I got a homebrew starter pack from Santa this year and on the 2nd of January I brewed my first batch. I’m using a brew kit from Woodforde’s Brewery in Norfolk. It is one of those where all you need to do is add water and yeast but so far the enterprise has not been wholly successful.
The 25 litre fermentation bucket that came with starter pack did not come with an airlock. But the book on brewing I’m consulting simply assumes that you will use an airlock and repeatedly cautions about the importance of keeping dust and bacteria out of your beer. So of course I fretted for ages about whether it is even possible to brew without an airlock. Turns out it’s fine. If the lid on the fermentation bucket is shut (but not completely sealed) the fermenting wort produces CO2 and the pressure of escaping CO2 keeps the particles of dust and bacteria and other nasties out of the mix. Hooray! Problem overcome.
One of my problems has been temperature. I placed the fermentation bucket in the understairs cupboard against the wall which has, on the other side of it, one of our horrid night-storage heaters. But you may remember that the first fortnight of the new year was really cold, and the ambient temperature in our house only reached 16’C at floor level (where the barrel was). This is a good bit less than the 18-20’C stipulated in the instructions. As a result, I left it fermenting for two weeks, rather than 6-8 days.
The next obstacle was that our water supply was cut off just at the point when I had decided to take the beer out of the fermentation bucket and put it in the pressure barrel to condition it. So the beer stayed right where it was.
Happily our water has been restored and on Saturday last I put it in the pressure barrel and then moved it to a warmer place, the hot press (as I may say now I live in Ireland. You foreigners can say ‘hot water cupboard’), which all advise against, but I figured if our house is so cool, perhaps only the hot press will be warm enough. In any case, it also wasn’t that warm and the barrel temperature gauge never looked like going over 18’C.
But alas, that wasn’t the last of the problems. The seal around the spigot on the pressure barrel is leaking and beer is seeping out. I discovered this today when I went to move it to the garden shed to complete the conditioning process where it is nice and cold. Probably no more than a cup has leached out since Saturday, but it’s a bit of a disappointment as it means the beer will not get carbonated.
Today I’ve ordered some bottles online and when they come I’ll transfer it to those to complete the conditioning process.
With all the problems I’ve had, I do still look forward to tasting the results in a couple of weeks time (only with some trepidation).