Monthly Archives: March 2007

“The yeast died!” — A first batch brewing story

Brewing can be a nerve-wracking endeavour when you’re starting out. Here’s a story from our first batch, since dubbed “Passable Porter.”

We did the brew on Saturday. Happy little newbies that we were, we thought we’d done a pretty well. No major screw-ups, nothing spilled or contaminated.

We shuttled the bucket off to the utility room, uncertain of whether it would make a serious mess or smell bad (it was our first batch–brews have since moved inside). Since the inception of the brewing plans, that room had been the intended home for our beer. But one thing we hadn’t thought through was the temperature. It was actually quite a bit colder there in October than might have been good. Regardless, we set the bucket there, and by Sunday the yeast had taken off. Oh the joy of hearing that burbling!

Monday rolled around, and I headed in to work. It was a normal day until the phone rang. My wife had called to tell me that the beer had gone silent. Not slowing like we’d expected, but a dead stop already.

Panic! I remembered reading about beer perking away for days, sometimes even weeks. What could have happened? I immediately suspected the utility room was at fault. It had gotten awfully cold overnight. That must have killed the yeast. I forgot entirely that some yeasts can even be frozen without harm. I was certain the cold had brought our fermentation to a premature end.

What a terrible afternoon. The joy of completing our first successful brew turned sour in my mouth. I fretted about it until I got off work, and finally broke down and called the folks at Main Street.

Turns out that it isn’t unusual for a batch to only go for a day, especially with the type of dry yeast we were using. We moved the porter to the secondary, bottled and eventually sampled. It wasn’t perfect–merely passable–but despite my nervousness, the yeast had not died.

Brown in bottles, Porter in the pot

Although the blog may have gone quiet for a bit, the brewing certainly hasn’t around here. This past weekend we started up our fifth batch–a redux on the initial porter, which we badly botched since we didn’t add enough water back.

Our last effort, the brown, has been in bottles for a couple weeks, but hasn’t gotten the real taste-test yet. The first sip we took at bottling time was okay, and has us wondering what the end product will taste like. However, time does a significant amount to change the character of any home-brewed beer, so I’m still hopeful.

The past month or so of sitting has done a lot to enhance the Trappist-style ale. A lot of the sharpness has worn off. It has a significantly fruity taste, a sweet bubble-gum/banana smell (which is the hallmark of this type of brew), and only a bit too much hoppy bitterness that’s out of the ordinary.

More brewing stories here to come, but for the moment I’m just going to savor the sound of the porter bubbling away in the next room. Ahh, it’s like beautiful music.