Is brewing your own beer worth it? Is it worth the work, is it worth the investment, is it worth the thought, is it worth the patience. About two decades ago if you wanted a decent beer in this country then it was basically your only choice. The present climate is not the same. When I go to my local grocery store, I constantly see new beers from breweries I’ve never heard of. Why brew your own when you have such a selection of craft brews to choose from. Once you’ve brewed a beer and tasted your results, then I think you’ll know the answer to my question.
Step One: Grab a Homebrew
This is the most important step, and without it your beer just isn’t going to be all it could be.
OK, it's not beer, but it was 8:30am on a Sunday morning. The coffee was brewed at home, so it counts.
Step Two: Gain Some Knowledge
Reading this post and this blog in general is definitely a good start. Then you might want to read a few other blogs done by homebrewers like:
or go to http://www.homebrewtalk.com/ and get some advice from a lot of experienced homebrewers.
The best option might be to buy a book. From what I can tell, people usually start out with one of two books: The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charles Papazian or in my case, How to Brew by John Palmer. The best part about Palmer’s book is if you go to his website, he has the complete first edition up for free.
I even put little flags in the important sections of the book in case I ever had a quick question in the middle of a brew session.
Step Three: Gather the Equipment
Once you have the knowledge and the internal fuel (and took a shower), it is time to gather the equipment. At the very least you are going to need the biggest pot you have, a long stirring spoon, an airlock and a bucket, carboy or other large container to ferment in. The pot should be able to hold 3 gallons of liquid at the least, though 5 would be better. You can probably pick up a 5 gallon plastic bucket with the lid at your local hardware store, just make sure it hasn’t been used for anything else before. If you do get one made specifically for beer, it will probably have the little hole in the lid for the airlock already drilled. If you go the carboy route, make sure you either get a glass carboy, or a plastic carboy specifically made for fermentation like the Better Bottle, as the regular water cooler carboys are two permiable to air. The airlock is more of a specialty item that you can either order off the internet , or you can find at your local homebrew shop.
Look at that dirty floor, good thing I'm going to wash all this stuff real good.
Step Four: Gather the Ingredients
This is where you make sure you have everything. I’m basically using the recipe I mentioned in my earlier post Scott’s Sparkling Weisbier. The difference of course are the hops. I was at my Local Homebrew shop, the Brew and Grow gathering up ingredients. I was in front of the hop refrigerator looking to see if they had any Tettnang, but low and behold they where all gone. One of the very helpful employees helped me find an alternative. They were also out of Hallertau. He conversed with somebody else and they suggested I try either Saaz, which is most famous in Bohemian Lagers like Pislner Urquell or Opal. I’ve never heard of it before, but the label said it was perfect for German Wheat beers, and what is the point of homebrewing if you aren’t going to experiment. He then offered us cups of the shops homebrew. One thing about a local homebrew shop, they always are brewing beer that they want to share with the public. Now that’s something you aren’t going to get from an internet retailer.
A digital scale makes measuring a lot easier since, besides the water, all the measurements are by weight.
Step Five: Clean and Sanitize
Make sure you clean everything, and sanitize anything that will touch the wort after it has cooled down. This includes the fermentor, lid, airlock, thermometer, etc. To clean it is best to use a mild nonscented detergent or a percarbonate like Oxyclean or Powdered Brewery Wash by Five Star Chemicals, which as the name suggests is made specifically for brewing equipment.
Significantly easier to rinse than the dish detergent I have.
You probably already have bleach under your sink, so you can mix up a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water and let it soak for 20 minutes to sanitize all equipment that will touch the wart after the boil. You apparently don’t need to rinse this, but John Palmer suggests that despite this claim, you probably want to avoid possible chlorine flavors. Something better would be using a non-rinse sanitizer like Star San by Five Star Chemicals. It requires only 30 seconds instead of 20 minutes, and definitely doesn’t require rinsing.
I've definitely gotten good use out of this.
A nice trick is to fill up your fermenting bucket with water and mix in the cleanser of your choice and wash all your equipment at once.
If you have a hydrometer, make sure to wash the hydrometer alone, or it will break. It is guaranteed.
Lay down some paper towel to lay the equipment on to dry.
I think I need some more paper towels.
A quick note for those with dishwashers. Your dishwasher generally gets hot enough to sanitize, but not all of your equipment is dishwasher safe, so choose wisely.
Step Six: Mis En Place (Everything in place)
Mis En Place is term chefs use to denote that they have all their ingredients and equipment ready and in a place in which they can be easily be retrieved at the correct time in the cooking process. This is no less important in brewing since once you get to boil (or even before if using specialty grains), everything is on the clock, and not being able to find your second addition of hops for 20 minutes is going to change the the taste of your beer from what you were aiming for.
This is very sticky stuff.
This is where a digital scale comes in handy. Otherwise you have to try to take a ratio of your total amount in the package.
This stuff could fly everywhere if you pour too quickly.
Even break your hops into the 60 minute, 30 minute, and 5 minute additions (your additions may vary).
Mise en place
Step Seven: Give me Some Heat!
This will have to wait until part 2, but what a part it will be.
Fire it up!