by Holly Whitman of Only Slightly Biased
At long last, the time has come to forge the next link in your beer-maester’s chain.
You’ve graduated from your first timid sip of watery-lager to heartily guzzling your favorite lagers, ales, wheats, pilsners, bocks, porters and stouts. You’ve explored the gamut of beer offerings from Clydesdale-towing Budweisers to local, artisinal, need-a-secret-password-to-get-through-the-door microbreweries. You’ve drunk your fill from cans, bottles, glasses, kegs, the odd bowl or two, red solo cups, faux-rustic mason jars, that one dog dish you still really regret, to AleHorn’s own Game of Thrones inspired tankards and Natural Finish Drinking Horns.
Now, finally, you feel ready for the next step: brewing your own beer.
Even the simplest homebrew can be daunting if you lack basic brewing knowledge. For a solid overview—or refresher course—of the brewing process, try this simple brewery to bottle infographic:
The Beer Brewing Breakdown
For those of you who prefer text to infographics and scrolled past without reading it (why? WHY? they’re so pretty and so quick to read!), here’s a quick breakdown for you.
As a craft brewer, try experimenting with different grains. Each grain will bring a unique base flavor to your brew, on top of which you can add your citrus, your spices and other flavors. Common grain choices include barley, corn, millet, oats, rice, rye and wheat.
Although you may choose to add other ingredients, your basic mix will consist of four ingredients: water, yeast, hops and barley (or grain of choice).
The brewing process at a craft brewery consists of 10 basic steps:
1) Malting – The grains are left to soak in water for 40 hours. After that germination time is up, it’s off to the kiln to dry out.
2) Milling – The grains need to be cracked so they can absorb water in the next step. This ensures the sugars can be extracted from the malt.
3) Mashing – Add more water to your milled grains and allow it to soak for another 1-2 hours.
4) Lautering – Don’t let the fancy name fool you, lautering just means separating the sweet wort from the grains.
5) Boiling – Boil wort. Add hops. Simple, right?
6) Cooling – Like the label says, it’s time to chill out, Cub Scout. Use a whirlpool to cool down your wort.
7) Fermentation – A watched pot never boils and a watched wort never ferments. Leave the cooled, hopped wort alone to allow the yeast to consume the released sugars, transforming the sugar into alcohol.
8) Conditioning – Time to settle that yeast back down. Cool your beer to near freezing to settle the yeast and help the proteins thicken.
9) Filtering – Filtering the brew helps the flavors stabilize.
10) Bottling – Finally the brewers can break out the air compressors to transfer their beer into bottles or kegs for distribution.
You can check out Porch's article Beer Brewing from Home: The Experts Tell Us How to Do It Properly if you want to know more.
Your craftbrewing adventure may look different from the outlined steps above, depending on what recipes you want to try, how much money you want to spend and how deeply you want to delve into the craftbrewing rabbit hole.
Want to hold your AleHorn aloft while you proudly brag about how you made its contents? Don’t have a lot of time or experience to back up your boasting? Then these are the recipes for you.
Absurdly Easy Alcoholic Ginger Beer delivers on all counts. It is So. Absurdly. Easy. It’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone: try your hand at an easy home brew and get to drink a delicious ginger beer. Feeling extra daring? Add the jalapeno.
Mock Mead in Two Weeks is a great way to dip your toe into mead making. Brewing mead can take a long, long time (think months or years), longer than most first-time brewers want to commit to an experiment. This recipe is the perfect first step, a quick recipe that will help you determine whether or not you want to pursue the full mead-making experience.
To brew, or not to brew – that is the question. Whatever you decide, may your AleHorn always be full and your brews of choice delicious.
Read more of Holly Whitman’s writing on culture and politics at Onlyslightlybiased.com