Making your own beer isn't a pipe dream, anyone can do it…
Brewing your own beer is a bit like making your own bread – you don't know how exciting it can be until you've given it a go, and the resulting taste is way beyond your expectations. What's more, there are loads of ways to brew your own beer and develop unique flavors and characteristics. But where do you start?
While there are many techniques to draw from, much like the endless bread recipes you might see in a book, there are essentially four main processes that home brewers follow. These are: brew in a bag, a beer kit, all grain brewing, and extract brewing.
The main process is similar whatever method you choose, and many of the techniques overlap. However, they each have their own level of complexity and pros and cons.
With all grain brewing, you make the wort (the sweet liquid of ground malt or other grain before fermentation) yourself and it takes more time and money, though the advantage is that you have more control over the resulting flavor and quality. Beer kits, on the other hand, are quick and easy, but rather limited where taste and style are concerned.
All grain brewing is the most complex method, followed by brew in a bag, extract brewing, and then beer kits.
So let's say you fancy trying a beer kit to start with. This is the most stress-free way of brewing because you start with a concentrated syrup of malt. These can be bought online or in home brew shops.
*Here's what you'll need to make an English pale ale:
· 15-20 liter pan
· Thermometer (non-mercury)
· White 25 liter plastic fermenting bucket (which comes with a tap and fermentation lock)
· Sterilizing liquid – follow your local brew shop recommendation, try to stay away from bleach
· Brew bag – a mesh bag in which crushed grains are placed
· Two cases of glass beer bottles
· Caps to fit on your bottles
· Capper to secure your caps onto your bottles
· 1.5 meters clear plastic tubing for filling the bottles
· 2.9kg pale malt – if possible, get the brew shop to grind it
· 250g crystal malt or similar – ask for this to be ground as well
· Fermentis SO4 English ale yeast – a very good yeast that does not need a starter to be made
· 15g type 90 hop pellets, Fuggles or Goldings hop variety
· One whirlfloc tablet to help clarify your boiled wort
And here's how it's done:
1. Add 12 liters of tap water to your pan and heat it to 68°C (not above). Try to sustain this temperature throughout your brewing procedure.
2. Line the pan with your brew bag and fold the top over the edges of the pan. If you are using gas, be cautious not to set your bag on fire.
3. Take the crushed malt and add it to the water, then mix with a clean mixing spoon.
4. After the malt is mashed into the pan, check the temperature is still at 68°C.
5. Now let the natural malt enzymes do their job for one hour while checking the temperature from time to time. Give your mash a stir about every 8-10 minutes.
6. With a teaspoon, taste your mash throughout this process – you'll notice how the sweetness increases.
1. Collect your bag at the top, slowly raise it out of the pan and allow the liquid to drain. This sweet liquid is the wort.
2. Wash the grains with 23 liters of water heated from a kettle (at 68°C-78°C). Let the water run over your grain and straight into your pan. This will takes your water content to 33 liters.
3. Throw the grains away, or you can even put them outside for the birds.
Boiling the wort
1. Boil your pan of wort without covering it, taking care not to let it over boil.
2. After 40 minutes of boiling, take the pan off the heat and add 15g hop pellets.
3. Boil for a further 20 minutes to extract the hop bitterness and smell, but five minutes before the end, add the whirl floc tablet.
4. After one hour, turn off the heat and stir the pan to create a whirlpool. Let the pan stand for 10 minutes.
Preparing the fermenter
1. Clean your fermenter with a soft brush and washing-up liquid. Wash the inside first then the outside, not forgetting the lid. Do not scrub with a wired or coarse sponge or brush because germs will grow in the scratched grooves.
2. Add your disinfecting liquid, then close the bucket and shake.
3. Crack the bucket lid open (do not remove) and drain the liquid. Take some partially chilled boiled water (half a liter to one liter) and add to the bucket, close the lid and shake. Drain this rinsed water by cracking the lid open once more. Most disinfecting solutions have an undesirable outcome on your beer flavor, so rinsing well is vital.
Filling your fermenter
1. Take a cool box large enough for the fermenter to stand in. Add seven liters of previously boiled water to your fermenter. (When you remove the lid to add the water, it is vital that your hands are clean. Do not place the lid with its clean side onto the table.)
2. Replace the lid back and place it into the cool box. Pack ice around the bucket until the cool box is full – the faster the better.
3. Once the wort pan has been standing for 10 minutes, add its contents to the fermenter. The hop and denatured proteins form a light brown-greenish sediment called trub – be careful not to transfer this sediment into your fermenter. Wash your hands before removing the lid and tipping.
4. Replace the lid and guarantee it is slightly cracked open to allow for any cooling shrinkage.
Pitching the yeast
1. Disinfect your thermometer and check the temperature is below 24°C before you pitch your yeast. Use an inexpensive bottle of vodka to help disinfect the yeast packet before opening it; do the same with the scissors.
2. Crack the lid and lightly sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the wort in the fermenter, firmly close the lid again. Be mindful of cleanliness again when handling the lid.
3. Place the fermenter bucket somewhere cool and wait. After 24 hours, you should see the ferment airlock bubbling, and, by the seventh day, it should have stopped. If the bucket lid is not airtight, the ferment lock will not work.
Prepare for bottling
1. After a week, when there is no activity around the airlock, your beer is ready for bottling. Disinfect your bottles; 20 liters of beer will need approximately 24 x 750ml beer bottles.
2. Prime the bottle first with sugar to supply carbonization to your beer. You will need an almost level teaspoon per bottle. A sanitized funnel should help the carbonation too.
3. Disinfect your bottle caps in some vodka or disinfecting liquid. Attach your disinfected clear plastic tubing to your sterile fermenter tap. Make sure your bottles are carefully washed before you use them.
4. Fill your bottles, then cap with a bottle capper.
1. You need to age your beer before you can drink it. The reason for this is that the sugar will ferment in a sealed bottle and produce an ever so slight increase in alcohol, and increase the carbon dioxide. This will dissolve into the beer and give it some great natural carbonation. Store the bottles at room temperature for a minimum of one week, preferably two.
2. Refrigerate, and enjoy!
*Please note: this recipe is for guidance only. The exact equipment, ingredients and method required will be specific to the beer kit purchased.