11 August 2004
Brewing Your Own Beer
A few months ago, Paul, a friend from my office, mentioned that he’d like to brew his own beer sometime. Fantastic. It’s something I had wanted to try for years now, but always wanted to get someone else in on it with me. I could tell Paul was motivated so I suggested we share the cost and do it together. He liked the idea so we started making plans.
Last night we brewed our first batch. The process is fun and quite simple.
- Bring 1.5 gallons of water to boil while steeping a bag full of malt grain. Don’t rush this, 30-60 minutes is fine.
- As it begins to boil, remove grain bag, pour in malt extract. Maintain a rolling boil for 60 minutes.
- Add hops as necessary according to your recipe
- Remove from heat, turn off your stove, pour into (sanitized) bucket.
- Fill 3 gallons of cold water into a sanitized carboy (giant glass bottle).
- Drain or siphon wort (that mixture you just boiled) into carboy – this won’t shock and crack the carboy because you’re pouring the wort into a bunch of water. Add a half gallon or so more water.
- Wait. You’re waiting for it to cool to 60°-70°, so that you can add the yeast (if it’s too warm, you’ll shock and kill the yeast).
- Pitch the yeast (pour it into the carboy).
- Cap the carboy with a fermenting cap and move it to a nice cool location where it won’t be disturbed. Attach a tube to the cap so that during fermentation the overflow bubbles have somewhere to go. Put the other end of the tube into a bucket or something.
- After a few days, the initial bubbling will taper off and you can attach a fermenting valve to let air escape.
- Wait for it to stop fermenting (7-10 days). If you have a hydrometer you can take periodic readings to find out when it’s done, or you can just eyeball it. The beer will change color and clear up. It’s kinda cloudy to start, it will clear up. When things seem stable, it’s probably done. Most of the yeast will settle to the bottom.
- Then you’re ready to bottle, almost.
- Sanitize your bottles and caps.
- Mix up some corn sugar (3/4 cup) with some water (1 cup). Boil for 15 minutes to get it all clean, and then toss it into a sanitized bucket.
- Siphon in your beer from the carboy to the bucket. Leave about a half inch of the beer in the carboy, because that’s going to be all the settled yeast and sediment that you really don’t want in your beer. Don’t worry though, it’s not going to kill you.
- Siphon (or drain) into the bottles, leaving about an inch at the top.
- Cap and wait a week or two.
- Enjoy your very own homebrew.
Obviously we didn’t do all of that last night. We only got as far as capping the carboy and now we’re waiting for the fermentation. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
There are all sorts of things you can do to change things up of course. All sorts of recipes you can try, different beers to make. There are recipes you can try to emulate Guinness, Anchor Steam, Fat Tire, etc. Or you can make up your own stuff…
If you want to get into this, read The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. That’s where I got my information. It’s extensive and informative, while keeping a sense of fun to the topic. The mantra repeated throughout the book: Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew!