Specialty grains, waiting to be steeped.
After our initial homebrewing success, we decided we wanted to step up our game! Brewer's Best has a line of homebrew kits perfect for newbies like us who want a bigger challenge than those straight extracts, but aren't quite ready venture out on our own with an all-grain recipe. We chose an imperial pale ale and got to brewing!
Kit Contents: These kits come with all the ingredients you need, pre-measured, along with grain bags and instructions. This kit uses extract for the base, but has you add special malts and hops for better flavor and more hands-on experience. A kit like this is still walking you through every step, but you get more of a feel for the whole process.
Our kit contained:
• Three Specialty Malts - Crushed Crystal Malt, Crushed Dextrine Malt, and Crushed Victory Malt
• Malt Extract - "Golden Light" malt extract (concentrated malt syrup) and a packet of dried malt extract
• Corn Sugar
• Hops - The kit used all Columbus hops, but they were separated into three packets to be added at different points during the boil for bittering, flavoring, and aroma purposes.
• Yeast - Safale US-05 Dry Ale Yeast
• Priming Sugar
The Process: We started out with boiling 2.5 gallons of water. As you can see, we'll need to invest in a bigger pot pretty soon! Once the water came to a boil, we steeped the specialty malts at around 160° for 20 minutes. The specialty malts were then removed.
Next, we brought the liquid (wort) back up to a boil and added in the malt extracts along with the first dose of hops. After 30 minutes, we added the second dose of hops, and after 55 minutes, we added the last packet.
Adding the hops at separate points in the boil like this affects the final flavors and aromas of the beer in different ways. Various compounds in the hops break down or are released depending on how long they've been cooked. To be honest, we're still a little fuzzy on the science of this!
Once the wort was finished boiling and all the hops had been added, all we had left to do was get it cooled down and mix it with some extra water to get about 5 gallons of total beer. We pitched the yeast and let it ferment away!
Original and Final Gravity: The original gravity of the beer (taken right after brewing) and the final gravity (taken after fermentation is complete) are used to determine your beer's alcohol content. Our original gravity came in at 1.070, a bit lower than the information in the kit instructions predicted.
Our final gravity at the time of bottling was 1.015. Using a handy formula, we determined that our alcohol by volume (ABV) would be around 7.2%. This is still a little lower than the kit predicted, but we were satisfied. Tinkering with the recipe to get an ABV closer to what you want is definitely possible, but that's still a little beyond our skill at this point. Baby steps!
Tasting the Finished Beer: It's hazy amber brown in color with a surprisingly decent head of tight foam. The aroma is floral and distinctly hoppy, and the taste follows suit. It's bitter and refreshing, with a good dose of thick malts to give it some body and balance the hoppiness. This is a fairly straight-forward beer without a lot of subtly or nuance, but the flavors are clean and crisp.
We definitely felt like giving ourselves a pat on the back for this beer! It's not going to win any awards any time soon, but it's been a good beer to come home to at the end of a long day.
Overall: For us, this kit was great for guiding us through the steps of mashing and hopping our own beer. We have a much better grasp of how it would be to start playing around with recipes or do an all-grain mash (using no malt extract). We were very pleased with the final product, too!
Have you done any of the Brewer's Best kits? Any other similar kits to recommend?
Related: Beer Guide: All About Pale Ale
(Images: Emma Christensen)