Batch #7-09: American Light

Style American Light
Ingredients Ironmaster American Light Extract Kit
Brewing Date: Sunday, July 19, 09
Primary Fermentation: Sunday, July 19, 09
Original Gravity: 1.036
Secondary Fermentation: n/a
Bottling Date: Saturday, July 25, 09
Final Gravity: 1.009
Release Date: Labor Day Weekend: Thursday, September 3, 09
Alcohol by volume: 3.60%
Final Release Name: Nasir’s Light Headed Beer


This is the first batch using a malt extract kit from Iron Master.  All of the various beer styles from this Manufacturer have the same basic picture of a ship yard in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, with only the name of the beer style changing.  Iron Master appears to have quite a good reputation among home brewers.

I started this batch about 5 weeks out to time the release for the Labor Day weekend in September. I consumed the very last bottle of the previous batch while brewing this batch, so I will be going through a week long dry period.  Yes, overlapping batches ARE a good thing.

July 19, 2009 7:00PM :: The instructions for this kit call for emptying the malt extract kit directly into the fermentation bucket, then adding 5 pints of boiling water and the 1Kg of sugar, stirring, then diluting to 6 gallons with cold water.  I am not a fan of raising the temperature of a plastic bucket above 120-140 degrees, whether it is food-grade plastic or not.  So I boiled 5 pints of water in the brew pot on the stove, removed it from the heat, then stirred in the malt extract kit and the corn sugar.  I cooled it in an ice bath for 15 minutes, then added it to 3 gallons of cold water already in the fermentation bucket.  I added more cool water until the bucket was at 6 US Gallons, as directed.

Once this was done, I took a temperature reading: 93 degrees.  This was above the temperature for safely pitching yeast (90 deg).  I covered the bucket with the lid (less airlock) and set a timer for 20 minutes. That lowered the temperature to about 92 deg, so I waited another 20 minutes, which brought the temperature down to 88 degrees.  I pitched the yeast, sealed the bucket, and put in the airlock.

I am trying something new with fermentation: I am using the swamp method, in an attempt to lower the temperature of the bucket a few degrees.  Basically, the fermentation bucket is sitting in an 18 gallon plastic tub, with 2 inches of water at the bottom.  I soak a bath towel in the water, then wrap it around the bucket.  I use two small bungee cords to hold the towel around the top of the bucket, and the bottom of the towel lays in the water at the bottom.  Basically, I re-soak the towel once a day to keep the upper half wet, but the bottom half of the towel will stay wet because it wicks the water from the bottom of the tub.  As water evaporates from the towel, it lowers the temperature of the fermenation bucket.

July 20, 2009 8:30AM :: Fermentation is active.. large burst of bubbles, spaced about 8 seconds apart.  The towel is wicking the water nicely, and the bucket is cool to the touch.  Off to a good start…

July 21, 2009 5:30AM :: bubbling cycle has not changed.  Thought I would need to resoak the towel, but the water is actually wicking right to the top of the bucket.

July 22,2009 10:30PM :: the bubbling cycle is well over one minute, so the fermentation appears to be complete.  Gravity reading 1.012

July 24, 2009 7:30PM :: Gravity 1.009.. hmmm, strange considering the yeast shows no sign of activity over two days.  Will wait for another reading.

July 25, 2009 9:00PM :: Gravity 1.009 again, so I bottled it.   The beer has a very smooth taste.  I decided to use the remaining carbonation tabs for this batch.  Produced 52 12oz bottles, and one 28oz Grolsch-style bottle I found at Ikea.  It uses a plastic versus ceramic sealer (with vinyl versus rubber seal), but at $2.99 it’s worth the cost to experiment.

July 30, 2009 (PM) :: Put a bottle in the fridge, and tried it after an hour.  It has a very light, smooth taste, and there is a slight lambic after-bite.  Very drinkable.

August 16, 2009 (PM) :: Put a bottle in the fridge, and tried it after two hours.  The taste is improving with time.  The lambic after-bite has gone down slightly, the carbonation was good but a bit mild.  There seems to be some inconsistency in carbonation, as some bottles show signs of bubbling and pressure, while others do not.  Not sure if there is an issue with the seals when capping, or something else is going on.

September 3-4, 2009 :: The final two weeks of conditioning really smoothed out the taste quite a bit.  I received good feedback on the taste of the beer.  The Ikea bottle experiment proved successful: the lid provided an excellent seal.  So I will be buying some more of those the next time I go there.  The only negative was very visible trum on the bottom, since the bottle was clear.  I really like this style of beer and look forward to making it again.