Thursday, December 19, 2013

Brew Day

North Texas Beer week was last month.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to participate in any of the events, I just had too much going on, including having drill on one of the weekends.  That didn't stop me from keeping up with the goings-on via Facebook.  Apparently, I "liked" something or signed up somewhere, because a couple of weeks ago, I get an email from The Ticket saying that I had been selected as the Brewer for a Day winner at Franconia Brewery in McKinney.  I got in contact with Dennis at Franconia and we worked out a day for me to come in and be a brewer.  That day was yesterday.

Their brew days usually start at 5:30am, so I got up really early to make the 45 minute drive up to South Oklahoma McKinney.  Apparently there was a miscommunication somewhere, because the head brewer didn't know I was coming that day (I had originally scheduled for Monday, but had to reschedule) and didn't get there until 6:30.  No worries, though.  He got there, and we got right to work.

The brew schedule called for a Kolsch to be brewed in the morning, and an Amber in the afternoon.  The grain was already ready for us, so we got the mash-in process started.  Up to this point in my homebrewing, I've been doing all extract brewing, and haven't gotten into all-grain at all, so this was a good learning experience for me.  Their setup is basically a very large-scale homebrew operation, at least on the brewing end.  Once all the grain was in the mashtun and the mash started, we started prepping the grain for the afternoon brew.  They use alot of grain!  We got it all milled and into the chute ready to go. 

Once the mash was complete, we started moving the wort to the brew kettle while fly-sparging to get as much of the sugars out of the grain as possible.  Once the brew kettle was full, the water was just about at boiling.  Added hops throughout the boil, and once it was all done, let it whirlpool for 5 minutes to get all the trub to the center, then started moving it to the fermenter.  Or course, during the boil process, we had to clean out the mashtun.  The fun side of brewing! :-)

Once the boil was done, but before moving the wort to the fermenter, the other two brewers started their mash-in process for the Amber.  Once it was done, we started moving the Kolsch wort.  We also moved 4 finished batches from the fermenters to the cooler to prep for kegging/bottling.  They naturally carbonate their beers in the fermenters, so everything is moved under pressure.

While waiting for the wort to transfer into the fermenter, we tasted some samples of the beer we had just moved into the cooler.  They also had a handful of kegs in the cooler that weren't labelled, so they weren't sure what was in them.  Of course, we had to hook them up so they could get them properly labelled, so I got to sample a few more beers!

We finished up the transfer of the Kolsch wort to the fermenter and cleaned out the brew kettle.  By this time, the mash on the Amber was done, so they were ready to mash out.  I hung around for a bit longer to help with that before heading home for the day.

All in all, it was a great day as a brewer.  I got to see firsthand how a commercial brewery works, and to talk to some experienced brewers.  I got a lot of good tips for my homebrew setup, and will hopefully put some to use on my next batch!

Merry Christmas to all my readers (all 4 of you!)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Beginner tips from a beginner...

So, a friend of mine recently told me that he's wanting to get into homebrewing, and asked me for a few tips to get started.  I had planned on just giving him a couple of pointers, but ended up with a long email when I was done.  I thought it acutally ended up pretty good, so I decided to share it here, and made it more generic.  Enjoy!

Here’s the starter kit I got:

I got the plastic carboys, but glass may be easier to clean.  You also get a recipe kit with it.  I did the Irish Red for my first beer.

Get a propane burner.  Trust me, your wife will appreciate you brewing outside rather than in the kitchen.  Any messes will be easier to clean up, too!  You’ll want at least a 6 or 7 gallon stockpot, so you can eventually do full boils, but to start, a 5 gallon will work.  I have an 8 gallon aluminum seafood pot that I use.  Works perfectly.  Stainless steel also works, but it’s more expensive.  If you don't little clip on thermometer already, get one, it will help you monitor the boil temperature.

A couple of things that you’ll want that don’t come in the kit are a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity with and a wine thief to take samples from the fermenter to test.  You can get both at Northern Brewer or any other homebrew place.  Specific gravity readings are used to calculate your ABV, and also to help you determine when fermentation is done and it’s time to bottle.

You’ll need 50 or so bottles, as well.  I used old (well cleaned out) Sam Adams bottles.  Any brown, long-neck, non-twist off 12oz bottles will work.  You’ll have enough bottle caps in the starter kit for your first batch.  You can always buy more (or a different style) as you need to, they’re super cheap.  When you drink a beer, clean it out with soap and water, then set it some place to dry, and store it until ready to bottle.  I have a couple of boxes full in the garage ready for my next bottling day.

