Every now and then I like to post something non-food/recipe related and talk about brewing. I’ve been hanging on to this one for a bit because I took about 435.26 bizzilion pics and needed to organize.
A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of participating in the annual Women’s Brew event. I’m fairly certain that it’s obvious I love craft beer and all things boozy. I’m not just a lush though – for those of you who may be new visitors to this blog – I brew beer (hence the blog name?). Chris and I both do.
Women’s Brew is an annual event that pairs up experienced women (no boys allowed) brewers with women who want to learn to brew. We, the experienced brewers, are mentors to women who are brewing for the first time or have little experience and would like some coaching. It’s very educational and a total blast.
I absolutely love this event and not only because I get to look like an expert in something other than law stuff and drink delicious craft beer provided to me by my mentees. It’s just a really fun event and I love seeing and helping women brew beer. The free craft beer is just a bonus. 🙂
Meet Lisa. She taught Chris and me (and many others) how to brew and she’s one of my absolute BFFs. (I always tell her that I “love her more ‘n my luggage” (Steel Magnolias) and she says she “would throw her pie for me” (OITB) – yeah, we’re disturbed). Lisa started the Women’s Brew annual event and used to host it in her back yard.
It started getting pretty big over the years, so last year our friends Suzie and Todd Ford generously offered to host us at their brewery – NoDa Brewing Company. Thanks Suzie and Todd!
That’s Suzie making sure Amy’s on track. That’s me in the Chucks.
Lisa always has some groovy aprons made. I find it hilarious that no dudes are allowed to participate and we wear aprons. I will say though that they add another layer of protection when someone gets the dropsies. You know what I’m talking about, right Lisa?
Another Lisa. Girl is getting busy with her fancy pants infrared thermometer!
The easiest way learn to brew is to start with an extract. The all grain process is more complicated and time consuming and one of these days I’ll talk about that – but not today. 🙂
The bare-bones explanation of the extract brewing process is that you have your base grains that have gone through some kind of magic and are turned into a powder. So you have the extract (base grains) and the specialty grains. You heat up some water, drop in your specialty grains in a mesh bag to steep (think about making tea), kill your fire, and after a certain amount of time the specialty grains are removed and discarded.
At this point you will start up your fire, add your extract and after a bit, start your boil. During your boil is where you do your hops additions. The type of hops and the number of additions will vary depending on the type of beer you are brewing.
When you are done with your boil (typically 60-90 minutes) you will kill your fire again – this is called flame out. The product you now have is called wort – it’s not beer yet because it has not fermented and has no alcohol. It’s very important to note here that once you flame out, you obviously no longer have a boil – EVERYTHING has to go through a sanitation process from here on.
Now you have to get your temperature from 212 (because we just finished boiling) down to 68-70 degrees because you still have to add your yeast. Like when you make bread, if your liquid is too hot it will kill your yeast and your bread won’t rise – here your wort will not ferment, you will not have alcohol and therefore no beer. Trust me – that will break your heart and make you cry. So you chill your wort (with a special piece of equipment), pitch your yeast, seal it up, and set your baby aside for a while until it matures into a delicious beer.
Ok. That was exciting, right? On to more pics and I’m going to stop talking and only interject some descriptions of what is going on in the pics.
First I have to say that Lisa totally called me out because I have almost no pictures of myself on my own website. There are reasons for that. 1. Go visit my About page and I’ll tell you that I absolutely despise having my picture taken and hate the way I look in pics. Always have. Probably always will. 2. Um… I’m usually the one taking the pictures?
So here I am with my friend and one of my mentees, Amy. I’m on the right.
I’m adding the extract for Amy while she stirs it in.
Lisa, are you happy now?
Enough of that. Moving on. Here is the boil.
The chilling process.
The food truck. Yesssssss!
BTW – those to fellas on the right? The one on the left is Amy’s hubby, Brent. Steven is the hubby of one of my other mentees, Heather. They dropped off the girls and came back several hours later to dine at the food truck and transport their wives brewing accessories home.
Transferring wort into their primaries for fermentation.
Don’t fear the bubbles. It sanitizer and absolutely 100% necessary.
That’s Heather. Of course, there’s cleanup involved.
What in tarnation is going on here?
They are tasting the wort and taking a gravity reading. She’s not looking to see if land is in sight. That’s a fancy pants refractometer (not to be confused with the fancy pants infrared thermometer). The rest of us have glass hydrometers. We actually keep several on hand because… well, let’s just say accidents happen. The purpose of this process is to get an indication of how the beer will taste and the ABV – alcohol by volume – i.e. how potent it will be.
You go girl! That’s Bethany. She is the fearless leader of the Charlotte Beer Babes and teamed up with Lisa last year and this year to make this event happen. The Beer Babes are educators and aficionados of craft beer.
Now we’re just being silly.
I’m not getting in those pictures. 🙂