2 Posts, in 2 days? Unheard of, I know. Especially since I went almost a year without posting anything before. However, with my renewed interest and passion for home brewing, I have a feeling I will be posting more frequently than before. Having said that...
As you know from my last post, I made a beer that I am quite proud of and I called it 'the best beer I have ever made'. While it may have been as simple as just mixing two cans of extract together, I am quite sure it is what sparked my renewed passion for brew making. It was after first tasting this batch that my mind started to run, not only with ideas, but also with an eagerness to learn more about the processes of making different types of beer. I've picked up more literature to read, I watch more videos, and I scan the different forums for tips and ideas that may help me on my way. I can see myself becoming an all grain brewer within the next year. For now though, I am quite content to take the baby steps necessary in the learning process, and "enjoy the fruits of my labour" as they say.
So, after making the CanAm, I knew this was a brew I needed to have on hand at all times. This is a brew I can enjoy year round, and also a beer that I think can be enjoyed by friends and family with differing taste preferences.
The problem was, the batch I made was only 8 litres, and while that does translate to 23 regular big brand type bottles, it's also $40 for the ingredients. Which is a lot, to me, for home brew. I don't like paying 40 bucks for 24 major brand brews, never mind 40 bucks to make my own.
As most of us extract brewers know, Coopers of Australia bought out Mr Beer about a year ago, maybe more. So with that in mind, I knew the extracts that made my CanAm ale were made by the same company which sells extracts in 1.7kg cans instead of the Mr Beer sized 850g cans, and the larger cans sell for less than two dollars more. So for about the same price of what my CanAm would cost me for to make an 8 litre batch, I can make a 24 litre batch. Crazy right? Well.... the crazy part is, not all of the Coopers extracts are named exactly the same as the Mr Beer extracts. Sure, both brands have a Canadian Blonde, and a Mexican Cerveza and an Irish Stout. What both brands don't have however, is a Classic American Light. Why? I have no idea. The only reason I can come up with is that they brand the Mr Beer extracts for styles familiar to Americans, and the Coopers brands are more for Australians and/or Europeans.
So, I hit the internet. There are a few home brew forums that I visit on a daily basis (sometimes hourly), and two of these are the BeerBorg and the Coopers forums. The borg is made up of a lot of intelligent and experienced home brewers who are familiar with the Mr Beer kits and recipes, while the Coopers forums are, as you would guess, made up of people experienced in the Coopers kits and recipes.
I posted questions about how to best make Mr Beer recipes with Coopers ingredients. The answers I got were quite helpful, and some people even posted things I hadn't even thought to ask... like what UME is best used in place of another ingredient. There was no consensus on the Classic American Light though, so I had to do more digging. I visited the sites of both companies and tried to decipher which large can best matched the smaller can in style, IBU's and SRM's. I finally came up with one of two possibilities, either a can of Coopers Light LME, or a can of Coopers Pilsener. The Pilsener option I was less in favour of.
Off to my LHBS I went. I was 99% sure I was going in for a can of the Blonde and the Light LME. My only nagging thought was, what do I do about the hops I would lose by using the Light, unhopped, LME instead of the Mr Beer American Light HME? Only thing I could think of would be to add hops after primary fermentation, so I was going to pick up a couple of ounces of hops and maybe ask for a suggestion from the LHBS owner or employee.
--side note-- I love my Local Home Brew Store! They have everything a home brewer could want or need. The owner has been brewing for over 20 years. His employee is also a home brewer, although I don't know for how long, but she seems to know her stuff. With that being said... I do not trust these people with my extract recipes. I have come in with questions a few times and every time I come away with an answer that the guys on the forums all say is WRONG! example.... lhbs people say to boil my HME. It is CLEARLY written in the extract instructions NOT to boil HME, because you will lose the hop additions already in the extract, and maybe something else (I don't remember), the guys on the forums also all agree on this. That being said....
I walked into my lhbs and grabbed the Coopers Blonde, and then took a minute to find and grab the Light LME. By the time I had the two cans, the employee had come around asking if I needed help. I explained my predicament of wanting to make a larger version of my CanAm and that I was going to use the two cans I had in my hands, but I wasn't sure about the hops. First, she said the Light LME was the wrong way to go, and that I should go with the Lager..... my brain went "huh?". At no point had I used a Lager type extract in my CanAm, but okay, let's continue this train of thought/advice... So I said, okay a can of Blonde and a can of Lager, I can try that. Then she caught me completely off guard when she asked if I was making a ten gallon batch. My brain went into self doubt mode. "No", I said, "I'm making it all in my Coopers fermenter". She said that was too much extract for one 5 gallon batch. Again... self doubt.... Her explanation was that I shouldn't use more than one can of extract per batch, I don't remember her reasoning because by this time I had fallen into the -I'll do whatever the person selling the stuff tells me- mode. Instead, she suggested a pound of Light Dried Malt Extract. Why? I remember asking what the difference between adding Liquid Malt Extract and Dried Malt Extract was and she explained that the DME would add more body without taking up as much volume. And I would only be using a pound of DME as opposed to 1.7kg of LME. Again, confusion. But I went with it, because of my own self doubt. I then went on to ask about hop additions and she sold me some Chinook hops and agreed with my dry hopping idea. Finally, I was right about something. I took my can of Blonde, my 3 pound bag of light dme (which they kindly separated into 3-1 pound bags) and my Chinook hops, and went home, happy that I had spent less than I expected and that maybe I had been turned in the right direction of replicating my CanAm in a 23 litre version.
I got home, still unsure about what I had just been told at the lhbs and, again, hit the internet forums. I posted the results of my recent shopping trip and asked if I had just been mislead. The answer? A resounding YES! There was no reason to think that I could not mix two cans of extract in my 5 gallon fermenter, in fact most brewers had done this multiple times, and still do it... and after thinking about it, I realized I had already mixed two cans of extract in a single fermenter to make the original CanAm! ARRRRRGH!!!!!
I resolved to use the ingredients I had anyways. After all, what else was I going to use it for?
Step one... clean and sanitize everything my beer was going to come in contact with. Done.
Step two... boil water. Done.
Step three... add DME to boil. I decided to use 2 pounds of DME instead of the suggested 1 because I was ready to use 1.7kg of LME in my original idea. Something I wasn't aware of.... when adding dried malt extract to boiling water, be ready to lift the pot off the heat while waiting for the stove top to drop in temp a little to create a rolling boil. If you're not ready for this, your brand new stove will suddenly be covered in a sticky mess. Luckily The Planner heard me cursing and came to the rescue of cleaning the still wet stove top while I tried to concentrate on not losing too much of my boiling malt. Eventually, the boil levelled off and I was able to stir the mixture until it was satisfactory.
Step four... remove boiling water/wort from heat and stir in Blonde extract. Done.
Step five... pour wort mixture into waiting fermenter that already had a few litres of cold spring water in it. Done.
Step six... add more cold spring water to fermenter until it reaches 23 litres. Done.
Step seven... check temperature to make sure it is cool enough for yeast addition. Add yeast. Done.
Take gravity reading... OG 1.032
That's it. the brew is made. I put the lid on the fermenter, put water in my airlock and moved the fermenter to the brew closet to sit for a week or two (until the airlock stops bubbling) and then I'll add my hops for the dry hop process and let it sit for another week.
I don't know how this brew will turn out, but I am doubtful it will be a replica of my CanAm. I can only wait and see. I can tell you that I plan to go back to the lhbs and purchase the ingredients I had originally intended on and brew what I want as soon as this batch is in the bottles.