As I write, I’m licking my lips at our beautifully handcrafted IPA, cracked for the first time only a few short hours ago.

It was all worth it.

Every drop of blood, sweat, tears and every dollar invested.

This is quite possibly the best beer I’ve ever tasted.

The robust 6.5% ABV combined with a fragrance of few fresh hops grown on site has created a virtual 90’s house party in my mouth.

Maybe it’s because I expected this to fail, being our first attempt. But the opposite happened, we actually made beer that tastes good!

Here’s how it transpired since we rolled the Chinese brewing equipment into the refurbished shed a few weeks ago:

As I mentioned in my previous update, the thing didn’t have any way of connecting power. No cord, plug or hint of how to power it up. We all had a crack at trying to find how to plug it in, but to no avail, when I enquired with Alice, my beloved Chinese manufacturer, it turns out they decided not to install an outlet because they weren’t quite sure what we used in Australia… for real. Ok, whatever… cheap lazy mf’s.

Off to Mitre 10. I rigged up a 10amp wire and crossed all my fingers and toes as I turned flicked the switch… Success!

We spent the next hour trying to work out what valve, pipe, pump, dial and button did what. Only to be met with multiple wire trips when both heating elements were powered up, plus my 10amp cable was becoming warm, bordering on hot. Perfect for warming our hands, but maybe not the best choice to run the machine.

A quick call to the sparky, a 32amp dedicated circuit installed, a fat daddy cable running to the machine (and a $1,000 bill) and we were away. For about 30mins… Another power trip… this time on the machine.

Photo I sent to Alice explaining how I couldn’t turn the second heating element on without power tripping

So I hit up my beloved Alice again and it turns out the 32amp breaker in the machine wasn’t powerful enough. To her credit, she mailed me a new 60amp breaker within a week. Another call to the sparky to put in the replacement and we were back in action.

Our first brew day was finally here!

The recipe is an IPA the old man concocted a little while ago, which has been a hit with everyone, so it seemed like a good way to start.

Grain: Barret Burston Ale, Vienna, Cara-pils and medium crystal.

Hops: Magnum for bittering & Centennial for flavour and aroma

Yeast: Wyeast ESB Ale 1968

The old man & Roger cracked the grain using Alice’s grain mill that came with the equipment. One of the most violent machines I’ve ever used. At first I assumed there was something wrong due to the deafening sound and the fact it always turned on when I plugged it in.

Earphones not required if you lived through the rock & roll era.

No no, that’s just what it is – very very loud, with no on/off switch (switches are such a waste of money aren’t they?). That being said, it did the job and we had 25kg of grain perfectly cracked within about 10mins.

After we thoroughly cleaned and sanitised every vessel, hose and valve, we filled the brewhouse/kettle to the brim, which equated to 135 litres. Then we added the grain to the kettle whilst it overflowed and made a huge mess, like a couple of fools unfamiliar with the laws of cubic capacity.

Mash for 60 mins at 66 degrees, with hops added at 15-minute intervals.

Way to mum… Where’s that kids safety goggles?

Then another 15mins at 76 degrees to extract and liquefy the sugars.

Once that’s done, we lifted the grain using the included stainless basket with the use of a very handy hoist, because it’s damn hot and really damn heavy, then boiled for a further hour.

After the boil, we used the mash pump to whirlpool the wort (wort is what we call the sugary liquid before it turns into beer), let it settle, then sucked out the crap from the bottom of the kettle ready to send to the fermenter.

This is where shit gets real. 

Getting the wort into the fermenter and cooled to 20degrees or below using our heat exchanger.

Screwing this part of the process up could lead to:

  • Burns
  • Infected beer
  • Dead yeast
  • Embarrassment

I repeatedly played the scenario out in my mind like a pilot going through their checklist before take off.

Pump on, valve shut, valve open, hose attached, clamp tightened, valve open, lid closed, tap on, valve shut… ok, we’re ready.

As the scolding wort flowed through the heat exchanger and landed in the fermenter at a cool 17degrees I gave myself a high five, while frantically circling the machine to check it was still working.

#winning

The wort (soon to be beer) made it to the fermenter intact, yeast added, lid closed. Now we wait 14 days…

Photo taken at about day 7

Which brings us to the present day.

Sugar content (gravity) started at 1.065 on the hydrometer and finished at 1.015 giving us an alcohol content of around 6.5% according to a random website I found on Google.

Sounds about right!?

I sucked the flat cold beer into a few 20L kegs, jammed some C02 into one and shook it for about 5 mins to “force carbonate” ready for the first taste test.

Normally it takes a few days for beer to carbonate, but we didn’t have that long. In preparation for the event, I watched a few  YouTube video’s where bearded guys shook their fresh kegs filled with CO2 to produce beautifully heady beer, so it seemed like the go, and it was!

Bloody hell, real-life beer with real-life bubbles was pouring into my real-life glass in front of my eyes. It was like seeing my son born all over again, not really… but a little bit.

And there you go, the world’s first Bucketty’s Brewery IPA is born!

 

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