Homebrewing with Chris DiCentes

When I started talking to Chris about homebrewing he told me he had a kit that had been given to him but he had some questions, well after taking a look at the kit, the solid brick of dry malt extract and the 2006 expiration date, I offered him a better option. I offered Chris full use all of my homebrewing equipment, I’d bring it to his place and show him how to brew a batch, provide bottles and caps and all it would cost him is the price of the ingredients. This gave Chris the opportunity to give homebrewing a try without making a large investment in equipment and it gave me the opportunity to teach a friend to homebrew, Win-Win. We decided to brew the White House Honey Porter recipe that was released recently; my friend Josh gave me a couple bottles of the White House Honey Ale so I would be able to do a review of both styles.

Following the recipe found online, we did a mini-mash in the brew kettle, 168 degree water was added to the grains and allowed to sit for 45 minutes. The contents of the mash were then strained off into the fermentation bucket then sparged with 2 gallons of 168 degree water. Once the grains were rinsed, the collected wort was then transferred to the brew kettle.

While we waited for the brew kettle to come to a full boil we cleaned up the fermentation bucket and Chris dumped the spent grains in his backyard for the deer to clean up. When the wort reached a full boil Chris added the two containers of liquid malt extract and one pound of locally sourced honey. Fifteen minutes into the boil we tossed in one half ounce of centennial hops pellets, the recipe does not specify anything other than “10 HBU Bittering Hops” so this is what we went with. Thirty minutes into the boil Chris added the second half ounce of Centennial hops. Thirty minutes later as we finished up the boil Chris tossed in a half ounce of Halleratau hops pellets and killed the heat.

We made sure the fermentation bucket was clean and sanitized then dumped in 3 gallons of cold water; the hot wort was then poured into the bucket. We had already started the dry yeast packet in a measuring cup of warm water, we took a gravity reading of 1.052 and pitched the yeast, the top was placed on the bucket and in place of a standard airlock we opted for a blowdown. With a mini-mash, 2 cans of malt extract and a pound of honey in this wort we decided to play it safe in case we ended up with a vigorous fermentation. We then cleaned up the equipment and called it good, the recipe calls for four days in the primary then rack into secondary, so I headed home.

After a few days Chris told me he wasn’t seeing much for bubbling from the fermenter, so on the fourth day I stopped in to check things out, hoping that everything was set and we could rack over to secondary, unfortunately what I found was a quiet bucket and almost no drop in gravity, stuck fermentation. I gave the bucket a good shake, hoping that some aeration would wake the yeast up and get things started but asked Chris to pick up another packet of yeast just in case. The following day he reported that there was still no bubbling so I had him prepare the new yeast, give the pail a shake, pitch the new yeast and seal it back up.  I guess we had a bad yeast packet because by the following morning he sent me a text to let me know it was bubbling away.

After four more days I stopped into Chris’s place and we sanitized a glass carboy and auto siphon and moved the beer over to the secondary fermenter and airlocked it. The recipe calls for seven days in the secondary and then bottling.

Seven days didn’t quite work out for us as between time conflicts and winter storms but nine days later we got back together at Chris’s place for bottling. We sanitized the bottling bucket, bottles, and caps and set to work bottling our beer. We siphoned the beer into the bottling bucket and added in our priming sugar that had been dissolved in a couple cups of boiling water, the beer smelled really nice, hops and honey were noticeable.  With two of us working together it didn’t take long to fill and cap 47 bottles. In a couple weeks I’ll head back over to Chris’s house and we’ll do a review of this beer and post it.



Recommend this article
Chad Lothian

About Chad Lothian

Chad Lothian lives in Old Town, Maine. He is a craft beer enthusiast and homebrewer. Chad has travelled to brewpubs, breweries and brewfests all over New England.