Posted May 5, 2018 – Narrated by Jim
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Craft-A-Brew read my mind! The purveyors of home brewing kits probably picked up distress vibes when we were in Utah last year. It’s a cryin’ shame that craft beer deserts still exist in North America.
My Dad was a home brewer, so I’d already fantasized about brewing in our Airstream well before Craft-A-Brew invited us to participate in National Home Brew Day, May 5, 2018.
Now, keeping with family tradition, I’m brewing in Beauty. Dad would be proud.
My “in-process” IPA is already a well-traveled brew. It got cooked near the border of Mexico, crossed the Tehachapi Mountains in the rain, dry camped near the Vasquez Rocks in Santa Clarita – where Kirk battled Gorn and Blazing Saddles made farting history – and then got hopped up beneath ancient oaks at Stacked Stone Cellars in Paso Robles.
Name a beer that’s done all that. I mean, are we making beer history here?
Hopefully, this badass brew will be good enough to share with fellow nomadic types this June at the Wally Byam International Rally in Salem, Oregon where Carmen and I will be speaking about our full-time travel philosophy.
Craft-A-Brew packs a lot of excitement in that box.
Everything is beautifully illustrated, neat and organized.
The idiot-proof instructions are in large print.
Every ingredient and gizmo I need to brew beer is in the box.
The reusable tools …
and consumables …
… packets of malt, grains, and yeast – five packets of hops! – sanitizer and grain bag, all there.
I chose an IPA and special instructions are included.
Craft-A-Brew takes care of the details so the brewing process is fun.
Here’s how I brewed IPA in my 30′ Airstream.
First, I fill the one-gallon carboy with fresh filtered water.
Pouring the water into our stock pot, I make sure there’s enough room – about an inch – to avoid boil overs.
Then, set the stove top temperature on high …
Cut open the grains…
… and pour the entire contents into the grain bag.
Then, tie a knot in the grain bag to secure its contents …
… and wait for the water to reach 155° F.
Setting the timer for 15 minutes, I push start.
Immediately, the grains go into the hot water while maintaining 155° F.
When the timer sounds off at 15 minutes, I gently remove the grain bag and discard.
With the stove top temperature on high, I wait until the water starts to boil – just the first few bubbles.
I remove the boiling pot from the stove top and set it on the counter.
While adding the malt extract, I stir the pot slowly to prevent clumping.
Best to use a whisk for this step.
The malt is now completely dissolved, so I place the pot back on the stove top and turn the temperature to medium-high …
… wait for the wort (unfermented beer) to reach a boil …
… set the timer for 20 minutes, and push “Start” …
When the timer goes off, I take the pot off the stove top and place it on the counter.
I insert the thermometer into the wort and wait for it to cool down.
When the wort cools to 180° F, I add the three packets of hops named “HOPSTAND.” For my IPA, I used Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe hops.
Then, I set the timer for 30 minutes and push “Start.”
When the timer goes off, I place the pot in an ice bath to quickly reduce the temperature below 75° F.
While waiting for the wort to cool, I clean the stainless steel sink…
… add water and half a packet of sanitizer.
Then, I place the carboy, funnel, tubing, thermometer, rubber stopper and frothing cup, into the sanitizer water for 60 seconds. This is to prevent contamination. If I mess this part up my beer will taste awful.
After sanitizing, each item is carefully placed on a clean paper towel.
The wort is cooled below 75° F…
…Now, it’s time to transfer the batch to the sanitized carboy.
I use our frothing cup to scoop out the wort and pour, by cupfuls, into the funnel which is lined with cheesecloth for a filter. I hope the cheesecloth didn’t contaminate the wort. Time will tell.
The wort is fully transferred, so now I fill the carboy to the one-gallon mark with fresh filtered water.
The contents of the yeast packet go into the carboy and I insert the rubber stopper.
Now, I dip my hands into the sanitizer water…
… cover the hole in the rubber stopper with my thumb, and shake the carboy for over a minute to fully mix and oxygenate the yeast.
To avoid overflow during fermentation, I put the tubing into the rubber stopper and the other end into a half-full tumbler of water.
I transfer the carboy, tubing, and tumbler into the original Craft-A-Brew box and place it on the floor in a cool, dark place on my side of the bed for two weeks.
The nocturnal serenade of the fermentation process sounds like it’s a drizzly night outside and we have a leak in our trailer. Regardless, we sleep like babes.
A few days and nights pass before I fill the airlock halfway with water and insert it into the rubber stopper.
Four days later, I add a packet of hops.
Ten days later and three-hundred miles north, I add a second packet of hops and start to work on the bottle label.
Fourteen days after brewing, it’s time to bottle and carbonate.
Ours is a glass-free rig. It’s hard to bottle beer without glass bottles. So, I came up with an ingenious plan. Beer run! Whew! Close one.
While Carmen sleeps it off, I rinse the empties in warm water.
Next, I sanitize the bottles, the racking cane, the tubing, and a spoon.
As the sanitized items drain on paper towels…
I fill our stock pot with 1.5 cups of filtered water and exactly 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. The sugar is food for the yeast, so it carbonates my beer.
Over a medium-high fire, I stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then boil for 5 minutes, and let cool.
I clean and fill the sink with fresh filtered water and submerge the tubing with the clamp open to completely fill the tubing.
With one clamp on the end of the tubing, I attach the racking cane to the other.
Then, insert the racking cane into the rubber stopper, keeping the end far away from the sediment on the bottom of the carboy.
I release the clamp and drain out the water used to prime the tubing, then clamp again.
In this way, I transfer all the beer from the carboy into the pot of sugar-water.
Using the sanitized spoon, I gently mix the beer together with the sugar-water.
Again, I clean and prime the tubing
and set the sanitized bottles below the level of the pot.
Carmen holds the tube inside the beer and I fill each bottle slightly higher than the start of the neck.
After capping, the carbonation process takes two weeks.
We’ll be in southern Oregon by then.
The first batch is such a joy, mystery and distraction. You know how it is. We’ll never take this many photos of the next one which will probably be even better … maybe a good, honest stout or a black IPA.
One question for Craft-A-Brew… Do we need a prescription to do this in Utah?
UPDATE – May 20, 2018
It’s been 2 weeks and 739 miles since we bottled our beer and tasting time arrived two days ago when were are Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream repair. This update finds us in Clarksburg near Sacramento at Julietta Winery – not Oregon as we predicted. There’s a reason why The World Turtle inspired our LIB brew logo.
So, what ritual should we use for our first LIB brew?
First, a little story:
This year, we had our DNA analyzed through “23 And Me” and discovered that we’re nothing exotic – just common pale brews of northern European ancestry – but we were thrilled to confirm that our maternal Mississippi lines are not connected (whew … close one!) Funny thing though, our DNA stories do intersect in the 1700’s with a famous marriage…
So, as King and Queen Of the Road (at least for a day) we hope our finish is better than theirs and offer the LIB toast …
With “Live riveté!” We crack open our first bottle of homebrew.
Whoa! Introducing, the Living In Beauty India Pale Ale …
Small batch, big surprise. Magnifique! Vive la Craft-A-Brew!
* Craft-A-Brew provided all the supplies for us to brew in our Airstream in exchange for an honest review of their products.