Today I've put on my Christmas beer, it's called Wreck the Halls and it's a dark ale. This is the second extract beer I've ever made and it's the first one that has included specialty grains that must be steeped (I shall explain this later.)
So what does a beer look like before it's made?
This is, as I said, an extract kit. That means that the sugar has already been extracted from grains and is in the form of malt extract, in this case light malt extract (LME) due to its light colour. This is the primary source of sugars that will be converted into alcohol in the beer and in the image above it is the two bags of pale coloured stuff. Hops are used to add flavours to the beer and are in the silver packets in the image. This beer uses a special grain pack (I hope you can tell which that is!) and finally there are candi sugar drops (the white sweets) and a spice pack.
Making the beer
The grains are steeped in water before boiling the hops to get flavours, this not only colours the water, and as such the final beer, but also adds body to the beer.
The hops are then boiled as per a schedule and will add all of the flavour and aroma to the beer. As this is a special Christmas beer, christmas spices are going to be added to be added. Star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg shall give the beer a nice Christmas taste.
The sugar will be what gives the final beer its alcohol once the yeast have gone to work. The expected ABV of this beer is 6.7% - A nice strong beer to warm everyone up over Christmas.
Pitching the yeast and sealing it up
Once the boiling is over it's time to cool the beer down (as quickly as possible) and then put it into a fermenter. Topping up with water and adding in the yeast converts the liquid from what's known as wort to actual beer. There is no alcohol yet, but the yeast cells will be working hard over the next two weeks to convert all of the sugars in the beer into alcohol. After this it will be moved into a barrel, pressurised and left to mature till Christmas.