This past weekend (March 9, 2012) I started a new brew. I'm using Ram's Head Weizenbock from eBrew.com (Alternative Beverage). My yeast is Safbrew T-58 (10 grams). This isn't the yeast that Alternative Beverage specifically recommends but I have something in mind. I was looking for a yeast than can tolerate a high alcoholic content. I'll explain why later.
The first thing to do when preparing a brew session is to start your yeast. It needs to be active and ready to go to work when you pitch into the wort. I typically use the dry packs. Check the direction on the package to see if there are any temperature restrictions. I usually use 1-2 cups of water at ~80 F with 1 tbsp of powdered sugar. You can see here, after 45 minutes of brewing the yeast is alive and kicking.
I have city water but I always filter before using it. I've got a big aluminum pot for the wort. Keep stirring, 8 lbs of Dried Malt Extract (DME) in 2 gallons of water can burn easily.
This was my first recipe that used two kinds of specialty malts. That didn't really change anything for me, they came together all I had to do was put it in the muslin bag. I put the lid on at one point to get the temperature up and it almost boiled over. That would have been quite a mess. I suggest keeping an eye on it better than I did.
The recipe says that with a starting gravity of 1.063 this beer should finish at about 6.4% alcohol and 25 International Bittering Units (IBU). With the exception of the yeast I am following this recipe exactly.
Alternative Beverage prepares each recipe in air tight packages with all the neccesary ingredients in their own air tight packages. With packaged instructions, this makes it very simple to follow and end up with a good beer.
A friend of mine came over to help. This was his first experience doing homebrew.
When the wort is finished cooking it is important to drop the temperature as quickly as possible so that you can pitch the yeast. Your variety may vary but all yeast needs the wort down below 90 F.
The longer it takes between taking the wort off the heat and the yeast taking over, the more chance you have of unwanted bacteria getting in and producing off flavors. My method is to to pour the wort directly into the primary with ice already there. This makes up some of the water needed to get to 5 gallons. Don't use too much ice or the temperature will be too low (low temperatures will keep the yeast from growing quickly). 10 lbs is too much. That dropped the temperature down to below 70 F. Start with 5 lbs and work from that.
Depending on the temperature of the rest of your makeup water you should be pretty close. I had to head up my water to bring the overall temperature back up. At 5 gallons we were at 84 F. Before adding the yeast I took the sugar measurements. Using my refractometer I got 17.8 Brix and using the hydrometer, 1.070 Specific Gravity (SG).
Most yeast can handle 6.4% alcohol. I chose Safbrew T-58, which says it can handle 11.5% alcohol, because I plan to use the colony that grows here to make another batch of this same beer. I'm going to tweak it a little bit to see if I can get something close to 11.5%. Using a larger amount should allow the yeast to spend more time making alcohol rather than trying to grow the colony.