3 Gallon Cider Experiment

My wife and I traveled to Ireland about a year ago where we found a delicious treat that is not duplicated in the United States. Bulmers (sold in U.S. as Magners), and Cashel were two varieties of hard ciders that are not like their American cousins Hornsby's, and Woodchuck. We found these hard ciders to be crisp, clean and refreshing without excessive use of sweeteners. Since I have not been able to find Magners in our local retailers, I had the idea of making our own version. Sometime in January, our local grocery store was trying to get rid of their final couple of gallons of apple cider for cheap. I grabbed three of them as well as some lager yeast and brown sugar.

Brewing the concoction was easy. I combined 1 gallon of the cider, 2# honey, 1/2# brown sugar, and 8oz molasses into a large pot and heated until the ingredients were mixed well. I poured the "wort" into the carboy and topped off with the remaining two gallons. After 3 weeks in the primary fermenter, we bottled the cider with some priming sugar to give it some carbonation. I did sample some of the still product before bottling and I had mixed feelings. It had certainly made great progress in fermentation as there was a considerable warm mouth feel associated with higher alcohol percentage. In hindsight, I should have taken gravity measurements to determine the final alcohol content, but forgot to while going through the initial processes. Other flavors were present including the sweetness from the honey.

The honey that we like to use around our house and for brewing has a great flavor and, best of all, is harvested in small batches from a family-owned business down the road from my parents in Ohio. It's always great to understand where the product is coming from, especially with ingredients such as honey where the product takes on the flavor of the surrounding environment. It's also exciting to support a small family-owned business that has similar practices.

Back to the cider. There was a smell and flavor that seemed to be that of the yeast that was not that dissimilar to the aromatics of baking yeast. I'm hoping this flavor blends away during the bottle conditioning process. I know that the final product will not be what we experienced in Ireland, but something close is what I'm aiming for. I'll provide an update (with pics) when we crack one of the bottles open. Hopefully, very soon.

Irish Stout (First Brew)

My first brew day occurred in late December 08' when I brewed a 5 gallon batch of Irish stout. This was not the easiest beer to start off on, but it was great for learning from mistakes. Everything went very well in the sanitation, grain steep, boil, chilling. One lesson came from the pitching of the yeast. I should have created a starter which would've re-hydrated the dry yeast with warm water before pitching. Because of this, the fermentation process was slow to start and probably caused some ill effects on the little yeasties. The bigger lesson came when my patience clashed directly with the fermentation process. I pitched the yeast on a Monday and was excited to see the airlock start bubbling within 24 hrs (a sure sign of active fermentation). After two days passed, the airlock activity had completely ceased which I naively took as a sign that fermentation was complete. I decided (with some guidance with the provided instructions) that bottling later that week on Friday would've given the beer plenty of time to ferment and get nice and tasty.

Bottling went very well (with some minor struggles with siphoning equipment). The 5 gallon batch produced about 45 twelve ounce bottles. We stored the beer away from the light, in the basement for about 2 weeks before trying one. The first one was great, and so were the others for that matter. The problem was that the warm, roasted flavors were overshadowed by a bitterness that came through at the back end. In doing some research in some online forums, I found that the bitterness was probably from my beer being green (incomplete fermentation) and probably due to suspended yeast. Friends and family seemed to like the beer, which is really all that matters and was really exciting to hear. But now it is my mission to brew beer that can hold up to anything that people buy commercially and to be able to replicate it at will.

As for that Irish stout, I've got a 12 pack sitting in the basement waiting to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with me and the wife.
This site is dedicated to the brewing of beer and the many topics of interest associated with beer in general. I am working to provide valuable information on the practices I use when brewing beer, reviews of other commercially available beer, and information about many other breweries both large and small. I strive to brew in a way that provides excellent beer to family and friends, while being socially and environmentally responsible. I am relatively new to brewing but already I am finding ways to cut water and energy use. I also am trying to learn about ingredient distributors and their business and/or agricultural practices. I hope to eventually make the switch to primarily all organic ingredients but realize the startup costs are fairly robust. I am excited to begin this new adventure and am even more excited to have the support of family and friends in this endeavor. I hope this site makes you think, laugh, thirsty, or anything other than bored.