From the HBD Archive
From: hplabs!utah-cs!!raven!rcd (Dick Dunn)
Subject: extract brews, stirring, aging, etc.
Date: 1989-02-22 07:22:31 GMT

For the complaint about lack of extract recipes, all I can say is: take
heart. There are a few people who insist that you can't make good beer
without doing your own mashing. They're snobs; they're also wrong...and
fortunately, they're also in the tiny minority among homebrewers. Mashing
gives you more control and a lot more possibilities, but the Holy Grail it
ain't. For what it's worth, I've been brewing off and on for a decade--
no mashing. (I've done extract brews and meads.) I've had a couple of
very successful barley wines made with extracts.

There are various basic recipes for extract beers all over the place, but
beyond that, just experiment! Play with different combinations of light
and dark malts; add specialty stuff; play with hops and see what that does.
Make your own recipes. It's really not that hard.
_ _ _ _ _

Regarding T. Andrews' comments on a fermentation which seemed to slow or
not go, then take off after some stirring:
> You did the right thing. There are tree things which suggest
> themselves as possible reasons for the problem:
> (a) you didn't stir the yeast in when pitching
This is not so likely. Yeast added at the top of a brew will likely find
something to eat somewhere.
> (b) you hadn't gotten any oxygen in there before pitching
This can slow things down, and may give you a slight unusual taste, but
won't really stop things. It's particularly unlikely if you boil only part
of the batch and then add clean tap water to top up, since there's usually
a fair amount of air in tap water unless you boil it.
> (c) most likely: the top wasn't on there firmly, and the
> CO2 was leaking out around the edge...
A good bet with this type of fermenter.

There's a fourth possibility--and it's something which causes two sorts of
perplexity: If you boil a small part of the batch (say, less than 1/2),
cool, and mix with water to bring up to volume, it's possible to get a
serious stratification in the fermenter due to SG and temperature
differences. Unless you actually get the fermentation going well, you
don't get the agitation to stir things up and break the layers. I've seen
this confound both fermentation and SG readings (which are usually taken
from the top).
_ _ _ _ _

> Light makes beer skunky. Sunlight or artificial, direct or indirect, light
> will have an effect on beer...

True, although incandescent is the least damaging and sunlight the most.
It seems to be the short wavelengths that cause the problem, although I'd
like to see some controlled experiments.
_ _ _ _ _

> ...I am quite surprised that homebrewing books, especially those
> oriented toward novices, don't emphasize the importance of allowing
> your brew to age before drinking. In fact, many state that homebrews
> need to be drunk young...

and also

> Which brings us to aging. My intermediate-level experience is: let that
> stuff age for at least two months from primary to first taste. Longer is
> better. My brew always improves over time. By the last bottle I usually
> wish I had let the entire batch sit for four months...

We seem to go 'round this one in both and the mailing list
every few months. In fact, although there are a few beer types which
actually improve with age, most don't. Beer is perishable and best
consumed fresh.

Let me talk about ales in particular, since lagers obviously have some
aging in the brewing process. After an ale is brewed, fermented, and
bottled (or kegged), the only time it needs is enough to carbonate and
clear. This is a matter of days. As soon as it's ready, serve it!! There
are tastes which are going off from the minute it's done. If your beer
takes a long time to be "ready" to drink, it means that you're getting rid
of some off taste, since there are other things going downhill (unless you
happen to like stale beer:-). In this case, you probably need to find out
what you're doing in the brewing that is keeping your beer from being
drinkable young. I think the homebrew books want to get you to the point
where you can make a beer that you can enjoy while it's still fresh, alive,
and young--something you can rarely do with a commercial beer. I suggest
(in my eternal optimism) that it is the prospect of fresh beer, and not the
promise of instant gratification, that makes homebrew texts recommend
little aging. Since most homebrewers start with ales (for simplicity and
better chance of success), there is no reason to age.

I made a beer for a party last year. I got a late start on it, so it was
served just 16 days after brewing...and it was a very good beer (IMHO!:-).
It was racked at day 4 and bottled at day 8, so it was in bottle for 8
days when it was served! I have a few bottles left, and I tasted one this
evening as a check. It is still a good beer after almost a year (it was
brewed 3/2/88), sound, tasty and all, but it's not fresh the way it was at
the party.

There are two possibly offsetting problems: process and contamination.
You can make mistakes in process which require age to mellow out; you can
get contamination which gets worse with age. I suggest that most of us
went through a stage of getting rid of contamination, after which our beers
would tolerate aging without some nasty crud growing in them. But once we
got to where our beers were good enough to *allow* aging, we didn't go back
and fix the things that made them *require* aging.

>...The point is, an IPA I brewed on New Year's
> day was very bitter and still yeasty two or three weeks after
> bottling...

Hmmm..."yeasty" is a wrong term. Yeast does not impart a taste to beer; if
you have a taste you want to call yeasty, that's just power of suggestion.
There's really something else going on. As to bitter--and I assume you
mean something other than the proper bitterness of hops since you know what
an IPA is!--the most common cause is extracting tannins from the husks of
specialty grains and malts, which happens if you boil them. This is also
suggested by the fact that it ages out. For the benefit of anyone just
tuning in, especially extract brewers: DON'T BOIL THE GRAINS!!! Extract
the goodies by steeping well below boiling temperature; add the liquid to
the boil but discard the spent grain.

> My beers seem to get smoother with age and even just plain ales don't
> show any signs of deterioration after many months. If anything, they
> may get a little drier.

The slight drying with age is commonly noted. It is to be expected, and if
you are brewing beers to age (such as barley wines), it is a Good Thing.
It comes from very slow continued fermentation of mostly-non-fermentable
sugars. If your beers don't deteriorate over a matter of months, that's a
good sign that you've got clean process.

> What is the general consensus on aging?

I don't think there is one...but there are lots of opinions, and mine is
that for ales, you shouldn't need to age.

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