It's no secret that Americans are wild for craft beer. In fact, this week is American Craft Beer Week nationwide. To celebrate, we thought we'd share our favorite short tutorials on how to brew your own, just like in the olden days.
Once you've made the initial investment in the necessary equipment, home brewing is less expensive than buying beer. It takes a few weeks or months for the investment to pay off, depending on how avidly you persue your new hobby. You can buy all you need in a starter kit for around $100, but those do not include a kettle.
There will most likely be some false starts. You can count on your first few batches not tasting quite as good as a good beer you bought in the store. But with a little time and patience, many home brewers find this to be a very satisfying hobby.
The process will take about 3 hours, and then 2 weeks of letting it ferment in a dark, room temperature place. There are 3 main steps: Brewing, fermentation, and bottling.
(See more starter kits here.)
- a 5 gallon (20 quart) brew pot
- large stirring spoon (non-wood)
- table spoon
- measuring cup
- glass jar (at least 12 oz)
- fermentor (food-grade plastic bucket or glass carboy)
- thermometer (optional)
This depends on the specific recipe of beer you'll use, but most agree a basic pale ale is a good easy beer to start with.
Here's one for a Cincinnati Pale Ale (Source).
- 3-4 lb. Pale malt extract syrup, unhopped
- 2 lb. Amber dry malt extract
- 12 AAU* of bittering hops (any variety) For example, 1 oz. of 12% AA Nugget, or 1.5 oz. of 8% AA Perle
- 5 AAU of finishing hops (Cascade or other) For example, 1 oz. of 5% Cascade or 1.25 oz. of 4% Liberty
- 2 packets of dried ale yeast
This 5 gallon economy stainless steel brewing pot can be found here.
*AAU stands for alpha-acid units. Briefly, an AAU is a unit obtained by multiplying the alpha-acid rating of the hop (a percentage value) by the weight (ounces) that you intend to use. For example, 2 oz of a 6% alpha-acid hop equals 12 AAUs. Every package of hops you buy will list the hop's alpha-acid rating. To figure out how much of a hop you will need for this recipe, just divide the AAU target by the alpha-acid percentage on your hops. For example, 12 AAUs divided by 12 (Nugget hop's alpha-acid rating) equals 1 oz; 12 AAUs divided by 8 (Perle hop's alpha rating) equals 1 1/2 oz. (Source)
Day 1: Brewing
Start by boiling a gallon of water to have on hand for santization. Sanitization is extremely extremely important in the brewing process, as you're dealing with live and active cultures, bacterias and other hungry little natural beings that want to eat up the flavors of their environment.
Start by boiling 2 gallons of water in the brewpot. Pour into the fermentor and leave it to cool.
Two Weeks Later: Bottling
You've been so patient, and the big day is finally here! It's time to bottle your fermented beer. For our recipe, you'll need:
- bottle brush
- bottle capper
- bottle caps
- bottling bucket (basically another fermentor bucket with a spigot and bottle filler attached)
- racking cane/siphon/bottle filler
A typical 5 gallon batch will make 48 bottles or 2 cases of beer. Clean and sanitize your bottles, bottle caps, and cyphening tools.
Priming sugar is added just before bottling to give the yeast something to eat for the time it's in the bottle. Carbonation is produced as a byproduct of that process. Boil 2/3 cup of cane sugar in 2 cups of water, cover the pan and cool.
Using another bucket (cleaned and sanitized, of course!), pour priming sugar solution inside. Next, siphon the beer from the fermentor into the bottling bucket using a siphoning tool. DO NOT use your mouth to start the suction process, as this will introduce bacteria into the beer that will spoil it. If you don't have a second bucket, you can very gently pour the priming sugar solution into the fermentor and very gently stir it. Allow 15-30 minutes for settling.
Beging to fill your bottles with the siphon filler attachment, placing a santized bottle cap on each one.
Store the bottles at room temperature for another two weeks.
Two weeks later (1 month from brewing day):
Chill your beer, and DRINK!
Pour slowly, to avoid the layer of yeast at the bottom of the bottle from getting into your glass. Enjoy it. How does it taste?
Beer starter kits here: