Sierra Nevada Porter Clone

I’m back at it – back in the brewing saddle. I forgot how much fun brewing is. For Christmas, Kim (my girlfriend) bought me a Sierra Nevada Porter Clone kit from a local home brew place, Maltose Express. Although, the porter style was actually a mistake. I told her I wanted to brew a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone, and she went in and grabbed the first kit she saw that said Sierra Nevada. No worries though – I’ve had their porter before, and it’s one of the best out there. I’m eager to get started!

This will definitely be a learning process for me. This is my first time brewing a kit from Maltose. I’ve learned most home brewing stores have their own philosophies and ways of brewing. Each one has their own tricks and twists on how to brew, so I’ll keep an eye out for Maltose’s take on how to brew.

Even before I start the ever-so-fun process of cleaning and sanitizing 6 months of sedation from my equipment, I smack into my first different – literally. Maltose is big believes in the new Wyeast Activator “Smack Packs.” Basically, its pitchable yeast in a sealed plastic container, kind of like the new tuna pouches. Inside the bag are the most important part of brewing, the yeast, along with a sealed nutrient pack. About 2 hours before you’re ready to pitch the yeast, you take this package out of the fridge and smack it to break the sealed nutrient and release it to the eager-to-eat yeast. This wakes the yeast up and gets them multiplying even before you pitch them, minimizing time to full fermentation. It’s basically a built in yeast starter, and I got mine going early on.

After the cleaning and sanitizing is complete, I notice my next twist. In my first 2 recipes, I added a full 3 gallons of water to the brewpot, and steeped the grains in the water until it reached 150 degrees. This recipe calls for me to steep the grains in 1 gallon of 150 degree water for 50 minutes. It’s not a huge change, but it was a bit of a challenge.

So I decided to try a combination of both ways. I loaded my crystal, chocolate and black malt into a muslin bag, popped it into 1 gallon of water in my brew pot, and brought the temperature to 150 degrees. Keeping the temperature at a constant 150 for 30 minutes was tough. When I got the temp to 150, I put the lid on the brewpot, kept the thermometer in, and turned the burner on my stove off. When it dipped below 150, I removed the lid and turned the burner back on. I played this game a few times during the 30 minute steeping. I contemplated putting the brewpot in the oven at 150 with the lid on so I didn’t have to keep playing this yo-yo game with the temperature. I may do it next time, but this system seems to be working for now.

After 30 minutes of steeping, I sparged (rinsed) the grains with a half gallon of 150 water, which I kept in a sanitized pot in the oven. I thought that was rather clever 🙂

Here’s where I made a mini-mistake. After removing the muslin bag and rinsing the grain, I immediately started adding the light dry malt extract (DME) to the pot. I had trouble keeping it from clumping together, and I was only able to pour a little at a time. I checked the recipe and found I was supposed to boil the grain water before adding the DME. Oops. I was a bit pissed at myself for overlooking this, but I only added a little bit of the DME, so it’s all good.

I boiled the grain water after some fighting with my stove (damn burn didn’t want to stay on), and added the rest of the DME (which barely clumped, so I was able to add it much quicker) along with the malto dextrin, malt extract syrup, and nugget and centennial hops, both in hop bags. I brought everything to a nice, hot rolling boil based on advice from Joe Postma, a great homebrewer and fountain of brewing knowledge. I was worrying about clarity of my beer, and he told me this would go a long way to help make it crystal clear.

I boiled everything for 45 minutes, avoiding a few boilovers in the process. At that time, I popped in cascade hops and some Irish moss to add a nice, subtle hop flavor and some clarity to the brew. After 15 more minutes, I removed the brewpot from the burner to complete the boil.

Now came the ever-so-important process of getting the wort from boiling to 70 degrees as quickly as possible. I contemplated buying a wort chiller based on advice from Joe, but I decided against it. Because I’m still brewing with extract, I can add cold water to the concentrated wort to get the temperature down quickly, as opposed to all grain, full 5 gallon brewing, where you add no water to the wort. I filled my sink with cold water, ice cubes, and ice packs, and put the brewpot in for 20 minutes. I got the temperature down pretty quickly.

Next I put my trusty filter funnel in the mouth of my glass 6.5 gallon fermenter. I carefully poured the wort through the filter into the fermenter. It took a pours because the filter kept clogging. which means it’s doing it’s job well. After all the wort was in, I added cold water until I hit my 5 gallon water line. This put the temperature at right around 72 degrees – perfect yeast-pitching temperature for this beer.

I turned back to get my already-smacked yeast pack, and oh boy did the package expand! It was just about to pop, which means I have some very active and eager yeast on my hands. I sanitized the outside of the packet, tore it open, pitched in the yeast, and popped on my 3 piece airlock filled halfway with water.

My apartment is nice and big, but it’s lacking in the closet department. The best place to store my brew while it’s fermenting and clarifying is in the closest in my bedroom, which just so happens to be clear on the other side of my apartment. I now have the lovely task of waddling 5 gallons of beer to my bedroom…and it’s about 11pm at night. Lovely. Luckily at this stage, getting oxygen to the yeast is a good thing, so all the splashing around inside the fermenter the beer did was a good thing.

And that’s where it currently sits, tucked in the back of my closet, next to my suits and my Dharma costume from Halloween. Minimal fermentation began before I went to bed, with the airlock popping about once a minute or so. The full-on fermentation should begin in a few hours.

Be sure to check back to see how this brew progresses. I’m also in the process of thinking of a name for this one. Stay tuned!

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