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Homebrew Beer – The Best Beer Is The One You Make
I love beer. There I said it. I’m not apologizing. I have been involved with beer since my university years. Although I’ll admit that my taste has refined considerably since then, beer is a drink I’ve enjoyed since my twenties.
Then I learned how to do it.
I have been brewing home beer since 1998. It is a very relaxing and fun hobby for me.
As with many hobbies, there are many levels of investment when starting your own brewing business. You’re looking at a $30 investment around the low end and it goes up from there. You can spend a lot more, but I started brewing $30 beer myself.
Homebrew can be divided into two categories: extract and whole grain. Each has advantages and disadvantages over the others. The extract is a syrup made up of most of the main ingredients in beer. When brewing extract beer, you just need water, yeast and some fermentables (sugar is fine).
The advantages of extract brewing are the cost, which tends to be cheaper and the brewing time is shorter than with whole grains. The downside is that you are basically limited to the formula of the ingredients in the extract. Although there are many different extracts for different types of beer (stouts, ales, lagers, etc.), the options are more limited than with the whole grain method.
In whole grain brewing, the individual ingredients (malt, barley, and hops) are boiled and mixed for an extended period of time until the mixture (also called “wort”) is ready for the addition of yeast and fermentables. The advantage of whole grain brewing is that you can really customize the flavor of the beer. All-grain brewing makes it easier to make things like “clone beers,” or beers that are similar in taste and style to another well-known beer like Samuel Adams or Budweiser. The disadvantage of whole grain brewing is the additional time and cost. This is probably a good type of brewing to start with if you are more experienced.
Yeast is a very important ingredient in beer. In fact, there are many strains of yeast available for brewing beer (and other alcohol in general). The two types I have dealt with are dry active yeast and liquid yeast.
I have personally found that liquid yeast, although more expensive than dry yeast, is the more effective of the two. The liquid yeast I use (Wyeast) comes in a foil package. Inside the foil packet is yeast and a small plastic bubble filled with unfermented beer. When I’m ready to brew, I squeeze the foil pack until the plastic bubble breaks. This mixes the unfermented beer with the yeast and initiates fermentation, which makes the yeast active. By the time I get my beer ready, the yeast is good and ready to add to the mix. There are several types of liquid yeast available. Yeast is usually named after the type of beer it is best suited for, such as American Ale or German Alt. I think there is room for experimentation here though.
Dry yeast is cheaper than liquid, and in some cases you can get a packet of dry yeast when you buy a can of extract to brew beer with. The disadvantage of dry yeast is that the diversity of yeast strains can be limited and dry yeast can sometimes take longer to start fermenting.
Apart from what I have already mentioned, sanitation is another important factor in brewing. It is very important that the equipment used to make beer is disinfected. There are several methods for this. Household bleach mixed in warm water (1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water) will handle your sanitizing needs, just make sure to rinse thoroughly after sanitizing. Other disinfectants are also available. I love One Step Sanitizer, which is a no-rinse sanitizer. Simply add a tablespoon of One Step to a gallon of hot water and soak the parts in it for 10-15 minutes. After that, remove them and they are ready to use. I also like One Step over bleach because the bleach always leaves an aftertaste no matter how much you rinse.
The final part of the homebrewing process, after drinking, is bottling. Again, disinfection plays an important role here. It is also important to consider how you want to bottle the beer. Would you like one five gallon keg? How about putting your beer in many 12oz bottles? Or a couple of five liter mini kegs? There are several options available. I have experimented with several options and my latest favorite is recycling 2 liter soft drink bottles. I love this because it makes serving a group of people so much easier. Also, 2 liter bottles are a little easier to store.
Once you’ve selected and sanitized your bottles, barrels, etc., you’ll need some caster sugar for bottling. I have read some methods to achieve this. One method I have found works well is to bring two cups of water to a boil, stir in 5-6 tablespoons of sugar and boil for 5 minutes. Then add it to the beer you’ve fermented before the beer is bottled, kegs, etc. Once you’re done, you’ll have a beer ready for tasting in a week or two (at least one week). bottles, two weeks for mini barrels).
If you are considering brewing as a hobby, I encourage you to give it a try. I think you will have a lot of fun with it. Chances are, your friends will agree… as long as you’re willing to share your beer
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