After receiving my beer supplies in the mail, I pulled all of my ingredients together and started sanitizing! I used bleach (1 TBS/1 gal) as my sanitizing solution and boiled up some w ater to rinse with, start the yeast, etc.
The next step was to start figuring out how to brew the 3 gal. batch of wort concentrate to add to the 2 gal. of water I had boiled and added to my sanitized carboy... I used a turkey roaster and propane burner we had sitting around in the backyard for those wonderful deep-fried turkey. I can tell you that took all day to clean with dish soap and baking soda, and it certainly can't be the best thing for my beer, but it is what I have and I did the best I could with it.
Next step was to start the wort boil. I added the last 3 gal. of water for the wort concentrate and set it to boil. Once the water started to boil I added the 3lbs. of American Amber DME and just as I was getting ready to add the 3lbs. of LME, I dropped the jar on the ground which promptly spilled out some of the LME. Luckily, the recipe only called for the 3lbs of LME and 2lbs of the DME, so I could compensate more/less with the DME.
During the boil I went ahead and started to hydrate my yeast. It was exciting to see the yeast actually come to life and start foaming the way they do. Once I primed them with the water-LME solution, they really started going. My biggest fear going in was that they yeast would be DOA since I stupidly only ordered as much as I needed, and I am still a little nervous ordering this kind of stuff from online companies, but there simply is no Homebrew store where I live. All three stores I ordered from turned out very well, luckily.
The next step was to go ahead and add my bittering hops (I used Centennial hop pellets for this). I measured them out and added them to the wort and immediately began to smell what I can only describe as "baked beer candy." The smell was absolute heaven to me, because normally when drinking beer you can smell hops and malt characters, but not in the pure forms you can when you are actually brewing the beer and working with the ingredients. And the smell of wort cooking is pure happiness to a beer lover.
The last few steps were pretty intense and went really quickly, so pictures weren't taken. I added the finishing hops 15 minutes before the end of the boil. At 60 minutes I cut off the boil and plunged the pot into a tub of cold pool water that I filled with ice. Surprisingly the wort didn't cool down as quickly as I expected. It took a much longer time that it felt like it should in ice water. However, since I dropped my thermometer earlier in the process, I had no clue as to what the temperature was, but I believe I probably added the wort at a temperature above yeast pitching temperature. Additionally, the two gallons that were sitting in the carboy were still very very warm (probably themselves nearing 90 degrees). I pitched the yeast and poured in the wort using a funnel. I inserted the bung and airlock and rolled the whole thing off to it's final, dark destination.
There were some things I would have done differently during the brew:
1) I would have not had my secondary fermenter sitting around in the way. Having unnecessary tools laying around was annoying and caused me to be clumsy.
2) I would boil all 5 gallons of water at the same time since I have a pot big enough to do so. Doing two seperate boils just seems like a waste of propane, time, and most importantly just allows for more opportunities for things to go wrong.
3) I would definitely use a wort chiller. It took far too long to cool down the wort, and even when I thought I had cooled it, it was probably too hot, which will most likely lead to my beer being the science behind it, but I am not sure if my siphon can handle the hot liquids. Perhaps if I use it from the out end of the counterflow...
4) I would have monitored the temperature and gravity more closely just so that I could record those numbers in case I wanted to (not) repeat the beer; however, the recipe I was working from out of John Palmer's book did not have any target gravities, so I was basically just trying to reach the AAUs, times, and amounts he proposed in the recipe.
Anyhow, after the whole process was done, I checked on the beer this morning and I have something. It certainly seems to adhere to the pictures I have seen on the internet of a healthy bubble in the airlock and krausen on top of the beer. There is a decent amount of greenish brown and butter popcorn coloring in the krausen, but from what I understand this is normal. After 24 hours, the beer is still bubbling steadily, and the gas it is putting off certainly smells like pale ale. More specifically it smells like a Sierra Nevada (which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned).
I am a bit worried about all of the things I know I didn't quite do correctly, much like in college when I left the test and looked in the book and found all of the answers I did not answer correctly during the test! However, at the very least I am producing something, and that something is alcoholic which is light years from what I have made with beer kits in the past. Having seen all that goes into actually producing beer and seeing everything that must be done at least somewhat correctly, it is no wonder that I never produced too much more than beer tea in the past. I am interested to taste it when I rack to the secondary fermentation. Maybe I will get adventurous and dry hop a bit when I rerack. It was a great experience and it made me glad I had purchased all of the equipment. I have a much better feel for what goes into the process than I ever could have learned from the kits where you pour the ingredients in, stir, and wait for the beer to be produced. This is not all grain by any means, but it's not a beer-in-a-bag either.
I am already thinking about what my next brew will be... I am thinking an English ESB, but if I want to try a lager then I should do that soon since the weather here will quickly jump into the 90s and stay there until September while electricity gets more expensive and keeping the house at brewing temperature will begin to be difficult. I can probably use a bath tub with water to insulate it against the warm temperature and the chill at night, but a lager will be difficult in the summer here unless I want to replace the thermostat on the big freezer in the garage...