Homebrewing is a growing trend in the U.S. as people discover how simple and rewarding the process can be.
The growing number of homebrewing devotees will tell you that making your own beer isn't as daunting as it sounds, and often yields some pretty tasty microbrews.
The following is a brief rundown on the basics of the homebrewing process. If you want to hop (pun intended) on the bandwagon of brewing at home, it's a good idea to do some research first. See if there's a homebrewing store in your area where you can talk to an expert. They love talking beer!
First, decide what kind of beer you want to make. Hefeweizens, lagers, India pale ales (IPA), stouts and porters begin with specific types of starters, which may include malted barley, malt extract, starter wort or yeast. There are tons of beer recipes out there, so pick one and make sure you follow it precisely, because this process is a science.
You're also going to need some equipment to get started. A basic beginner's kit usually includes two 6.5-gallon pails (one for fermenting and one for bottling), an airlock, a hydrometer, a bottle brush, a liquid crystal thermometer, a capper, a bucket clip, a siphon and cleanser. More deluxe kits may even come with a keg and a CO2 tank. Decide how serious you want to get about homebrewing and purchase you equipment accordingly, keeping in mind that it may be best to start small.
Basic brewing steps
Your recipe will likely begin with some form of grain-derived sugar, whether you buy it as an extract or make your own by heating malted barley in water. This sugar will then be added to a yeast mixture, where it will act as food for the microorganisms. The byproduct of this consumption will be CO2 (carbonation) and alcohol. Note that if you're making an IPA or other hoppy beer, you'll need to boil your malt sugar mixture with hops.
Your recipe may or may not call for a mash, which is grain heated in water to produce a sweet liquor. To make this, you'll cook about 11 pounds of grain at 150 degrees for an hour. Next, you'll strain and sparge the mixture, the remaining liquid of which will be your starter wort.
Whether you used an extract or made your own wort, you'll next pour your unfermented liquid into a vessel with a good amount of cold water, allowing the temperature to drop to 80 degrees. Then, you'll add your yeast, place an airtight lid on your vessel and put it in an area where the temperature will be a stable 67 to 72 degrees.
After about a week of fermentation, you can start to siphon the beer into a sterilized carboy where it will stay for another week. The next step is bottling your beer. Be sure to use clean bottles, as any trace of dust, oil or pathogens may ruin the whole batch! Once your brew is in bottles, store it at room temp for another seven days before enjoying.
What to do with your homebrew
You'll of course want to guzzle down a bottle of your homemade beer once it's ready, but you could also use it as an ingredient in recipes like this Buffalo Wing Beer Bread
or Beer Chili Cheese Fondue
On the other hand, you may just want to whip up a Pizza Calzone
or some Monster Burgers
and wash your meal down with your very own homebrew.
Either way, bottoms up!