Before I left for the Pole, I brewed up a batch of wheat beer. However, I had to leave before it finished so I didn’t really get to sample it until I got back in late January. The whole time I was gone, I wondered how my beer would turn out.

Despite a color more appropriate for an amber, the beer was actually quite good. Not every bottle was equally good; some bottles were merely adequate while others were very, very good. In general, I enjoyed the end result so much that I decided to keep brewing. The biggest headache of the first batch was letting the wort chill before I could pitch the yeast into the fermenter. Letting the wort cool took about six hours which meant that I could never brew on a weeknight and that all sorts of undesirable little nasties could get into the beer while it was in a vulnerable state. So, I investigated how to cool the next batch faster, and ended up building a wort chiller out of some copper piping I bought at Home Depot, a few feet of vinyl tubing and a double-handful of plumbing bits from a local hardware story. Earlier this week I put the whole mess together and it all seemed to work. However, the real test was going to be how the apparatus performed the next time I brewed.

While we were in New Zealand and Australia, I drank more than my fair share of English-style bitters. Unlike the name might imply, bitters are not really bitter. Rather, bitters are usually amber in color, full-bodied, somewhat malty, often with a hint of floral scent, and perhaps even a bit of sweet flavor. There aren’t many English-style bitters brewed in the US, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take advantage of my home brewing equipment.

This morning I spent three hours brewing up five-gallons of beer that is now fermenting. The wort chiller worked as advertised; the wort cooled down to roughly 70° F (from boiling) in a bit less than twenty minutes.

Of course, I won’t know how I did with this batch until I can drink it roughly three weeks from now. I have seven bottles of my wheat beer left to tide me over until then.