The best gift I have ever received came in the form of a day at a You-Brew kitchen in Portland, Oregon. When a chef friend observed the simple effort involved in making my first beer, the inspiration to make beer at home was triggered. Little did I suspect, that day would lead to a money saving hobby, great beer and a rewarding career.
Simple for one can be a challenge for another, but if you can make a box of Mac and Cheese, you too can brew fine beer. Starting with the simple starter kit and the recipe ingredients available at any local Homebrew store, most first batches require around $100. Subsequent batches are just the recipe and new caps, around $50, and that makes 50 bottles worth. Good beer for a buck a bottle! And those empty beer bottles are recycled/refilled over and over again.
Brewing beer is a lot like cooking a stew on the kitchen stove. Start with a flavoring bag of grains or Specialty Malts, steep it in hot water, similar to making tea. This tea will provide color, flavors and mouth feel to our beer. To maximize this wonderful impact, the grains are strained with hot water, think pour-over coffee. Discard the grains and add malt sugar. This is the sugar yeast will eat later, during fermentation. The more sugar added, the more alcohol made. Next, our liquid (wort) is boiled. Usually, for 60 minutes, adding a plant called Hops for bittering, flavor and aroma. The high temperature of the boil kills bacteria that should not be allowed to infect or ‘Sour’ our beer. Finally, the liquid wort is cooled in advance of pitching in brewer’s yeast.
Mother Nature takes over a living yeast comes alive in our fermentor vessel and consumes the available sugar.
Yeast eats sugar, farts out CO2 gas, pisses out alcohol and makes a lot of copies of itself. For roughly ten days, fermentation changes wort into beer. When done, 99% of the yeast sinks to the bottom of our fermentor and falls asleep. Perfect for bottling the beer as that last 1% of yeast is allowed to generate carbonation with a small amount of sugar added before filling bottles and capping them with a capping device.
Patience is rewarded, as the beer is ready to drink two weeks later. It stores well at room temperature, due to the high level of hopping and lasts several months in the dark or covered. Recipes are easy to find with a quick google search or a page out of numerous homebrew books. Think of your favorite craft brewery and I would bet the owner started out on their kitchen stove years ago, just like as written above.
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Steve Berg is the owner and operator of VEGAS HOMEBREW since 2008, in Las Vegas, NV.