Category Archives: Brewing

National Learn to Homebrew Day

Most of you probably do not know this, but last Saturday was National Learn to Homebrew Day.  It’s true.  Since 1999, it has been a day set aside by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) for the express purpose of teaching and encouraging others to take up the noble hobby of homebrewing beer.  I’ve been a homebrewer for about almost 6 years now and for at least the last couple of years have wanted to brew an instructional batch of beer for some friends who were interested, but everytime the day rolled around, I wasn’t really able to participate…until this year that is.

In honor of the (then) upcoming election, we were feeling presidential and decided to brew one of the White House’s own homebrew recipes.  We set up an evite for the Saturday brewfest where we asked the attendees to vote on which beer they wanted to brew: a Honey Pale Ale or a Honey Porter.

The final vote was Honey Porter 5 and Honey Pale 1.  Porter it is.

I made a few modifications to the White House’s recipe.  I converted it to an all grain mash rather than using extract with steeping grains and increased the batch size from 5 gallons to 5.5 gallons.  The 60 and 30 minute hops are not specified in the recipe so I decided to use up to stray hops that I had in my freezer and ended up using two different hops.

I integrated the recipe into BeerSmith (a brewing software), the black malt I ended up selecting was a darker roasted malt than the one at the homebrew shop; so, on the fly, I added a bit of dark roasted (550 SRM) Debittered Black Malt, mostly to boost the color rather than add flavor.   Another last minute adjustment, my homebrew shop does not carry Caramel/Crystal 20 (the 20 refers to the level of roast – higher the number, darker the malt) so I used Caramel 30 instead.

Also, worth noting, there is a beehive on the South Lawn of the White House that produces the honey for their homebrewed beer.  How cool is that, right.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to this particular honey, so I used a honey locally sourced here in Northern Colorado.

Here is our final recipe:

White House Honey Porter

5.25 lbs  Pale Malt (2 Row)

1.1 lbs  Caramel / Crystal 30

.83 lbs  Munich Malt (20 SRM)

.5 lbs  Black Malt (350 SRM)

.28 lbs  Chocolate Malt (350 SRM)

.15 lbs  Debittered Black Malt (550 SRM)

.25 oz  Warrior Hops (Boil 60 Mins)

.50 oz  Nothern Brewer Hops (Boil 30 Mins)

1 tsp  Irish Moss (Boil 15 Mins)

.60 oz  Hallertauer Hops (Boil 5 Mins)

1.1 lbs  Honey (Flameout – after the burner is turned off)

Nottingham Yeast (1 pkg – Rehydrated)

Original Gravity = 1.043 SG

First, we must clean everything.  Brewing beer is 3 parts washing /sanitizing dishes, 2 parts standing around drinking beer, and 1 part brewing.

We mashed the grains in 10 quarts of 152 degree water for 60 minutes.  This processes is converting starches in the grains into fermentable sugars via an enzymatic reaction.

Next we strain out the liquid into our boil kettle.  Then we batch sparged in three steps:   we heated water to 170 F in and poured it onto the grains, stirred, and allowed it to sit for a minute before straining out the liquid again into the boil kettle.  We repeated this twice more until we had accumulated roughly 7 gallons of liquid in our boil kettle.

That pot-full-of-liquid (which is known as the wort aka unfermented barely juice) is brought up to a boil.  We used a propane burner.  We’ll boil this one for 60 minutes.  Once a boil is reached, we start adding the hops, etc.

After the boil, we turned off the heat and stirred in the honey and then put the whole pot into a tub full of ice water.  There are indeed better, more efficient ways of quickly chilling down the wort such as using an immersion chiller, but I have yet to purchase one of those.  

While it’s cooling we rehydrated the yeast, by bringing some  water to a boil, pouring 4oz into a sanitized measuring cup and waiting until the temperature of the water reached 90 F, then we sprinkled on the dried yeast.  Fifteen minutes later, we gave it a clockwise stir to fully dissolve the yeast and break up some of the yeast foam.  We let the yeast cool to 70 F.

When the wort and the yeast are at about the same temperature and the both have cooled below 75 F, you are ready to proceed.  We pull the kettle out of the ice bath and pour it through a sanitized strainer into a sanitized fermenter bucket.  Knock out the solids that are in the strainer, re-sanitize if you need to.  It is quite important from here on out that we are not introducing any unwanted bacteria into our beer.  Pour the wort through the strainer back into the kettle.  Then pour the wort back into the fermenter.  We did this about 5 or six times.  The goal is to get oxygen into wort so that the yeast have a welcoming environment in which to work their magic.

Once that’s finished we put a lid on it and affix an airlock.  It’s just that simple.

Bonus pics:

To Kari, Matt, Chris, Jay, Damien, Heather, Chris, Beth, and Nathan: Thanks for all your help.  I hope you all had a fun time.  Until next year, Cheers!


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