Brewing Cream Ale from Northern Brewer

I recently made a few purchases from Northern Brewer.  I started out by purchasing their deluxe brewing kit with glass carboys and choosing Caribou Slobber as my first home brew.  It was ready just in time for Thanksgiving and it was quite the discussion topic with my family and guests.  It came out great and gave me a boost of confidence after a Pumpkin Ale catastrophe a few months back that turned out gross.  I don’t know if it was the canned pumpkin, contamination, or clarity issue… it was just gross.  I’m going to leave out where I bought the kit from because I don’t think it was their fault.  It was probably just amateur mistakes.

After my recent success with Caribou Slobber, I quickly ordered another kit from Northern Brewer called Cream Ale.  I brewed it a few Sundays ago and thought I’d share the process with you.

The kit came with 6 lbs of Pilsen liquid malt extract, an ounce of Cluster hops, and specialty grains: 0.75 lbs. of Gambrinus Honey Malt and 0.25 lbs. of Belgian Biscuit (biscuits and honey… yum).  Since I had success with Safale 05 dry yeast with the Caribou Slobber, I went ahead and selected that as my yeast option and the standard priming sugar.

First step was heating 2.5 gallons of water in the brew kettle.  I use a 32-quart stock pot I bought at Sams Club for about $30.  While the water heats, start steeping the specialty grains in the provided mesh bag.  I had to turn off the heat for about 5 minutes because my water got to 170 degrees in no time at all.  I wanted to make sure I was steeping for the full 20 minutes recommended.  Tip: clothes pins are great to have on hand.  Especially if your stock pot is, well… stocky.

Clothes pins help hold your specialty grains

Once your grains are done, remove them and continue heating until it boils.  While you’re waiting, it’s a good idea to warm up your liquid extract in the sink under some hot water.  This helps it pour easier/faster.

Pre-heat your liquid malt extract so it pours easier

Once you’re at 212 degrees, add your liquid malt extract.  I don’t remove it from the heat because I never had a burn issue with my pot and the liquid malt usually cools the boil down to sub-boil, 5 degrees or so.  If you continually stir the wort while you add the malt, you should be fine.  Bring this back to a boil, stir in the Cluster hop pellets, and set a timer for 60 minutes.  Grab a beer and enjoy the sweet smell of homebrewing for an hour (watching for boil-overs once in a while).

After boiling for an hour, give the stock pot a nice ice bath to cool the wort down to 100 degrees as fast as possible.  This takes 15-20 minutes, so in the meantime, sanitize your carboy with StarSan.  I love this stuff!  I’m a big fan of the no-rinse sanitizers.  I usually sanitize the carboy first, then dump the solution into a bucket so I can sanitize all the other equipment I will need, like the siphon, airlock, beer-thief, etc.

Once the wort is cooled, transfer it to the primary fermentor (6.5 gallon carboy).  On this batch of beer, I used the plastic funnel.  In the past, I’ve used a siphon.  In my opinion, the siphon takes way too long and you want to get your wort in the carboy as fast as possible to prevent contamination.  Then, add water so the total volume equals 5 gallons.  I had to add about 1.25 gallons.  This cools down the wort even more and it should be somewhere around the 70 degree mark.

The last step is adding the yeast.  I add my dry yeast right to the wort and give the carboy a good sloshing for about 2 minutes or so.  This aerates the wort and mixes the yeast nicely.  Then, I cap the primary with an airlock.  I use the sanitizing solution in the airlock, but normal water or even vodka will work fine.

Leave it alone in a nice dark area, preferably around 68 degrees.  Any ale will ferment nicely between 58 and 74 degrees.  You’ll see bubbling in the airlock after 24-48 hours.  That will last for 2 days or so and come to a creeping halt.  Two weeks of fermenting, and the beer should be ready for bottling.  I plan on writing up a more thorough post about bottling once I fine-tune my technique/process.  Mainly, the process of bottling is transferring the beer to a bottling bucket, adding sugar, then bottling and capping it.

Now the wait begins.  Two weeks from now, I’ll be enjoying a delicious cream ale.  How did your cream ale turn out?

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