Psst. Want to know a secret? Over the weekend I made a beer kit from canned malt extract. Fancy that.
There’s a couple of reasons that I did this, folks; firstly because I haven’t made beer from a kit in *years* and quite fancied getting my hands on a quantity of beer for very little effort; and secondly, because I keep recommending the Woodforde’s Wherry kit to all and sundry without actually having ever made it myself.
In addition to all of that I also wanted to bottle it up and let my usual bunch of
scroungers reviewers have a taste – without telling them that it’s a kit – and see what they think.
Be warned, I did take liberties and have jazzed it up a little, as I simply can’t help myself. To start with I used Safale S04 yeast – and this is no reflection on Woodfordes yeast – but I just prefer to know where I am with my yeast and so far S04 has been kind to me. I also made up the kit a couple of pints short so that it’s a touch stronger and hopefully a little more fully-bodied.
Also, when it’s done with the vigorous initial fermentation, I’m going to dry-hop it a bit…or a lot…when it comes to hops I tend to have a heavy hand. But, bear in mind, the dry-hop will only help the aroma…if the kit doesn’t taste good there’s no way around that…
Usefully, this article will also serve as a guide to making beer kits for the uninitiated.
Get your stuff together. I used a glass carboy and airlock for fermenting, a 2L jug for measuring, a big old funnel, some campden tablets (more on them later) some boiling water and a 10L preserving pan
Next I got out the old Star San. If you don’t have any, buy some. Don’t tiddle about with the stuff you have to rinse off. When you order your Wherry kit from Greg at BrewUK (or whoever) get some Star San. It’ll pay you back in spades – you use virtually none, it works every time and lasts for years. Look, the caps on my bottle have cracked and virtually fallen off, so I’ve had to seal it with cling film.
Sterilise EVERYTHING that will come into contact with the beer. Get it nicely foamy. DO NOT FEAR THE FOAM. Don’t wash it off, it’s perfectly safe to come into contact with the beer and yeast. It’s no-rinse sterilisation, it’s WITCHCRAFT.
Stick the cans into boiling water, that’ll help the malt extract to loosen up a bit.
To be quite honest I lost count, but think I put in something like 16L of water straight from the tap into the carboy…but I did put a well crushed quarter of a campden tablet in too. The campden tablet should help to drive off any Chloramine in the water. Chloramine gives that awful medicinal/chlorine smell in tap water and you don’t want that in your finished beer. I think lots of people give up on brewing because their water has that awful taste and it comes through in their first beers. I usually filter my water when I’m all-grain brewing, but on this occasion I wanted to use as little kit as possible.
From now on you can follow the instructions enclosed in the kit, which I only diverted from by mixing the contents of the tins with boiling water in the preserving pan – rather than in a breakable and shockable glass carboy.
Now, open the tins and stand in more boiling water to soften the malt extract.
Add the contents of the tins to the 6 pints of boiling water and stir well. Take the pan off of the heat before you pour – liquid malt extract burns very easily on the bottom of a hot pan.
Pour the hot malt extract and water combination into the cold water that’s already in the fermenter/carboy. You’ll find that the temperature of the whole lot is now probably just about right to put the yeast into (i.e. less than 20C)
I ended up with something like 21L of wort in the carboy. I’ve no idea of what the gravity is, but I reckon it must be 1040-something.
I “pitched” the yeast at around 10pm at night; by 9am next morning there was already a good Krausen (foamy head of yeast) and the airlock was plopping every ten seconds. I will dry-hop with something suitable (probably a Goldings variety or something like that) when the Krausen starts to fall back a bit and that’ll probably be by day 5…
I’ll let you know how it goes and more importantly how it tastes!
Or from Greg at BrewUk (which is a touch cheaper…)