Apr 8, 2015

Adventures in Home Brewing Part I

Obviously you all know that I like to drink beer--all kinds and often.  So last year Caitlin and another friend decided I should learn how to make my own beer and got me the Brooklyn Brew Kit (~$40) for Christmas.  I FINALLY got around to starting the brewery process on my Everyday IPA (the malted barley blend, yeast and hop combo included in my kit) and wanted to share the process so far.

First of all, when I first got this kit I thought I'd be able to go from the beginning to enjoying a nice cold beer in a day or two.  It actually takes about a month from starting to brew to drinking your brew.  This is important to keep in mind when planning when you will brew, bottle and consume.

Secondly, I was not exactly prepared equipment-wise...the kit includes everything that you'll need EXCEPT a fine-mesh strainer, funnel and the pots you'll need while brewing.  I figured the one large pot I had would work, but if I do this again I will be purchasing a SECOND large pot and a MUCH LARGER strainer (this is the 8" diameter strainer I used; I'd recommend a strainer that is as wide as your pot DUH).

most of the equipment and supplies
For those who haven't been on as many brewery tours as us, let me give you a quick lesson in beer making.  There are 4 main ingredients in beer: WATER (duh), hops, yeast (for the ah-ah-ah-alcohol) and a grain mixture (usually includes malted barley).  

You add the grain to VERY HOT water, let it soften all the sugars out (this is not a scientific explanation), strain out the grain (there is a brewery limerick in here somewhere), heat up that sugary water some more while adding hops, cool it all down, strain it again into your fermenting apparatus, add the yeast and SHAKE IT UP.  Then the yeast eats up all the sugars, pooping out alcohol and carbon dioxide (YUM!).  That is the basic jist of how you make beer (all expert brewers shaking in horror now).

"mashing in" aka stirring the grain mix into the hot water forever
This whole process is a lot more time consuming than I'd anticipated as I mentioned, and also a lot more stressful.  It is VERY important to sanitize everything that will be touching anything related to the ingredients (still hoping I didn't mess this part up!) and to keep the temperature at certain levels throughout the entire heating and then cooling process.  That long glass thermometer will become the nagging watchman of your kitchen while brewing.  The worst part of all of this is that I won't know if I screwed anything up until I finally tasted my beer, and if this happens I will probably cry.

that is my sophisticated fermenting setup on my closet floor...also, yes, I KNOW that doesn't look like beer yet...
All in all it took me about 4-5 hours for the first part of my beer brewing.  I did it on a Saturday afternoon while rocking out alone in my tiny studio kitchen.  Once the yeast was "pitched in" (real brewing term!) to my glass fermenting jug, I allowed the beer to ferment for about 3 days, then put a stopper on the jug.  It is currently sitting on the floor of my front closet, waiting to be bottled this weekend.

Stay tuned for the next installment of "Adventures in Home Brewing", where we find out how difficult bottling is, if my beer ended up being any good, and whether or not I will try this whole thing again!

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