I am going to start this column out by assuming all of my readers followed my advice last year and started homebrewing right after the holidays.
Hopefully, everyone’s first few brews turned out well and you’ve been able to share them with friends and family.
Now that you have some experience with brewing, I’d like to share some ways to step up the quality and improve the flavor of your brews.
First of all, I am not a fan of brewing with malt extract. Aanything you can do to replace extract with real malted grain in your brews will improve the flavor of your beer.
Partial mash brewing is a great way to start down that road because it requires little new equipment.
Everything that you have been using for extract brewing will work here. Also, a good thermometer and a kitchen scale will be very helpful to have.
You will also need muslin or a reusable nylon bag to hold the grains.
Now, there are two types of grains used in brewing, “base malts” and “specialty malts”.
Base malts need to be mashed, in other words, they have to be soaked in hot water. This causes enzymes in the grains to convert carbohydrates into sugar.
Specialty malts have no enzymes in them, just sugars and other flavor compounds that dissolve into hot water easily. Specialty malts are things like caramel malt, chocolate, as well as the roasted and black patent malt most commonly used for stouts.
Whereas mashing can be a complicated process, partial mashing is just steeping.
So, essentially, if you can make a pot of tea, you can make a partial mash beer.
There are many more types of grain available than there are extracts, so you will have a much easier time making your brews your own.
At the end of the column, I’ve included a beer to try this technique. It’s a porter recipe, based on the beer I served at the FNA Chili Cookoff last month.
Upcoming Beer Event: The Memphis Taproom (at 2331 E. Cumberland St.) is celebrating its fourth anniversary and the opening of the bar’s beer garden on Saturday, April 21.
Canned craft beer and hot dogs will be served in the courtyard from the bar’s food truck. The tap list inside is full of some real rarities and surprises.
Fishtown Chili Cook-off Porter
6 lbs. Dried Light Malt Extract
.75 lbs. Caramel 90 Malt
.5 lbs. Chocolate malt
1 oz. Black Patent Malt
.5 oz. Nugget hops
It is best to have the grains crushed at the homebrew shop, though in a pinch you can use a blender or coffee grinder.
Heat about a gallon of water per pound of specialty grains to 160 degrees.
For this recipe that would be about one and a quarter gallons. Put the crushed grains in the grain bag, tie it shut and soak it in the hot water for about 30 minutes.
Don’t worry if the temperature drops a little. Stir the bag with a spoon to make sure all the grain gets wet.
Remove the bag from the water and let it drain, but don’t squeeze it - that can release harsh tasting tannins into the water.
If you happen to have a second pot, heat about a gallon of water to 180 degrees and soak the grain bag in it for about ten minutes, then remove and drain the bag and add this water to your main pot.
If you can’t do this step, it is not crucial, it just helps get more sugar out of the grains.
Now stir in the extract and top off your boil pot to three gallons of water.
Boil like you did with your previous all extract batches and add the hops at the beginning of the boil.
After a 60 minute boil, cool the wort with an ice bath. When it has cooled to 68 degrees, transfer to a bucket, top off with water to five gallons of wort and add the yeast.
Wait a few weeks, then enjoy!
Tim Patton is a Fishtown resident and the Brewmaster at St. Benjamin Brewing Company, a brewery opening in Kensington this summer. As a skilled brewer, heís certainly partial to his own brew, but enthusiastic about all that the Philly beer scene has to offer. Got beer or brewing news he should be clued in on? Email him at email@example.com.