A great place to order stuff is also  They’re in Austin (obviously), and all their recipe kits are free shipping, and they have a ton.  I ordered a Belgian White (think Blue Moon) from them a few weeks ago, and I’m going to brew it this weekend.

The forums at are a great place for info and to ask questions.  I’ve gotten a bunch of questions answered there without even having to ask.  Someone else has generally already asked whatever it is that you’re asking.

Some tips I have from my meager experience so far:

Sanitization is the most important part of brewing.  Your starter kit will come with a small bottle of sanitizer.  You’ll use it up pretty quickly, so you’ll want more for your second and following batches.  Sanitization will keep your beer from becoming infected.  I’ve made sure to sanitize everything that the beer is going to touch after boiling, and have had zero problems.

Fermentation temperature is extremely important.  For most ales, you’ll want to ferment between 65-75 degrees.  Any higher and you risk creating off flavors.  While it won’t ruin your beer, it will make it taste a little “hot”.  My first batch fermented close to 80 degrees, and there’s a bit of a funky “hot alcohol” taste to it.  It still tastes pretty good, but it could be better.  I used a tub of cold water and bottles of ice to keep my second batch around 62-68 degrees, and it is much better.

The instructions that come with most kits are just a guide.  It’s may take longer or shorter for your fermentation to be complete.  I usually leave mine in the fermenter for three weeks before I think about bottling.  Patience is the key.  After two weeks, take a hydrometer reading.  A couple of days later, take another.  Then a couple more days and take another.  If it’s steady, and close to the expected final gravity (will be listed in the instructions), then you’re ready to bottle.

When you’re bottling, ignore how much priming sugar the instructions say to use, it will probably be way too much and result in over-carbonation.  I ended up with beer that takes a while to pour, because I have to wait for the head to go subside to finish pouring.  Use a priming calculator like the one at to determine how much sugar to use.  I did that for my second batch, and the carbonation level is perfect.

I generally let them sit bottled at room temperature for 3 weeks to carb up and properly condition.  I will, of course, sample the product during that time.  Usually I’ll put a bottle in the fridge after a week, then try it a couple of days later.  After 3 weeks, I’ll put them all in the fridge.  For each of my first two batches, I’ve kept a 6-pack back, and not refrigerated.  I’m going to let them sit for 6 months or so, and see how the longer conditioning time does.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

First Taste and Next Brew

Got a couple of updates in this entry...

Back on the 25th, I put a bottle in the fridge to test the carbonation and taste.  Pulled it out and opened it up the next night after work.  Sounded like it was well-carbonated, so into the pint glass it went.  It's possible that it might be a tad over carbonated, since I had a difficult time pouring into the glass without getting overwhelmed with head.  I did eventually get it all in the glass though.

My taste of my very first homebrew was awesome.  It tasted like beer!  I was so happy, I ignored the little bit of "hot" flavoring I got.  I was expecting that, anyway, since I fermented on the warmer side.  Still, I was pretty pleased with the results, knowing that I can only get better in the future.  Since it had only been conditioning for a week, I left the rest at room temperature to continue conditioning.

On Friday morning, the 27th, I put 4 more into the fridge to prepare to take with me to Arkansas on our boys' road trip to the A&M-Arkansas game.  That night, while cooking out and playing dominoes in the parking lot of the Super 8 in Springdale, we opened them and I shared my concoction with Jeff, Kyle, and John.  Universal praise was given.  It seemed like it was a little bit better than the first one, but that could have just been the previous beers we had before that point killing my taste buds.  Either way, I'm still happy about it.

I'll probably let them sit another week or so, then move all but 6 into the beer fridge.  Going to save a 6-pack and let them sit out for a few months, then come back to and see how sitting that long changes anything.

So, on to the next part of this update, brew day!!  Since we weren't leaving until noon on Friday (the 27th) for Arkansas, and I was up anyway, I decided it would be a great day to brew!  I went over to Walmart to grab some bottled spring water (it's cheap, and I won't have to worry about chlorine in the city water).  After my first brewday, and the long time that it took to boil just 2.5 gallons on my electric stove top, we looked into getting a propane burner.  Ended up getting this bad boy from Home Depot.  It has the added advantage of getting me to brew outside, thus not having to have the Scentsy in the kitchen over powered by the wondrous smell of boiling wort.  My 5 gallons was up to the 160 degrees for steeping in about 5 minutes.  After 30 minutes steeping my grains, I removed the bag and discarded the grains and turned up the heat.  It took all of 10 minutes to get those 5 gallons to boiling.  The propane burner is well worth it, and I recommend any budding home brewers get one as one of your first purchases.

