Why I love Home Brewing
I’m a fan of a good pint of ale; so much so, I joined the British group CAMRA (The CAMpain for Real Ale). As well as giving me discounts in some pubs (I won’t lie, that was a bit part of the decision to sign up!) they gave me an insight to the process behind beers.
However, CAMRA didn’t really ‘recognise’ the microbreweries out there, not when I first started reading anyway. Before we go too deeply into how I got into Home Brewing, this post isn’t to say anything bad about CAMRA. They are a great bunch with great thoughts on brews and yes, I am still a proud member.
I was 23 when I first got my first brewing kit, I am now 24 and I’ve only made 2 batches of ale… But it’s still 2 successful batches of ale. I am currently on my third batch which I am hoping to have ready in time for a trip from one side to the other of England, when I will be meeting up with some of the lovely people of 1001-Up.
This post is an informal introduction to Home Brewing and the processes involved. More importantly, it helps you to appreciate the work that goes into a good beer.
Home Brewing equipment
First, you’re going to need a big ‘bucket’, your primary fermenter. This is basically going to be a big vat with an airlock attached to it. Simply get yourself to Google and look up “Fermenting Bin with Airlock” and you’ll find them pretty cheap, perhaps £20 for a large one. I have a 25 litre fermenting bucket, with a Krausen collar, lid and airlock.
Krausen is foam that builds up and rises whilst the beer is fermenting. I’ll explain more about what happens during fermentation shortly, but a Krausen collar is simply there to collect the Krausen and make it easier to clean away. Is it a requirement for brewing? No. Certainly not…but it does help.
Once you have your fermenting bin and an airlock, you’re good to go for the beginning stage of your brew.
- Malt extract (Try something along the lines of http://www.the-home-brew-shop.co.uk/acatalog/Coopers_40_pint_English_Bitter_Beer_Kit.html or http://www.americanbrewmaster.com/Liquid-Malt-Extract)
- Any extra ingredients for flavouring…But be sure you know what you’re doing before you start adding in random ingredients!
So, that’s not much is it? How do we do this then?
Your first brew
Thick ale, looking just like gravy! (Disclaimer: This certainly is not gravy.)
Generally with a syrup based malt extract, everything has been done and prepared for you. It only needs to be emptied into your fermentation bin… But before you do anything else, this is the most important advice I can give any would-be newbie brewer…
MAKE SURE YOU STERILISE EVERYTHING!!!
Yes, that’s very serious. You want to make sure everything is sanitary and clean. You need to realise this quickly: Yeast is a living organism. Imagine if you were living in an unsanitary condition, you’d not like it and you’d get unwell pretty quickly. N.B: Leaving food out and about really isn’t advisable!
So, once you’ve sterilised everything you’re going to use, you simply pour the contents of the malt extract into the fermenting bin and add several litres of boiling water (Usually, the brand of extract you get will tell you how many litres to add).
Next, you’ll want to add everything, bar the yeast! The sugar is important as while it ferments, it converts into alcohol. Why do you think kids get so hyper on the stuff!? Okay, it’s not fermented back then and on top of that, you’d want to go for a proper brewing sugar (not table sugar).
Next, pour in as much water as you want. It doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold, as this is the majority of your brew. You’ll likely go up to the 23-litre mark, but some people swear by going for a bit less (20 litres).
Finally, sprinkle the yeast in, put the lid on and you’re in for a surprise!
Remember how I said yeast lives? Once your brew is in a place that is room temperature (Around 21 degrees Celsius), over the coming days, you’re going to see it spread and move by itself! It’ll help to form Krausen and it’ll ferment inside the bin.
After about 9 days, you should be ready to bottle your beers… But that could be a story for another day.
Does brewing sound good to you and has this whetted your appetite for a good real ale made by your good self?
How about brewing your very own ales and lagers? Or ciders? Or wines?!
Home brewing is pretty cheap, as I can get 40 bottles of beer out of one malt extract. Once you feel you’re ready to go further, why not check out this amazing website?
All in all then, brewing is easy and is accessible to anyone. Have you ever brewed anything that you were proud of? Share your experience of brewing with us all!