Coopers kits open on the bottom and
come with yeast and instructions
We're sitting off the island of Gan in Addu Atoll, the southernmost of the Maldive atolls, about in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Tomorrow is my 52nd birthday but today is rather cool and overcast, with squalls blowing through every few hours. What better day to brew another batch of beer? At least it's much cooler than it's been for several days. Hopefully I can keep the wort from overheating.
Looking over my stock of brew-kits, I notice that I have no fewer than 4 Real Ale kits. My first attempt at Real Ale was a bit of a disaster, but I'm fairly sure I know why - it got too hot, and I used the wrong priming sugar. So this time I hope to do better...
Friday, 6 April 2007 - Preparation:
When I got out my sugar I found a problem - it was as solid as a brick. Evidently some moisture had got in. So I put it on the table outside and tried to break it up. I eventually had to use a hammer, pounding the plastic bag of sugars through an old T-shirt, with predictable results - the plastic bag of sugars ruptured. So I gathered up what I could and put it into a 2 liter water-jug, but it was still in big, solid chunks. So I filled the jug with water and was very happy to watch the sugars all melt! Unfortunately, I had not had time to sterilize the water-jug, but at least it was "clean". Also, it allowed me to put the sugar solution in the fridge to cool a bit.
Having to make a sugar solution allowed me to cool it.
Cleaning my equipment is becoming fairly routine, although it's been almost 6 months since my last Brew-haha: I assembled my fermenter, 2 big spoons, tap, and water trap, put everything in the fermenter with a few drops of brewers detergent and some water and scrubbed everything. Rinsed everything several times to get all the detergent off. Then I put everything back in the fermenter with some sodium-metabisulfite sterilizer and let them soak for a couple hours before again rinsing everything 5 times.
Friday, 6 April 2007 - Coopers Real Ale:
Again, Coopers recommends their Brew Enhancer #1, a dextrose and maltodextrin adjunct sugar mix, for their Real Ale. I'm beginning to realize that it may have been a tactical blunder not to have stocked up on more Brew Enhancer #1, but at the time I wanted to move to a more "Rhinheitzgebot" process, with less dextrose and more malt, so I only have the more expensive Brew Enhancer #2, a dextrose, malt, and maltodextrin mix on board, and this is what had solidified and had to be used anyway.
Open the can of Real Ale malt-mix, pour it in, and scrape out what I can with the smaller of the big spoons. Put half a cup (100ml) of hot water in the can and swirl it around to melt as much of the malt-mix as possible before pouring that into the fermenter as well. Pour in the cooled sugar-solution and stir it all up with the big spoon to mix it. Stir continuously while adding more water until I got 23 liters of wort. Measure the specific gravity, sprinkle the yeast on top, close the lid tightly, and insert the water trap. Put the fermenter in the breeze in the coolest part of the boat (cockpit, under the awning, for now). It's overcast and rainy today, but it will be a challenge to keep everything cool enough to let the yeast work when the sun comes out again. Initial wort temperature seems to be about 82°F (28°C) and the initial specific gravity is fairly high at 1.046.
Sunday, 8 April 2007 - Fermenting:
Just got some bad news - our watermaker hasn't been working properly and the water I used for this batch of Real Ale is too salty - about 1,300ppm when 500ppm is considered the safe long-term drinking limit. Not sure how that will affect the beer. Maybe I'll get lucky and create an isotonic "sports" beer that replaces needed electrolytes...
Fermentation started about as it should have, several hours after the wort was put together. I tried to keep it cool with wet towels wrapped around the fermenter, but air temperatures here are always pretty close to 90°F (32°C) for much of the day, and with the fermentation process being exothermic, keeping the wort cool enough is difficult. Fermentation seemed to cut off after only 2.5 days. This is a bit early but I don't know if it's due to temperature or the salty water or something else.
The Real Ale is lighter than shows in this photo
Wednesday, 11 April 2007 - Bottling:
The specific gravity hasn't changed in several days, so it's time to bottle. Unfortunately, the My previous Bavarian Lager was bottled in 1.5 liter bottles, so this time I went back to 1.25 liter bottles.
Preparation and cleaning of the bottles was cramped by the fact that our watermaker is currently down and the Maldives has little fresh water, so we actually have a bit of a water-crisis. So I was very careful as I rinsed, sterilized with a strong solution of sodium-metabisulfite that I poured from one bottle to the next, and rinsed the bottles again (4 times), saving most of my water for future dish-washing duty. Only about 2 liters had to be thrown away.
Since my automatic fill-valve crumbled the last time I bottled, I had to control the fill with the valve on the fermenter. This actually proved to work better than expected. In fact, I found that if I let the bottle down as I filled it, so only the tip of the bottom-fill tube was in the bottle at the end, then I could fill the bottles much fuller than I'd been able to previously.
The final specific gravity was about average, at 1.010. I was actually a bit disappointed that it didn't drop more in the last 2 days, but given that my initial specific gravity was fairly high (1.046) I expect a net alcoholic content of about:
((1046-1010)/7.46) + .5 or about 5.3%, which is fairly high for one of my beers.
As has become standard, we over-primed the bottles by about 17% to increase carbonation and improve the head. Bottling went reasonably well and we harvested 17 1.25 liter bottles, for a total of just over 21 liters. These were stored under the cabin sole in the spare stateroom to keep cool (as possible) and age while we sail deeper into the middle of the Indian Ocean and enjoy our current batch of Bavarian Lager.
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