Turned the heat off and added in my malt extract and stirred it in until it dissolved.  Relit the burner and turned the heat back up to full blast.  Again, only took a few minutes to get back to boiling, and wow was it a roaring boil.  I had to turn the heat WAY down to keep it at a rolling boil and prevent boilover.  Got the brown sugar and bittering hops added at this point, and started prepping my ice bath for cooling the wort down.  Since my boil pot won't fit in the sink, I used a large Rubbermaid storage tote filled with water and 2 10lb bags of ice.  After the 60 minute boil and the addition of the flavoring and finishing hops, it was into the ice bath with pot went.  Took 10 minutes or so to get down to 100 degrees. 

Here's where my lack of proper planning comes in.  It was nearing noon, and there was no way the wort was going to cool fast enough to get the yeast pitched before we needed to leave.  Plus, I didn't have my temperature control solution ready to go yet (more on that in a bit).  So, I decided to take a little bit of a risk, and went ahead-with the help of my brother-transferred the wort through a strainer into the sanitized carboy.  Capped it off with the airlock, and put it into the beer fridge in the garage.

Skipping ahead to Sunday, after going to the Rangers game right after we got home from Arkansas, I got the carboy out of the fridge so it could start warming back up to pitching temperature (60-70 was the ideal range, according to the yeast package) while I setup my swamp-cooler.  Over the weekend, while the wort was in the fridge, alot of trub dropped out.  Not sure how that's going to effect the finished product.  I guess we'll find out in a few weeks.

On the swamp cooler, I used the same Rubbermaid storage tote and filled it about halfway or so with warmish water and a small dash of Oxyclean.  Got the carboy in there so it would help bring the wort up to temperature.  Once it was up to 55, I started putting frozen water bottles in to bring the water temp down so it would stabilize around 65.  It actually worked, and the water temp was about 62, and the wort temp about 65.  After sanitizing the yeast pack and a pair of scissors-and after aerating the wort for 5 minutes-I pitched the yeast and replaced the re-sanitized cap and airlock.  Got an old Army-issue moisture-wicking tan t-shirt out of the garage and soaked that in the water, then draped it over the carboy to add a little evaporative cooling.

Checked back in that night before bed, and the temp was up a little, so I replaced the now thawed water bottles with some fresh ones from the freezer and went to bed.  Checked again the next morning.  No activity, but I wasn't really concerned, since it will probably take 24-48 hours to see anything.  Temperature wasn't bad.  Swapped out the bottles for fresh ones, since during the day it would probably get up above 80 in the upstairs bathroom which has become my fermentation chamber.  After work, I switched out bottles again, and then again before bed.  I've got a good system going, and keeping everything between 62 and 68.  By Tuesday morning, I had a good inch of krausen formed, and pretty much constant activity in the airlock.  This morning, it was closer to 2 inches of krausen.  I'm going to leave it alone-only switching out frozen water bottles-through the weekend, and see how it's doing.  Once the krausen falls back in, and airlock activity slows way down, I'll put in the last 1/2oz of Centennial hops for dry hopping.  I'll leave that for at least a week, then start taking gravity readings.  Once I hit a consistent FG over several checks, I'll be ready to bottle!  By that time, I should have plenty of empties from my first batch!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


So, I took a final gravity reading on Monday evening after a trip back to Homebrew HQ to replace a broken hydrometer (they were very nice about it, since it broke through no fault of my own).  It was a steady 1.014, just like the previous two, so into the fridge in the garage the carboy went to cold crash for a day.

Most of the bottles I used are Sam Adams bottles, which still had the labels on them.  I read in a couple of places, and also had a friend suggest, that OxyClean will take the labels right off.  With a fresh container of OxyClean picked up at Kroger on the way home, I filled up my cooler with water and a couple of scoops OxyClean, and put the bottles in to soak.

After heading over to my brother's new house to help him move some furniture around, I checked on the bottles soaking in OxyClean, and found a whole mass of bottle labels floating around.  Had a quick dinner of leftover pot roast (just as good the second time around!) and then got the bottles rinsed and onto the bottom rack of the dishwasher to dry.  After getting tomorrow's dinner marinade made and the pork chops marinating, it was time to bottle!

