Relax… Have a Home Brew. Try It!
Do You Enjoy a Flavorful Craft Brewed Beer?
Maybe a hoppy robust IPA, rich dark stout, or light refreshing hefeweizen? Have you ever considered brewing your own?
Getting a home brew hobby can be a fun and rewarding at any age, well, any age 21 or over, and especially for us Over 50. It can be a great creative outlet and, in the long run, can save money over buying craft brewed beer at the brewery or liquor store.
What Equipment Do You Need for your home brew?
Your Home Brew venture requires a minimum amount of equipment, some of which you likely already have in the kitchen. Basic equipment kits range about $75-$150. These kits typically include (See Photo Below):
- 1 or 2 fermentation vessels (5 to 6.5 gallon food grade buckets with lids or glass/plastic water bottles known as carboys)
- fermentation lock
- siphon hose and cane
- bottling bucket
- bottle filler wand
- bottle capper
- instruction/recipe book.
Generally, spending more on the kit will get you better quality and additional items will be included. Typically, you will supply the brew kettle which should be a stainless four gallon to ten gallon stock pot. Note: Do Not use aluminum, it can lend a metallic taste to the beer.
What About the Ingredients for your home brew?
What is beer made from? According to the Reinheitsgebot, the Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1516, beer may only include four ingredients:
- Malted grain (barley and/or wheat)
These are still the basic ingredients of any beer. Over the years many “adjunct” ingredients have been added to the brew such as sugar, honey, maple syrup, fruit, herbs & spices, other malted grains, and the list goes on.
Ingredients are readily available at local home brew shops and online suppliers. There are ready to brew recipe kits with all the ingredients needed make five gallons of beer. These range $35-$60 depending on the style of beer. Or, you can assemble your own ingredients from the bulk or packaged malts, grains, hops, and yeast available from the supplier.
The malts are available in either liquid or dry extracts or whole grain form. The whole grain requires milling or crushing before use.
Hops on the Vine
Hops are the bittering and primary flavoring agent in beer. They are typically sold in one or two ounce packages in whole leaf form or ground up and formed into pellets. Either form can easily be used for home brewing and should be kept refrigerated until use .
There are a wide variety of yeast stains available for all styles of beer. Yeast can be the defining ingredient to determine the style being brewed. Yeast is sold in small packets of dry yeast which must be re-hydrated before use. The strains available in dry form are somewhat limited. There tends to be a wider variety of liquid yeasts sold in vials or foil pouches. These are ready to use. Like hops, whether dry or liquid, yeast should be kept refrigerated.
Some home brewers like to use distilled water for their brews. Luckily, for us here in Colorado Springs, that is not necessary. Our pure city water supply is nearly ideal for brewing.
Your Home Brew… How Does This All Come Together?
Probably the easiest way to explain this is to just start with a simple basic recipe and walk through he steps of brewing. So, lets start with a simple real ale recipe for an English Bitter.
- 6 pounds, amber dry malt extract (DME).
- 1 1/2 ounce, Cascade hop pellets (45 minute boil)
- 1/2 ounce, Cascade hop pellets (1 minute boil)
- 2 tsp gypsum (to simulate English hard water)
- Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale or White Labs WLP002 English Ale liquid yeast
- 3/4 cup corn sugar
Add the DME, 1 1/2 oz hop pellets and gypsum to 2 gallons water and bring to boil, stirring until DME is thoroughly dissolved. Boil for 45 minutes adding the remaining 1/2 oz of hops in the last 1 minute. Remove from heat. This unfermented liquid is now called wort.
During the boil, fill the fermenter bucket, which you have cleaned and sanitized, with 3 1/2 gallons of cold water. Pour the hot wort into the fermenter and attach lid and fermentation lock. The lock should be half filled with water. This device will allow fermentation gas (CO2) to escape but not let outside air in.
When the fermenter has cooled to 90°F or less, carefully remove the lid and add the yeast which has been brought to room temperature. This is called “pitching” the yeast.
Now We Wait
You should begin to see bubbling in the fermentation lock within a few hours which will steadily increase for two or three days and then begin to slow over the next couple days. After about ten days or when this activity has slowed to one or two bubbles per minute you are ready to bottle.
Rack (transfer) the fermented beer into your bottling bucket using the racking cane and siphon hose. Be careful not to disturb the trub or sediment in the bottom of your fermenter.
Boil the corn sugar in one pint water until fully dissolved and add this to the bottling bucket.
Boil an adequate number of bottle caps (30 for 22 oz bottles or 50 for 12 oz bottles) for a few minutes to sanitize.
Fill your clean bottles using the bottling wand attached to the spigot on the bucket via the siphon hose, capping each bottle as it is filled. Store at room temperature to condition.
The Home Brew Reward
The beer should be ready to drink in about seven days. Chill a couple bottles to try. Carbonation level will increase and become steady after about two weeks.
Relax…Enjoy Your Home Brew
For more information and additional recipes, visit Bob’s Home Brew Blog, 100 Bottles of Beer, at cohomebrewguru.com
Bob Archibald has been an avid home brewer for over 22 years. He has spent 12 years working in the local craft beer industry. In addition to home brewing, Bob and his partner Debbie enjoy gardening and travel. Also, see their travel blog, Travels with Bob & Deb, at bobndebtravels.com.