Today was day thirteen of my Yorkshire brown in the primary fermenter. The bubbling of the airlock has all but completely stopped, so the main part of fermentation should be done - but to be sure, one must take a new specific gravity reading. If you get matching gravity readings on consecutive days, then you actually know that fermentation is done.
I have pretty religiously kept the carboy wrapped in a towel - this protects the beer from light, which is very bad for it - and also helps to keep the temperature more constant. The carboy has been kept in my closet, though, so the temperature shouldn't have varied *too* much.
My target original gravity was 1.051, and my target final gravity was 1.013, which translates to a beer with an alcohol by volume of just a hair under 5.0% exactly. When I brewed this batch, my orignal gravity reading was very high (you may recall), at 1.075. Today's reading was 1.012 - almost perfectly on target. This confirms my suspicion that fermentation is done, though I'll take one more reading to be very sure. This also means that my worry of there being too much sugar in the finsihed beer is unfounded, since the sugar all fermented out to the expected saturation.
The sample did smell sweeter than I expected it would, but the numbers don't lie, right?
At any rate, next came one of the best parts of brewing your own beer - getting to taste it.
I knew full well that the sample would be completely flat, since it hadn't been carbonated yet. I also know that even though fermentation was probably done, the beer itself was not truly ready (especially if my original gravity reading was correct).
The verdict? In a word, hmm.
There were no strange flavors, so my fears that the overly sweet smell meant some sort of contamination were once and for all proven to be unfounded. The beer was a good bit dryer than I had expected - I was really figuring that it would be maltier (i.e. sweeter) than it was.
The flavor wasn't perhaps as complex as I'd hoped for, but then again, it *is* a british brown ale, so it's not supposed to have a lot of complexity to it. The taste (mouthfeel?) might have been just a tad thin... but I may be being overly critical.
I will say this - I'm pretty sure that the alcohol level is, in fact, pretty high. The three swallows or so that I had in my sample all had a noticeable alcohol warmth to them. If both of my gravity readings are correct, I'm looking at an ABV of just over 8.25%. Even if the first reading was a little high due to rookie homebrewer error, I'm certain that this beer is definitely over the target 5.0%... not that such is a bad thing at all.
The verdict at this point? This ale certainly needs some time to condition and let that alcohol flavor mellow a bit. Also, I'd like to see how it tastes at a colder temperature than it is currently sitting at (about 68 degrees F). However, it is still VERY young - I wouldn't consider drinking any for another month at the very least, so there is plenty of time for it to develop some character (and bigger beers are known to need to sit for a while before they are ready). I have a sneaking suspicion that this one may take a couple of months (maybe even a few?) to reach its full potential.
When all is said and done, I think that I'm going to end up with a quality beer, and something that I can be proud of (especially for a first try). I plan to rack it to my secondary this weekend, then start the brewing process for my next brew - the imperial nut brown ale (one that is supposed to be a big beer from day one).
Tags for this post: gravity, original, specific, final, abv, alcohol, volume, warmth, ale, homebrew, brew, brewing