I got my 5 gallons of sanitizer solution mixed in the bottling bucket and sanitized everything I'd be using, minus the bottles.  I put a little bit of sanitizer solution into a small bowl, and dumped my bottlecaps in there.  Once the bucket and equipment had time to soak, I transferred the solution to my brew kettle to use as a bottle sanitizing station.  While this was all going on, I had my 5oz of corn sugar boiling in 16oz of water.  Once the bottling bucket was empty of sanitizer, I hooked up the bottling wand thing to the spigot and poured the priming solution in.

The carboy had been waiting patiently on the kitchen table this whole time, warming back up after being in the cold for just over 24 hours.  I grabbed my fancy auto-siphon out and started racking the beer into the bottling bucket.  That took about 10 minutes or so.  Once that was done, I started bottling.  The bottling process itself took just over 30 minutes, probably.  After cleaning up the kitchen, I put my box of 40 full beer bottles ( I was expecting 50, guess my testing samples took more out than I thought) into a nice dark spot to carbonate and condition.  I'll check on them in a week and a half or so, see how they're doing.

I'm hoping to brew up my IPA this weekend, but it's a drill weekend, so we'll see!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Homebrew Headquarters

So, Erin and I made a trip over to Homebrew Headquarters in Richardson after we both got off work today.  I knew I needed a hydrometer so I could start taking gravity readings, and I figured I'd see what else they have that I need/can use, plus get some ideas/ingredients for my next batch.

The people at HBHQ were extremely nice and very helpful.  I got the hydrometer and wine thief right away, and we decided that we might as well get all the stuff for my next batch while we were there.  I've been going back and forth on doing a pumpkin ale and an IPA, but leaning toward IPA, because I would rather wait until I get into all grain brewing to do the pumpkin ale.  So, IPA it is.  I asked the guy what he recommended for a recipe for a good IPA.  We decided to go with a more citrusy, piney IPA, so we took the house recipe and swapped out the English hops for American hops.  Here's what we ended up with:

7lbs Light LME
1cup light brown sugar

1/2lb Light Crystal Malt 20L
1/2lb Cara-Pils Malt
2lbs 2-row Pale Malt

1oz Chinook (bittering) 60 min
1oz Centennial (flavoring) 10 min
1/2oz Centennial(finishing) 5 min
1/2oz Centennial (dry hopping)

Safale US-05 Dry Ale Yeast

We also picked up a package of patriotic American flag bottle caps (awesome idea, Erin!), some sanitizer, and cleaning solvent for all the brewing equipment.  Also, got enough corn sugar to last me about 8 batches or so.  Our shopping was rounded out by a package of whirlfloc, which will help clarify the beer.

After a stop for dinner, we got back home and unloaded the goodies.  The yeast and hops went into the fridge for storage, the grains and the extract went with my brewing kettle to be ready for brew day.  The sanitizer I used to make a couple of gallons of sanitizer solution, and put the wine thief in to soak for a few minutes.  After it was all sanitized and ready to go, I let it air dry for a bit, then headed for the pantry to pull a sample of beer out of the carboy.  Dropped the hydrometer into the sample in the thief.  Temperature-adjusted gravity reading is 1.014.  From what I can find, the expected FG for this recipe is 1.010 to 1.015, so I'm in the range. 

I'll take another sample tomorrow, then another on on Sunday after we get back from College Station.  If they're all consistent, then I'll do a 24-hour cold crash in the fridge to help clear the beer, then bottle Monday.  3 weeks of bottle conditioning, and they'll be ready to try out!  So, sports fans, plan on second week of October for my first tasting!  Well, first bottle tasting.  I couldn't let today's test sample go to waste, had to try it out, of course.  It tasted like flat beer, which I guess is good, since that's pretty much what it is at this point!

Gig 'Em and BTHO Alabama!!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The old keg cap switcheroo...

I was browsing this thread over at HBT today, and some of the stories remind me of a party we had my junior (I think?) year at A&M.  I shared it there, and thought I'd share it with whoever actually reads this!

