Brew #3 – Ultimate Brewery Classics Oktoberfest

So – after success on Brew #2 where next for number three?

Well with October coming up, it only seemed right to put together some kind of Oktoberfest ale.

Not feeling brave enough to branch out into malt extract brewing just yet with only one successful kit brew under my belt, I had a good browse round the various online brew shops to find another kit and finally settled on the Ultimate Brewery Classics Oktoberfest Special Beer Kit.

By this point the brewing process was already starting to feel familiar. I ran through the sterilisations and rehydrated the dried yeast packet that came with the kit.

One note on the yeast rehydration: the bible suggests boiling water then allowing it to cool to around 35-40 degrees C before pouring in the dried yeast. I was short on time and growing impatient and – possibly worse – had no thermometer available to tell me the temperature of the water. Best guess, I added the yeast when the water was still around 70-80 deg C. I have no idea what this will do to the yeast or the flavour of the ale, only time will tell at this stage, however having just bottled the ale I can confirm that the gravity of the ale did drop to expected levels so I can’t imagine its activity has been too heavily compromised…

I boiled a couple of litres of purified tap water and mixed these with the pre-hopped malt extracts as per the kit’s instructions, topped up with bottled water to the 34 pint level, added the hop extracts and stirred vigorously to add as much oxygen as possible before pitching the rehydrated yeast. Then I stuck it in the kitchen cupboard for two weeks to ferment.

At the last minute I remembered to take the gravity reading – OG 1.045. Admittedly this was just after I’d pitched the yeast. I’m not sure how quickly this stuff works so will have to assume that the “real” OG is around here or maybe slightly higher…

During fermentation, a large amount of malt stuck to the side of the fermenter giving the whole thing a cloudy appearance. This worried me initially, particularly when I took my first gravity reading a week in and a large amount of malt extract came out with the ale. I was worried that the extract wouldn’t settle and I’d be left with lumpy beer – not a desireable outcome!

Fortunately, my subsequent gravity readings were a lot clearer and have settled my mind a little.

Another point to note was that the fermentation didn’t appear to start until about 24 hours after the mixing was complete. I was worried at first that the yeast may have been damaged by the high temperature of the rehydration, but a little patience restored my faith…!

A first for me this time was to taste the samples I’ve been taking to test the gravity. For the first couple of brews I’d just let it do it’s thing, but I realised this time that it’s just a food product and you can get a good idea of where the ale is going flavour-wise by tasting as you go. It’s been fun seeing how the flavour develops over time – this ale is definitely sweeter and already more full-flavoured than the St. Peter’s.

The ale was bottled yesterday after just over two weeks in the fermenter, with priming sugar solution added directly to the fermenter half an hour before bottling. I’ll test one bottle after a fortnight, but leave the majority for four weeks before drinking to reach “full” maturity. I’ll miss Oktoberfest by a few weeks, but at least I’ll still get to drink the beer!