By this time in my brewing timeline i had been reading intensively from the information available on the internet and had made the decision to go full on All Grain brewing.
For those that don't know(hey there may be a few)! All grain brewing is the ultimate in beer making. It allows you to use the freshest ingredients and choose from the broadest pallate available. The combinations of ingredients that are available to the AG brewer are truly vast. Add yeasts, temperature control, various fruits, spices, sugars into the mix and you are with minimal outlay truly within an infinity of beermaking choices. This sounds complicated but it is as simple as the equipment above.
Using the above equipment as a basis i developed my basic brewing technique. While doing this i also added other pieces of equipment to improve the fledgling brewing process.
An example of this is moving from cooling the wort in a pan of water to making a copper cooler which has the double bonus of cooling the wort quickly and also looking cool! Oh yeah and it helps the cold break form which will give me a cleaner wort in the fermentation vessel.
The next two photo's are my 1st true AG moment. In this beer i am trying to recreate an Imperial Russian Stout from around 1800 or so. When the smell wafted up from all those grains that was it for me. Hook, line and sinker! It turned out well but at 10.2%abv it has to be treated with caution.
The recipe for the first of my monster beers.
Dead Czar Imperial Russian Stout6.00 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter
1.70 kg Barley, Flaked
1.50 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L
1.00 kg Amber Malt (22.0 SRM)
1.00 kg Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM)
0.50 kg Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM)
0.50 kg Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM)
1.50 oz First Gold [8.30 %] (90 min)
2.00 oz Northdown [8.50 %] (90 min)
1.00 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] (20 min)
1.00 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] (10 min)
0.32 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min)
1.27 items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 min)
5.07 oz Oak Chips (Secondary 7.0 days)
2 Pkgs Windsor Yeast
So that's the first real big beer i made. I still have a few lurking in storage. I'm going to wait until they are around 5 years old then see how they have aged. I guess my point in this post is to show how it's possible for very little money to be making beers that have not existed for a couple of hundred years in their true fashion. Its also a blast to put together the equipment yourself. As with many things in life it's possilbe to go and buy off the shelf items. IMHO, taking this route we end up paying more and don't learn anything like as much as we do by making something ourselves.
Admittedly with brewery No1 i was modifying equipment that was in existence and turning it to another purpose. It was great fun and a very enjoyable learning curve. I continued to tweak the brewery and ran around 20 beers through it before deciding to test my own theory on how much i had learned by building a second larger brewery.
This brewery lives on in its new home which is the Isle of Man mostly and a small part in Northern ireland. Through the alchemy of Brewers(helped by Ebay & Paypal) my Mk1 Brewery magically transformed into a couple of brewing books, a digital thermometer, two hop plants and a load of vacuam packed American Hops. Next time i'll witter on endlessly about the Mk2 brewery on which i am perfecting my art. Until then i'll leave you with a wonderful photo of the wee yeast beastie doing its thing.