So, we're doing our normal Saturday night keg party at the duplex I lived in off campus. We had a kegerator, but for these parties, we would just have the kegs in a trashcan on the front porch to keep people out of the house as much as possible. Anyway, we had a keg of Keystone Light, with another sitting in the kegerator as a reserve. This one obnoxious guy kept complaining that we had the audacity to have Keystone Light for a party, and that we should have gotten "a real beer, like Coors Light!" As the keg gets close to being floated, we start taking up a collection for a second keg. Mr. Obnoxious donates, chiming in with something along the lines of "I'm gonna chip in, but you better not bring back any more crap beer." Having bought many kegs over the course of the semester, we have quite a collection of old plastic keg caps in a jar in the kitchen. So, we grab the extra keg of Keystone Light and slap on a Coors Light cap. As we bring it out, we make a big show out of taking the cap off, making sure Mr. Coors Light sees it. And he does, and he says stuff like "damn right! About time we got some real beer up in here." After the keg is tapped, he's first in line to fill his cup. After taking a big chug, he proclaims "hell yeah, now that's what I'm talking about. Finally some damn good beer!! You heathens don't deserve to be drinking this!"

We all about died laughing. He never did figure out why, either.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Home brewery name

Like any good home brewer, I have to come up with a name for my new endeavour, even if I never enter a single competition.  I had a ton of good ideas in my head, but apparently I'm not very creative or original, as every idea I had already existed in one form or another.

There's already a Minuteman Brewing Company.  I thought about Arrowhead Brewing, after the 36th Infantry Division patch I wear.  Nope, that's taken too.  Same for Doughboy Brewing.  I switched my thinking from wider military themed to more specific field artillery themed.  Reg Leg Brewery is taken, which is too bad, because it's a pretty awesome name.  My neighbors recently moved to Colorado Springs, where Red Leg is located, and he's promised to send me some beer!

After giving up on the military themes, I just decided to go simple.  I love my home state of Texas, so I've gone with Texas Ale Company for now, as you can probably see from the URL of this here blog.  I'll starting playing around with a logo this week, see what I can come up with.


The home brew experiment begins.

So, this is my first ever attempt at blogging so we'll see how it goes...

Home brewing is a hobby I've always wanted to get into, but never got around to it.  Mostly because I'm far too lazy and impatient to actually try to brew beer, then wait the 6 weeks plus for the beer to be ready to drink.  Who wants to do that when the beer store is just a few blocks away?  As it turns out, there are a whole lot of people who do.  Check out the bottom of this entry for links to some great sites for homebrew newbies like me.

Anyway, to get on with the birthday was fast approaching, and my wife and parents were both asking me what I wanted, and that I needed to update my giftlist, since it hadn't been updated since Christmas ( is awesome, btw).  Not having any ideas what to add, I did some Google searching for MANLY gift ideas, and one of them was a basic homebrew kit called Mr. Beer.  I figured, why not.  Not wanting to just grab the first kit I found online, I did some research and read some reviews and found the Northern Brewer Deluxe Brewing Starter Kit.  It had some great reviews, and looked to have pretty much everything I'd need to get started, including a recipe kit for my first beer.  It has 3 options to pick from (an American Wheat, a Session Beer, and an Irish Red Ale), but I didn't specify when I added it to my giftlist, preferring to be surprised.

Fast Forward a few weeks later to a few days before my birthday, and the doorbell rings.  After calming Enzo (our 4 year old English Springer Spaniel) down, I open the door to see the UPS man has left behind a large box with pictures of beer and brewing equipment on it (thanks, Mom and Dad!!).  I, of course, am very excited, but it's still a few days before my birthday, so I decide that I should be patient, and wait to open it until my actual birthday arrives (yes, I was acting like a little kid instead of a soon-to-be 37-year-old man, but I don't care).

 After heading to College Station for the weekend to see the Ags BTHO Rice, and see Johnny be Johnny, I decided that a Sunday morning/afternoon was the perfect time to brew up my first batch of beer.  I opened up my kit and did an inventory.  Everything was there, so no worries there.  I found the recipe kit and read over the instructions and ingredients list.  Nothing seemed too daunting, but I did have one small problem...we didn't have a stock pot nearly big enough for my new hobby.  Our largest pot is 2 gallons.  As you can tell from the instructions, I'll be starting off by boiling 2.5 gallons.  I'm going to need a bigger pot.  So, it was off to Wal-Mart.  Believe it or not, Wal-mart didn't have anything larger than about 4 gallons.  I wanted something 5+, so I'd have plenty of room to expand and avoid boilover.  Off to Target we went.  Target had a much better selection, and after some impromptu Googling of the difference in hombrewing in aluminum and stainless steel, I went with an 8-gallon aluminum steamer pot.  I also picked up a small notebook to take notes on the process, so I can find what works and what doesn't for future batches.

