This is a new section for me. We didn't plan to brew our own beer, but we sort of backed into it, and I found it was fun! For this incarnation of the website, I've included our brewing procedure as well as some of my brew-logs.
We don't drink that much beer, but we enjoy a beer with lunch on a lazy weekend afternoon, and of course we keep it on board for friends who might drop by. When a friend in Fiji gave us everything we'd need to brew our own (see below) we weren't immediately enthused, but it's actually a great deal.
Some of the beer-kits available in Brisbane
In Australia we can buy many different malt-kits for making different types of beer - Lagers, Bitters, Pilsners, Ales, Porters, Stouts, and even Ginger Beers or Apple Cider (with variants of each). Also easily available are all the supplies needed, like Brewers Sugar (usually Sucrose, Dextrose, Light Malt, and/or Maltodextrin - see my discussion on brewing sugars). The sugar costs ~$2.50/kg (what you need for a "batch") and the malt-kits are $6-8 (all prices here are converted to US$). The kits nominally make 23 liters (6 US gallons), but we usually don't bottle the last liter or 2 as they're very yeasty (the dead yeast settles to the bottom during fermentation).
The economics of brewing your own beer in Oz are very compelling. Beer at a bottle shop costs ~US$1.50-2.50 per stubbie bottle ($9-15 per 6-pack). Brewing my own costs about $10 in consumables (mostly the malt-kit, sugar, and some cleaning products) and produces the equivalent of ~60 bottles, bringing the per-bottle cost down to less than $0.20 each (assuming my time has no value and that I can find bottles for free). We haven't seen beer that cheap since South America! But more than that, brewing can be very satisfying - sort of like gardening. With gardening, you plant your seeds, add some water (and as much love/weeding as you want) and these wonderful flowers, fruits, and vegetables grace your life. With brewing, you add $10 of gloop to some water and these wonderful yeasties turn it into beer for you! To top it off, both the vegetables and the beer often taste much better than their mass-produced store-bought equivalents.
Home-brewing with a kit is usually done as a 2-step process, fermentation followed by bottling/priming:
|First, the sugar, malt-kit (malt, hops, etc.) and yeast are mixed with warm water in a "carboy" and allowed to ferment. This fermentation builds the taste and alcoholic content. It usually lasts 3-6 days, depending on the temperature and sugar content. In the tropics, it goes pretty fast.|
|When fermentation slows down and the specific gravity drops from its initial ~1.040 to under 1.010, the beer is ready to be bottled. A small amount of sugar is added to the bottles for priming, which primarily adds the carbonation (alcoholic content usually only goes up ~0.2%).|
There can be several embellishments to these procedures (finning, clarifying, etc.) but that's the rough outline. I've left out the cleaning procedures that go along with these 2 steps, although they can actually take the most time and effort.
There are 2 crucial items to keep in mind when brewing beer, and both can be a challenge on a boat in the tropics:
|Everything must be kept not only clean, but sterile, to avoid the introduction of unwanted yeasts.|
|The "wort" must be kept at the correct temperature range for the yeast,
64°-90°F (18°-32°C) maximum, but for best results 70°-80°F (21°-27°C).
Contents of my Brew Kit:
|Carboy (fermenter):||30 liter (8 gal) plastic jug with a large screw-top and a tap near the bottom|
|Water trap:||Fits in the top of the carboy, to let off excess CO2 while still maintaining a seal|
|Thermal strip:||Liquid crystal thermometer, stuck on side of carboy (not very accurate)|
|Bottle filling tube:||Fits into the carboy valve and fills the bottles from the bottom to minimize foaming|
|Brewing hydrometer:||For measuring specific gravity and therefore alcohol content|
|Measuring spoon:||For dosing bottles with sugar for priming|
|Brewers detergent:||Special detergent that washes off easily, leaving no residue|
|Sodium metabisulfite:||Sterilizing compound (often also used to pickle watermakers)|
|Big bottle brush:||Bottles must be very clean, or you get funky beer|
|Assorted labels:||Not used, as we used plastic soda bottles to save weight (no glass)|
|Capping supplies:||Bottle caps and capper - also not used, as our plastic bottles have screw caps|
Overview of my brews to date: (my overall average alcohol content is 4.59%, or 4.92% for my recent batches)
|Real Ale (#3)||Seychelles||2 Sept 07||9 Sept S||Table||Maldives rain||4.9||My first all-table-sugar batch|
|Aus Pale Ale (#2)||Seychelles||13 July 07||19 July L||BE2||Seychelles||??||Prime with table sugar - works very well. Very nice|
|Real Ale (#2)||Maldives||6 April 07||11 April S||BE2||Salty RO||5.3||OK, but a bit malty for my taste - shouldn't have used BE2|
|Bavarian Lager||N Indonesia||18 Oct 06||24 Oct L||BE2||Watermaker||4.8||Very nice, but still low carbonation|
|Bitter (#2)||Indonesia||17 Aug 06||22 Aug S||BE2||Watermaker||5.3||OK, but a bit malty - shouldn't have used BE2 (but no choice)|
|Draught (#2)||Darwin||15 July 06||21 July L||BE2||Watermaker||4.7||Nice|
|Australian Pale Ale||Keppel Is||31 May 06||8 June S||BE2||Watermaker||4.5||A delicious brew, but still not much carbonation even with +20%|
|Bitter||Brisbane||1 April 06||9 April L||BE1||Brisbane tap||3.7||Very nice! Our best brew to date (and for some time to come)|
|Draught||Brisbane||25 Mar 06||30 Mar S||BE1||Brisbane tap||3.5||Very nice. Carbonation a bit low, even using dextrose|
|Real Ale||Brisbane||17 Jan 06||21 Jan S||Suc/md||Brisbane tap||??||Complete disaster - too hot, wrong priming sugar, undrinkable|
L/S: Large (1.5L) or Small (1.25L) bottles BE1/2: Coopers Brew Enhancer #1 (dextrose and maltodextrin) or #2 (dextrose, malt, and maltodextrin)
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