have a natural proclivity for cooking and enjoy doing so. With advice from the rest of the Brew Crew and a few other brewers I know, I went with Porter Pounder to Southwest Grape and Grain and procured the necessary equipment for brewing. As it turns out, for the basics of doing extract brewing you can purchase all of the necessary items for around $200, including your first batch.

The dunkelweizen in its infancy.

The dunkelweizen in its infancy.

In honor of my German heritage (among many others), I chose to do a dunkelweizen for my first batch. The excitement of brewing my first batch was just outstanding, and the resulting beer, which turned out better than I imagined, is a testament to what I learned from Porter Pounder and others alike.

Just a wee bit of grain for the oatmeal stout.

Just a wee bit of grain for the oatmeal stout.

The second batch was an oatmeal stout into which I added cold-brewed coffee. This one taught me a few lessons about stouts and yeast strains. Mrs. Solo and I followed the kit instructions to the letter and were surprised at the light color of the beer. This was compounded when the brew crashed early and needed a second yeast pitch and a heater (this was in March) to get to the target gravity. One suggestion I received was to steep my grains for longer than the suggested time by about two fold for dark brews and by about half for lighter brews to get maximum flavor and proper color when using extract primarily and only a portion of grain. Having tried this out, it is definitely helpful if one is brewing extract as my later brews have turned out better and better.

All the equipment one needs for brewing and bottling.

All the equipment one needs for brewing and bottling.

On the topic of yeasts, be sure to check what temperature range your yeast likes before pitching as that will help to avoid early crashes such as I experienced. The most important things I learned from these first two batches were cleanliness is godliness (so far I haven’t had a single contaminated batch), knowing the sweet spot on your stove or burner is paramount, knowing which styles demand racking for clarity, and being open to experimentation since that’s where you make a beer your own.

Upon victory, drink thine own beer, listen to metal, celebrate.

Upon victory, drink thine own beer, listen to metal, celebrate.

That’s all for this time, back in a week with more tales of brewing so y’all just chill, until the next episode. (I can neither confirm nor deny that Dre and Snoop have wormed their way back into the typical metal mayhem of my usual playlists.)

Brew on and Prost!

— Franz Solo

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Comments
  1. Kevin says:

    Franz, thanks for the props! Please let me know when you are brewing your next batch and we’ll talk about how to keep the yeast happy so they’ll make better beer. Also give you some tips on steeping your specialty malts.
    Yours brew-ly,
    Kevin Davis
    Southwest Grape and Grain

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