Back home, I popped in my DVD that came with the beer brewing kit and watched the video on brewing beer, along with the one on sanitizing my fermentation equipment.  Confident that I now possessed the knowledge necessary to be successful in my first batch, I headed to the kitchen to get started.

Following the recipe kit instructions, I poured 2.5 gallons of water into my pot, and dumped the grains into a muslin bag to steep in the water.  With the thermometer that came with the kit in the pot, I steeped the grains for 20 minutes (it was right at 170 degrees at that point), then removed the grains and threw them away.  I then waited for the water to begin to boil so I could add the malt extract syrup.  And waited....and waited...and waited some more.  Tip to others considering this....heating that much water in a pot that big on an electric stove top isn't all that easy.  A turkey fryer burner (or other outdoor propane burner) would have come in very handy.  It will also allow you to do your brewing outside, and not prompt your wife to declare that you have overpowered the Scentsy and made the whole house smell like beer!

Anyway, back to brewing.  After finally getting the water boiling, I turned off the heat and added the softened-in-hot-water-in-the-sink malt to the water and stirred, thereby creating wort!  After another long wait for the wort to come to a boil, I added the first batch of hops.  30 minutes later, the second batch of hops went into the wort.  Another 30 minutes later, and it was done.  Now to cool the wort down to 100 degrees or so, so it could safely be poured into the carboy (glass or plastic 6.5 gallon water bottle, basically.  I have plastic ones).  The instructions, and most forums, will tell you to cool using an ice water bath in the sink.  Ok, sounds like a plan.  Oh, wait, my ginormous pot won't fit in the sink.  And, we have dinner reservations in a half hour.  Ok, I put the lid on and put the pot in our beer fridge in the garage, after clearing out some room.  Several forums said this shouldn't be a problem.  Next time, I'll have a better plan for cooling the wort (more on temperature control a little later).

After dinner at Pappas Brothers Steakhouse (yum!) for my birthday, it's back home and time to get the fermentation started.  While we were gone, everything required for fermentation was sitting in a sanitizer solution (the sanitizer came with the kit) in the 5-gallon bottling bucket (not used yet, but perfect for this purpose).  I siphoned the solution in to the 6.5 gallon primary fermentation carboy and let it soak for a few minutes.  After draining the carboy, and with the help of my loving wife, poured the now-cooled wort in to the fermentor.  Again following the instructions, I aerated the wort in the fermentor to get it ready for the addition of the yeast.  I pitched the yeast into the fermentor (brewing term for adding) and sealed it up with the airlock.  Moved it into the pantry to sit and ferment.

Now, the optimal temperature for fermentation of ales is between 60 and 70 degrees.  This being Texas, there's no way I'm getting anywhere in the house that cool without paying an outrageous electric bill.  The instructions said 78 degrees or lower, so I figured I was fine without any extra cooling.  Looking back, and for next time, I would have used a swamp cooler or similar setup.  From my research, I should be fine with this batch, it just may have some off flavors.  We'll see in a few weeks.

So, it has now been 8 days since fermentation began.  When I got home from work on Monday afternoon and checked on it, it was fermenting like crazy.  Lots of activity, with a good inch and a half to two inches of krausen (foam cased by the fermentation process) on top of the beer, and a bubble every few seconds from the airlock.  Looking good so far!  I've been pretty good about being patient since then, only looking in a couple of times a day.  Of course, my wife did notice that the pantry smelled like beer right away.  I'll be doing the fermenting somewhere else next time!  I'm working on a plan to get the fermenation temperate down, anyway, so it would have to move somewhere that I have more room.  After 3 or 4 days, fermentation slowed down considerably, and now there's pretty much no activity at all.  I have yet to purchase a hydrometer to check the specific gravity of the beer, so I don't know if it has stabilized yet.  I plan on making a trip to Homebrew Headquarters in Richardson this week, and that's on my shopping list.  I'll probably give it another week, and bottle next weekend.  Then I can start planning my second batch, learning from my mistakes as I go, all the while creating beer!  How awesome is that?

I'll try to keep this updated with my experiences as I continue along this great journey of beer making.  Of course, I have to thank my wife, Erin, for being such a good sport and supporting my new hobby as much as she has, even though I've made two parts of the house smell like beer now.  She's not much of a beer drinker, so hopefully I'll be able to make something that she likes!

Some links that I've found handy in this process: