journal of a self proclaimed beer connoisseur

Blackout – Dry Irish Stout

Blackout Stout – Finished Product

Here are a few pictures of the finished product. I will create another posting regarding my official “tasting” of the beer later. I didn’t take a lot of time to do these pictures carefully so please pardon the fingerprints on the glass and the fact that I allowed the head to dissipate while I was experimenting with camera and lighting.


Blackout Stout – Brew Day 3

Today we bottled.

At the end of Brew Day 2 we hoisted our secondary carboy onto an elevated surface so that it would settle and not need to be disturbed when we bottled.

Everything was meticulously sanitized again – this time including the bottles. We have opted for  EZ Cap bottles in both the 500 ml and 1 L sizes. We settled on brown glass as it protects the beer from light which is not good for a finished beer. Other options were clear or green.

These are the bottles:

We love them – they work very well and are very easy to bottle (and open!).

Before bottling we racked the beer into a bottling bucket (just a big plastic bucket) where we had already poured the priming sugar solution. See it here on top of the filing cabinet:

To make the priming sugar solution we just added the sugar to two cups of boiling water. This step is necessary to achieve carbonation in the bottle.

The yeast will feast on this sugar in the bottle and create some gas as a byproduct. This will be the carbonation in the beer. The yeast will then settle again and create that bit of sediment common to home brew.

So to bottle we just had the siphon hose with an attachment that I forget the name of. Basically what this thing does is attach to the end of the siphon hose and once the siphon has started it won’t actually come out the end of the hose through this attachment until you press it up against a surface.

So you just press this to the bottom of your beer bottle and watch it fill up. When it reaches the level you want you just lift the end off the bottom. Very easy.

Pictures of the process:

Our final gravity reading I believe was 1.059 so with the starting value of 1.010 we estimate that our beer finished at an alcohol by volume of about 4.9%. I am trying to find the paper with this information to get a more accurate value.

Our next batch will be more carefully documented.

Blackout Stout – Brew Day 2

We again spent some quality time sanitizing everything that was going to come in contact with our beer.

The goal for today was to take more sampling information about our beer to gauge the progress of the fermentation and to move the beer into a glass carboy – called a “secondary”.

The process of siphoning the beer from the primary to the secondary is called “racking” the beer. The reason that it is preferable to use a glass carboy (or even plastic carboy) for the secondary fermentation stage is to reduce the amount of air in the headspace of the container. Unlike in the primary fermentation stage – where fermentation is very aggressive – you don’t want to have excess air in contact with the beer.

Our beer after racking to the secondary:

Blackout Stout - racked to secondary

Not everyone will even use a secondary or separate the fermentation phases. However, it is generally accepted that by doing so you are able to achieve more clarity and a cleaner beer in the end. As you rack the beer you are able to leave the sediment from the yeast at the bottom of the primary.

For this reason, it is a good tip to move your primary up to an elevated surface on your first day of brewing so when you go to rack it you don’t have to move it and thus disturb the sediment.

I recommend having an auto-siphon tool. These take one pump to start your siphoning. We just used our mouths the old-fashioned way but this obviously greatly increases your risk of introducing contaminants into your precious liquid.

The upside of this? You don’t have to spend more money and you get a chance to see what the beer tastes like!

These were the readings for our beer at this stage:

Date: 20101106

Specific gravity: 1.010

Temperature: 21 C

Temp adjusted S.G.: misplaced the paper with the converted number (we will be more professional next time)

Blackout Stout – Brew Day 1

Our first batch of beer turned out quite well. I am going to put up some posts summarizing the process we followed for the beer.

Although we gave our instance of this beer its own name, really it is just the Stout kit from

We only made two notable modifications to the instructions:

1. We discarded the garbage dry yeast that comes with the package and instead opted to use Wyeast 1084 – Irish Ale. You can read all about that fine liquid yeast here:

2. We did not just blindly add the instructed amount of water. Instead we added about 2 liters and took a hydrometer reading to get the specific gravity. We then continued to add water until the specific gravity was within the style guidelines from BJCP.

I didn’t manage to take any pictures of our brewing on the first day where we added the wort to the primary (i.e. plastic bucket) and pitched the yeast.

We broke the smack pack for the yeast approximately 4 hours prior to starting the brewing process.

We spent a great deal of time carefully sanitizing all our equipment. If you didn’t know this – that is the golden rule of brewing. Be absolutely anal about sterilization or you will indeed spoil the batch.

So we added the water and the wort to our primary bucket and made a point of splashing quite a bit to aerate the wort. This is the only stage in the brewing process where air is good. The more air in the liquid the better the yeast will be able to do it’s job.

We also added the pH buffer to the mixture. When using the Brewhouse kits this is mandatory or your beer will be disgusting. It neutralizes what the manufacturer adds to keep the wort fresh in shipping / retailing. The end effect is that there is no change in taste to the beer.

Lastly we pitched the yeast into the beer (and did not stir) and then placed the lid on top of the bucket with a couple rolls of duct tape sitting on top to keep the lid from blowing off or anything. The lid was loose enough that gas can still escape.

We then covered the whole thing with a blanket and left it two weeks before “Day 2”.

Here is the pertinent information we thought to record:

Datecode on kit: 20091020 (this is old! we should have looked before buying!)

Datecode on yeast: 20101013

Date: 20101027

Specific gravity (S.G.): 1.049 – also known as “original gravity” or “O.G.”

Temperature of wort: Unknown – we didn’t know to check

Temp adjusted S.G.: Unknown