“Here’s to alcohol: the cause and solution to all of life’s problems.” That Homer Simpson quip may be an exaggeration, but for many, there’s nothing like the sweet taste of some hops and barley.
And many beer-chuggers are leaving the big-name mega-breweries behind, instead opting for a nice craft brew. Small brewers are popping up across the country, but many Americans also go it alone and brew their own beer.
While you may not be Adolphus Busch or Arthur Guinness, brewing your own beer at home has never been easier. With some patience and practice, you may be able to treat your friends to some do-it-yourself suds at that next tailgate party, poker game, or cornhole tournament.
Brew Your Own Beer
In essence, brewing beer is a natural process involving fermentation – with you as the brewmaster. To get started, you’ll need a few things to channel your inner Guinness:
Brewing kettle (5 gallons)
Fermenter with an airlock
A beer recipe kit or specific ingredients
That second bullet point is critical. Nobody wants a skunky beer, and keeping things clean can go a long way toward making that perfect tasty craft beer concoction. Many companies sell a sanitizer, and after boiling your brew, anything making contact with the brew should be sanitized. So to get started, sanitize all those components.
Next, it’s time to get your boil on. Fill that kettle with ingredients from your recipe. Add 2.5 gallons of water and then bring to a boil. Beer’s main ingredients are malt, hops, yeast, and water. There are numerous ways to combine those and other possible additions, but these make a beer a beer.
Oh So Tasty
How you combine those depends on your own tastes and interests. Resources like John Palmer’s How to Brew and Brew Your Own offer ideas on perfectly combining ingredients to your own taste.
As the water heats up, add the grain bag to the water. This process is known as steeping, which Northern Brewer notes “is the process of soaking crushed specialty grains in hot water to extract color and some flavor compounds from the grain.”
After 20 minutes, pull out the grain bag and let the excess water drip into the boil. Once the kettle achieves a rolling boil, remove it from the heat and add in the malt extracts, paying careful attention to your specific recipe. When these dissolve in your homebrew, return the kettle to the heat. You will add hops throughout the boil, depending on your recipe.
Fermenting and Bottling Your Beer
Once the boil is finished, according to your chosen recipe, the liquid is known as wort – an unfinished beer that’s basically sugar water. You’re now heading to the fermentation process, but first, it’s time for a wort cooldown.
Numerous chillers are available on the market, but filling the sink with ice and popping the pot in is also okay. You’ll want to ensure the wort reaches the correct temperature per your recipe. Once that’s accomplished, transfer the liquid into the sanitized fermenter.
Add more water to reach 5 gallons and the appropriate amount of yeast. The fermentation process will then begin, turning that wort into what will soon be bottled. Fermenters range from stainless steel to plastic to other materials. Some options even allow you to watch the entire process play out.
“A neat side effect of a transparent fermenter, however, is that you can watch the magic happen,” home brewer Ben Keough notes at Wirecutter.
An airlock keeps that fermentation process free from outside contaminants. Store the fermenting beer in a dark, cool place for anywhere from seven to 28 days. Now the fun part begins – bottling and getting ready to drink.
Sanitize all bottles (a bottle brush helps), bottling buckets, and anything that will make contact with the homebrew. To start the bottling process, boil priming sugar in 16 ounces of water, which helps carbonate each bottle. Transfer this mixture to the bottling bucket after cooling.
Then siphon the beer from the fermenter into the bottling bucket, leaving most of the sediment in the fermenter. A hose, bottle filler, and bucket spigot fill those bottles quickly. You can purchase bottles online, along with caps and a capper. But most modern beer bottles will also work.
Tough work, huh? Drinking bottled beer to recycle with more beer! Next, store those bottles in a dark place for another 14 days and then pop them in the fridge or cooler of ice. Pop that top and enjoy.
Simplifying the Process
These are the nuts and bolts of brewing your own beer, and numerous online resources help. Like any DIY project, there are additions and alternate recipes, strategies, and options. It is called craft beer, after all.
Like that home renovation completed project, there is some joy and pride that comes with seeing a plan complete – and then gulping some of it down, in this case.
Those who may not be as into nerding out on the entire process can also experience the fun of brewing your own beer as well. Many retailers sell kits that feature everything needed to start the beer-brewing chemistry.
Some companies, such as Mr. Beer, sell kits to make the process even easier. A “Long Play IPA” kit will set you back about forty bucks and comes with everything you’ll need to serve up your own suds. Mr. Beer even promises you can brew beer in 30 minutes.
Wherever process you choose, being your own brewmaster and cracking open a cold one with some friends perfectly completes the project. Homer Simpson and Norm Peterson would be proud. Cheers, and enjoy!