Brewing better beer (I hope)


My first extract brew sitting in the fermenter

When I started homebrewing in January this year, I made a promise to my wife.
I told her that I’d be sticking to brewing with kits and would stay well away from doing anything with grains and mashing. Too much farting around, I figured. Who wants to spend two hours mashing and boiling stuff on the stove in the kitchen to make beer, when the cans are so quick and easy?
Well, eight months down the track I’ve broken that promise with the latest beer from Staircase Brewery (so named because, as you might be able to make out, the fermenter sits in a cupboard under the stairs at home).
With my wife and daughter out of the house – and the invaluable assistance of the brewer from Rocks Brewing Company on hand to stop me doing anything stupid – I went and cooked up some beer on the stove.
Sure, it was fiddly, and took a lot longer that opening two cans and pouring them into the fermenter with a lot of water. But I was interested in taking that next step, into extract brewing, the very same step that I thought I’d never take.
And the reason I changed my mind was simple – I really like homebrewing and want to get better at it, want to make better beer. In the eight months since I started I’ve realised the flavour limitations that come with using cans as the basis for a beer. Sure I could steep some hops to get flavour and aroma – and made some nice beers that way – but I wanted to see how much the beer changed when you mashed your own grains and boiled it up with some bittering hops.
Even before chucking in the yeast I could taste a difference. Tasting the wort after the first hydrometer reading (which I always do) I noticed that there was more depth of flavour and the presence of the grains was very apparent.
That first extract brew started out as a Little Creatures Rogers clone. But after I tried one of them for the first time in ages and found it less appealing than I remembered, I had to do a little bit of last-minute tinkering. That tinkering was assisted by both Al at my local brew shop and Scotty from Rocks Brewing.
So I went with some Amarillo and Galaxy hops because, dammit, I just love the fruity flavours they impart. And called the brew The Dodger (as in ‘‘Roger the Dodger’’).
From here on in I reckon I’ll switch between the extract brewing – which was nowhere near as difficult as I expected – and making beers from cans.
And I made a promise to my wife that I’ll never go all-grain, simply because our stove at home would give up the ghost at the idea of boiling up 20 litres.
But, there’s every chance that promise will be broken eventually. Scotty has offered the use of his outdoor gas-powering cooking rig any time I want.

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