Snow Beer

Beyond its inherent value, my post about the Katadyn Pocket water filter back in March was meant to be a precursor to this post.

One of my Christmas gifts (ie. what I not only requested but actually went out to acquire myself 🙂 ) was a Belgian ale beer kit. The homebrew shop apparently acquired from one of my previous homebrew shops when it went out of business back in 1999 a large fridge and apparently whatever trademarks and (I presume) recipes for a line of beer kits they produced called “SuperBatch”. Basically, the concept is (for them) to create in-store full, ready to add water beer kits using custom recipes, building the kits with various malt extracts in proportions according to given recipes and adding packets of hops and / or other spices (again in varieties and quantities according to the given recipes), as well as the usual yeast packet.

Having a personal preference for Belgian beers, I have been hoping for years to stumble upon a Belgian beer kit, and was finally pleased to find one when I decided to investigate another homebrew shop given that for the past year or two I’d been very slowly been getting frustrated by my up-to-then current homebrew shop over decreasing selection of, and generally decreasing availability of product. The imp that pushed me over the cliff came from somewhere between having found the Belgian kit on the new-to-me shop’s website and having observed that the up-to-then current homebrew shop had also changed distributors, not only not carrying the beer kits I had been using and finding acceptable, but also changing the brand of wine kits I normally (although now rarely) use; I’ve tried a couple of other brands, I don’t like them.

Back on track, I had a beer kit in hand. And, I was up at the cottage over the Christmas holidays, melting a *lot* of snow and filtering the water using my water filter in order to supply my water needs. Having planned this next part in advance, at one point I took out my water container I keep for wine-making and brewing purposes and, instead of filling my drinking water containers with filtered water for my drinking and cleanup needs, I started filling my brewing water container and brought it home at the end of my holiday.

Shortly after coming home, I made beer. The instructions were a little different from the commercial kits in cans out there (ok, stop rolling your eyes). They were vaguely reminiscent of brewing from grain, at least so far as I had to boil the malt extract with about an equal amount of water, and having to add the packet of (in my case, given that it was a Belgian ale) dried fruit and spices. Having added the rest of the water, which was also its bulk, there was little issue with having to chill the wort. I pitched the yeast, covered the bucket with a plastic sheet, and waited and watched.

A week later, I racked the bubbling beer into a secondary fermenter and added an air lock, and waited and watched.

Three weeks later, after the secondary fermentation and then settling, I bottled the beer, priming with my usual approximately 1oz of honey per gallon. For the inquisitive, the kind of honey I used was the type that Costco sells 1kg at a time, not some esoteric organic variety bought from some road-side stand in front of a farmer’s field a couple of hours out of the city. Typically, it takes about two weeks just to get the carbonation completed.

But, it doesn’t stop there: It took another month after the bare minimum (in my books) of six weeks, or in the general area of 10-12 weeks at this point in late March, for the wonderful chocolate tones and other fuller flavours to start coming out. In between, the beer seemed to be a bit disappointingly dull and flat (not carbonation-wise, but taste-wise.)

And … there are two endings to this story:

First, whaddya think, it isn’t any good? Of course it’s good. In a little while when my supplies begin to dwindle, I’ll be getting another Belgian Ale kit from my new-to-me shop.

Secondly, does the fact that it’s made from melted snow filtered to drinking water quality make it taste any better? Well I guess I’d have to have made separate parallel batches with tap water and distilled water to really know the difference, or even try to determine whether there actually is one; certainly, I can’t particularly tell. Of course the beer is good and doesn’t have any off tastes, and fermented well.

But … I expect that the real difference lies in that I have a bit of a story to tell regarding the water source I used for the beer I’m serving, and not much more.

And, back in April before all the snow in the city had melted away, I melted some and filtered it; it’s now patiently waiting for the next time I make some beer for myself (I had no intention of using it for the beer I’ve made for Canada Day. 🙂 )