Who doesn’t love a nice, cold brew on a hot summer night? (I prefer cider, but that’s beside the point…) While a six pack of supermarket Brewski Lite will do the trick, there’s something to be said for a handcrafted ale. Once you get the hang of it, you could even whip up a signature batch for a special occasion, like my dear friends Joseph and Daniel did for my wedding last August (pictured below)! Speaking of Joe and Dan, thanks for bringing me in on the behind-the-scenes, guys!
Before we get into any fancy recipes or too much of the chemistry behind the scenes, let’s go back to basics. This will teach you how to brew a damned good beer even if the closest you’ve ever come to making your own is pouring it into a pint glass. We’ll begin at the beginning – supplies and ingredients.Come back next week for Part II – Brewing and to download your free printable labels for your beer!
Most of the equipment you will need to brew a batch of beer can be found at your local homebrew shop or craft beer store. In case you don’t have access to something like that, you should be able to find everything on Amazon, Northern Brewer, or Midwest Supplies.
You could get set up by just purchasing a homebrew starter kit like one of these, but if you think you have some of the supplies already or just want to choose everything individually, I’ve included a list below.
You can DIY some items (such as a lauter tun or wort chiller) with minimal tools for much cheaper than purchasing ready-made – just try a quick Google search for tutorials.
- 7 gallon kettle (can be larger)
- Wort chiller
- Lauter tun
- Kitchen scale
- Bottle wand/filler
- 6-gallon carboy (glass jug)
- Fermentation bucket
- Bottle capper
- Bottle caps
- Brewing spoon
- Beer bottles (no twist tops!!!)
Many great resources are available for purchasing ingredients for your recipe, If you don’t have a local homebrew store or another local store that sells beer ingredients, many online stores sell high quality products such as Midwest Homebrewing and Winemaking and Northern Brewer. You can find a wide selection of recipes on sites like Brewtoad and BeerSmith.
- Base Malt This consists of barley that has been partially germinated and toasted. It serves as the bulk source of sugars extracted during the mash. A good standard example is two-row barley.
- Specialty Malts These add character to the beer such as body, color, some bitterness, acidity, etc., depending on the grains chosen. Since we were brewing a stout for our Homebrewing Crash Course, we needed dark grains, such as chocolate malt (pale barley that has been roasted much longer than normal to give it a more intense flavor and dark, charred color). Other examples include lager malts, pale ale malts, and caramel malts.
- Hops The female flowers of the hop plant add the bitterness and hoppiness during the boil. A general rule of thumb is that during the boil, early hops add bitterness; late hops add flavor; and even later hop additions add aroma.
- Yeast They break down the sugars, leaving behind carbon dioxide, various flavors, and the all-important alcohol.