Under this year’s comically large Christmas tree was a big, promising looking box. After the usual fruitless shake’n’weigh, I had to wait until Christmas day before finding, inside the box, a bucket full of empty bottles, tubs, tins, tubes and three very different sets of instructions! My very own home-brew kit.
The kit was for 24 or 40 pints of Pilsner. I’m a big fan of paying over the odds for European lager in the local bar, so receiving a way of making it for a fraction of the price was a great gift.
After a little online research for tips etc, I started brewing up. I followed the instructions that came in the can, more specific to the beer than the two sets floating around inside the box. The only thing of note, really, was the tip: ‘Preferably use boiled and cooled water. This benefits both taste and head of the beer’. So I spent half a day boiling water and letting it cool, alongside the labour intensive cleaning process! The rest of the instructions were standard.
One snag to brewing in Donegal is the cold. 2010 had a very cold start, so I wasn’t guaranteed an ideal temperature for fermenting, so the bucket (fermentation bin, no better a term) was placed in the spare room wrapped in cheap fleece. Not great, but it kept the brew reasonably warm. How warm I don’t know, because I’ve still not managed to get a thermometer.
After 10 days the brew was bottled and placed next to a radiator for secondary fermentation. The radiator was also used for drying sheets, so with bottles under sheets, the result was a warm beer and a cold room. As per the instructions I left the beer clear and improve for between 6 – 8 weeks. Heroically I held off opening for five and a half weeks. It tasted quite nice. I was a little disappointed in the initial flavour (nuts and butter, my girlfriend tells me), being weaker than the commercial stuff I was used to, but after three bottles, we agreed it was a success. Here I must clarify that by weaker I mean the strength of flavour was a little short of commercial pilsner. It was a little weaker in terms of ABV too, but not so much as you’d be able to tell the day after.
However, the reason for this weakness, I think, is because the recipe for the Pilsner was for 12 litres (24 pints) or 20 litres (40 pints). The smaller quantity required just the 1.5kg tin of malt extract and 12 litres of water, whilst the larger quantity required the tin, 20 litres of water and 1kg of sugar to increase the strength. As a result, the way the malt extract was diluted left a weaker, thinner brew. It tastes fine, really, but I think I’ll be more careful next time about being brew greedy!
Thing of note: Pilsner doesn’t taste great from pewter. Must wash it out better!