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Homebrewing! How to Make your own Beer!
BEER! What a wonderful and interesting beverage. Beer has been evoking strong emotions for thousands of years. Some say beer and bread are the foundations of civilizations, some say it is gross and nasty, and others say it is the "Devil's Brew". For my husband and many other home brewers, it is a labor of love.
After my husband had to go to Germany, for a business trip he came back very disillusioned with American Beer. His old favorites were like ashes on his tongue, caused bouts of heartburn, and yes, I think he even entered a period of mourning for the state of American Beer. He began to look high and low for a beer replacement, yet with much the same results. Feeling sad for him, my father and I decided to give him the gift of beer. We purchased, a Home Brewing Kit and his labor of love began.
The first step in the brewing process is to decide what type of beer you want to make. Beer is divided into two types Ale or Lager. Ale is the oldest type of beer made. In fact, there is evidence that a "beer type" beverage could of been made as early as 9500BC. Chemical evidence has been found that beer was being produced in Iran around 3100-3500BC. This beer was made from Barley that was allowed to ferment into beer. Lagers, were in a large part "dark" beers until around the 1870's when they became lighter in color. Lagers are now the main type of beer that the majority of people consume today.
Another main difference in beer types, is the type of yeast, time, temperature and amount of hops and malts added. Ales use a top fermenting yeast. Lagers use a bottom fermenting yeast. This means that in ales the yeast rises to the top and in lagers falls to the bottom. Ales tend to ferment quicker at a higher temperature whereas lagers need cooler temperatures. This means that ales are ready before lagers.
After you decide if you are going the lager or ale route you still have many options in the flavor of the beer. The amazing thing about beer is there are as many styles, as there are people. There are German type beers, American, English, Polish, Irish, and the list goes on. Each and every type is unique and different. Some are dark, some are light and all are made with a variety of ingredients ranging from fruit to wheat. One website that is a great resource is BeerPal.com. They list a lot of different styles of beer and where they came from and give a brief description of each style.
Once you determine what type of beer you need to get the brewing equipment. In my research I found that it cheaper and simpler to buy a home brewing kit, instead of buying individual pieces. For my husband, I chose the "The True Brew" kit. It cost about $80.00 but came with two 5 gallon buckets, one for fermenting, the other one for bottling, a spigot for bottling, siphon tubing, a siphon strainer, airlock, bottle capper, bottle caps. You will also need to get a Large stainless steel pot to mix and boil your beer ingredients before. In my opinion the bigger the pot the better, as we found out beer ingredients foam and tend to boil over quickly.
You do have to purchase bottles for your beer, which most stores brewing stores sell. My husband found that he could by the bottles online cheaper through Amazon. When picking your bottles should purchase brown bottles or dark bottles. The darker the glass helps keep your beer from getting a "skunky" smell or taste. If you like that taste in your beer you can use green or clear glass. You can also recycle beer bottles as long as they are not twist off caps. You can also purchase (which is what my husband is using) is the flip top bottles. These particular bottles come with the wire and ceramic tops that seal the tops and can be reused over and over, unlike metal caps. If you don't want to use glass you can also use dark plastic bottles. However, there is one downside to these bottles that over time the plastic can absorb odors and change the taste of your beer.
In regards to making the beer you can either purchase a beer brewing cook book that will give you recipes. Another option is to purchase a home brew kit. These kits are great if you are a first time brewer and is what we got for my hubby. You can purchase them for either ale or lager and any style of beer you want. They come with all the ingredients, and detailed instructions. I purchased a Bock kit which will produce a dark heavy German style beer.
I also recommend that you find a good home brewing store, particularly if you want to craft your own beer. The staff in these stores are often brewers and are walking encyclopedias on all things beer. They can help you with all the little steps and choosing the right ingredients. They also will have all the equipment you need.
The ironic thing about home brewing is the start up is the hardest part of the whole process. Once, you have your equipment choices, style choice and bottle choice all that remains to be done is the actual brewing. When you reach this step it is key to remember that all your equipment needs to be clean and sterile. This can be done by boiling all of your utensils in clean water. When or if you purchase a brewing kit it will come with a disinfectant for your brewing buckets. You can also purchase the disinfectant at the brew store.
After, everything is clean and sterile you just need to boil your ingredients, per the directions. When the ingredients have bubbled and toiled on your stove you will have "wort" this is the beginning stages of beer. This wort will be placed in your 5 gallon bucket and ferment for about a week. Once, the fermentation process is over you may begin the bottling process. This involves transferring the beer from the fermentation bucket to the bottling bucket. This is done by siphon. As the beer is draining from bucket to bucket you will mix in boiled priming sugar. Priming sugar is what will allow the beer to continue to ferment in the bottles and will cause the carbonation in the beer. When the beer is safely bottled you will need to let them set in a cool place for about 3 more weeks. This will allow the priming sugar to do it's work. Then kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.