How to Brew Beer
How to brew beer is a task that has enticed mankind for generations. Ben Franklin is often quoted as saying "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." If that is true, then learning how to brew beer is nothing short of your own zymological pilgrimage. Brewing can be one of the most rewarding hobbies imaginable, but it can be daunting in the many choices that one has to make.
1. Choose A Style. Beer is almost infinite in its permutations, so start with a style that you are familiar with and enjoy. When taking that first sip of your creation it really helps to know what the style is supposed to taste like. If you’ve never had a saison, how would you know you got it right? Choose an ale when learning how to brew beer, they require less equipment and precision in producing.
2. Find A Supplier/ Buy Decent Equipment. There are literally hundreds of thousands of sites online that you can order both your ingredients and cooking equipment from. While these sites are usually reputable and sell quality products, try and find a local supplier first. Most local shop owners will be happy to talk to you about beer, how to brew beer, any questions you might have, and might even be willing to share their own “private label” with you. Bonus! Don’t skimp on equipment. The chances are very high that you will be doing this more than once. The “non-skimp” rule also applies to ingredients. Buy cheap ingredients; make cheap beer. Poorly built equipment will only cost you more in the long run. Initially, you’ll need:
- 1 (3 to 4) gallon pot
- 1 (5) gallon plastic bucket with lid and fermentation lock (new and clean)
- 1 plastic funnel
- 1 thermometer
- 1 hydrometer
- 6 to 10 ft of 3/8 hose (new and clean)
- Several beer bottle caps (new and unused)
- 1 bottle capper
- Approximately 50 empty beer bottles. These can simply be the bottles you have once you’re done with your favorite brew. Try and use brown bottles as sunlight can have a negative effect on fermenting beer.
- 1 (5) gallon glass carboy. Necessary for performing a secondary fermentation, which is recommended for a cleaner beer.
3. Follow Directions. The simplest way to start off is with a malt extract kit. Most kits will come with “stupid-proof” instructions and they are very reliable. The kit manufacturers want you to get it right, enjoy it, and buy another kit from them. They’ve done the heavy lifting; don’t reinvent the wheel. Generally, there are four stages you brew beer.
- Boiling: This is where you boil your water, malt, and hops for approximately an hour. Each item has it’s own “boiling time”. This mixture is called wort.
- Cooling the Wort and “Pitching” Yeast: Yeast are the live creatures that take the sugars that you just boiled and turn it into the alcohol that you love. As such, it has a preference as to its living conditions. Yeast like oxygen, so a little aeration is usually recommended. Ale yeasts prefer a warmer environment (55-75° F) while lager yeasts thrive in cooler conditions (32-55°F).
- Ferment: This is the easiest stage. Place the pre-beer in your plastic bucket, sit back, and let it turn into beer. This stage can last anywhere from two to four weeks. Secondary fermentation is simply a matter of siphoning your almost-beer from the bucket to the carboy and letting the yeast finish the job in its new digs.
- Bottling: At this point you have beer. Flat beer. Adding a little sugar restarts the yeast and carbonates your beer in the bottle.
4. Keep It Clean. Left over cleaning solutions and airborne bacteria are just two of any number of things that can ruin beer. When you brew beer, keep your space and equipment clean. You’ll be more likely to be throwing a few cold ones back then throwing them out.
5. Enjoy! Be sure you invite plenty of other pilgrims along for the trip. Show off your new hobby of brewing beer! Franklin would be proud!