Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Engagement/Valentine's Day American Ale

Valentine's Day is my lady's favorite holiday. I planned on popping the question months in advance, and when she suggested we make her favorite holiday coincide with brew day, I was excited. We brewed a basic American Ale, with more grain than we've ever used before (62.3 percent of the fermentables!) I proposed during the cooling period, and she accepted.  Then we went to Elsa's and ate like gluttons and drank Bad Juans (strong but tasty margaritas!) Here's the recipe, followed by a pictorial tutorial:

UPDATE 3/8/10:
Bottling time!  We bottled this last night, so the Final Gravity and bottling pictures are below.  And it meets BJCP guidelines for American Pale Ale!  Success!

VD American Ale

Original Gravity: 1.062

Final Gravity: 1.015
ABV: 6.17%

5 lbs US Pale 2 row Malt
1 lb US Victory Malt
0.25 lb US Carapils Malt
3.3 lbs Briess Golden Light Liquid Malt Extract
0.5 lb generic honey


US Cascade 7.5 % 1.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops 60 Min From End
US Cascade 7.5 % 1.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops 10 Min From End

Safale US-05

1 tsp Irish Moss at 15 Min From End

Left to right: 3.3 lbs Golden Light Liquid Malt Extract, 2 oz Cascade pellet hops, grains milled at brew shop (5 lbs Pale Malt, 1 lb Victory Malt, .25 lbs Carapils Malt), dry yeast, Irish Moss, Iodophor (sanitizer), honey

First we used 2 clips to secure our super large straining bag, partially rolled up, into our 22 quart kettle.

We heated 2.5 gallons of water in the giant pot on our tiny stove until it reached 164 degrees Fahrenheit, then shut off the power. This is called the strike temperature because...'s that temperature before the grains strike! We heated to 164, calculating that with our grains at the kitchen's ambient temperature (65 degrees), we would get a 152-153 degree mash.

After pouring all our grains in the bag and stirring to break up any clumps, we took a temperature reading, and were right on the money with 153 degrees Fahrenheit. So we put a lid on it, wrapped a towel around it (all to maintain the heat for the full 60 minute mash), and drank a homebrew!

Of course, I had her pose in front of the kettle with the mash paddle first.

This was some of our first 2.5 gallon batch from after Christmas (thanks for the carboy Sandy!), a Dry Stout. It's thick and roasty, with a strong bitterness reminiscent of burnt coffee. With an ABV of 4.1%, it's a good beer to drink when a strong taste is desired, but the day is still young.

After the 60 minute mash we had to remove the grains to pour the first runnings into a bucket. I lifted out the swollen grain sack, and put it in this severely undersized drip-catcher,

poured the wort into a bucket,

and started heating another 2.5 gallons of water in the pot for the sparge. Once the water was around 180 degrees, I transferred the grain bag into the water to extract as much remaining sugar as we could from the grains.

As we waited on the water to work its magic I weighed out the honey.

After about 10 minutes, I removed the grain bag, and set it back in our tiny pot for one last drip session before meeting the garbage disposal.

In later calculations, I found our process this session to be 85% efficient! Next we poured the first runnings back into the kettle and cranked the heat up to get that sucker boiling. We also added the first ounce of boiling hops.

At this time we stir like hell to prevent the hot break (coagulating proteins) from boiling over. We did a good job on this one, it was probably our cleanest brew to date. Towards the 45 minute mark we added our honey and liquid malt extract. We did this late in the boil to prevent carmelization.

We added the second ounce of hops, in a muslin grain bag, 10 minutes before the end of the boil. Then we turned the heat off, filled the sink with ice, and set the kettle in it's cooling bath.

She went to shower so I dressed up real purdy. When she came out I took a knee, and asked that woman to marry me. She said yes and my systolic pressure dropped 20 points. Don't worry though, the greasy goodness of Elsa's made up for it! Here I am taking the hops bags out:


And here she is with her necklace and ring! Isn't she pretty?

Another happy homebrewing couple! We're going to try to have only our own beer at the wedding reception...fitting, isn't it?

-Myles Nestok

Oh yeah, and of course, after cooling (and 3 plates of food and 2 Bad Juans!) we poured into the fermentor, pitched the dry yeast, and fit with an airlock. Cheers!

Bottling time:
Isn't that beautiful beer?

Just grab...

And go!

Look at all that beer...

And if you're thinking of popping the question yourself, accompanied by a gorgeous bouquet,  check out the coupons here.  20% off is no joke!


  1. great site guys! I love how detailed it is:-)

    and Congratulations!!! see you soon

  2. I guess my bouquet and garter worked wonders.
    Love you mom

  3. Wow, your very talented! Very impressed!