Brewing beer is not just for the professionals. It’s easy. It’s inexpensive. It’s a fascinating, satisfying, and empowering hobby. It also has become so popular that there are now clubs and networks of practitioners who regularly exchange and disseminate ideas and information for the advancement of the home beer brewing craft. Through the available resources they freely make available on the World Wide Web, anyone too who wishes can learn how to make their own beer at home.
For the beginner, it is always wise to start with the basics of home beer brewing. First, it is important to have a general understanding of what beer is and how it is made, along with some of the seemingly technical terms that are often used in describing the beer brewing process. Typically, beer is defined as an alcoholic drink brewed mainly from malted barley, hops, yeast and water. Before barley, or any other starch source, can be used to make beer, it must be “malted”, meaning it must be allowed to germinate until a certain point is reached when enough enzymes have been released to produce the sugars that will feed the yeast to make the alcohol in the beer. The malted barley is “steeped” or soaked in boiling water to make “wort,” the liquid containing the sugars that will be fermented to produce alcohol. Hops is next added to the boiling sugar solution to create that distinctive bitter, tangy flavor. The wort is cooled and yeast is added to start the fermentation process. Once the fermentation is complete, which is when the liquid stops bubbling and starts clearing, you have beer which you can enjoy and share.
To make the simplest home beer brew, you will only be needing a few basic equipment and tools – a large roasting pot, a 10-gallon plastic pail with lid, a siphon host with clamps, a hydrometer, a thermometer and about a dozen plastic 2-liter soda bottles with caps. Be sure that everything is clean and sanitized. For ingredients for your initial batch of beer, you will only need to use a 40 oz can of malt extract, a tsp of brewers’ yeast and 6-7 cups of regular sugar. In the pot, bring 7 liters of water to a boil then add the can of malt extract and stir uncovered. After 20 minutes, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour 10 liters of fresh water into your 10-gallon plastic pail, add the 7-liter boiling malt and sugar solution, add more fresh water until the temperature is neutral, using the thermometer to check. Sprinkle the yeast, stir well and cover the lid. Keep covered for 6-10 days, after which you can use the hydrometer to check if your beer is ready to bottle. For dark beers, the reading should be about 1.008. For light beers, it should be 1.010-1.015. Use your siphon and clamps to transfer the beer from the pail to the bottles, taking care not to disturb the sediments at the bottom. Store the bottled beer for a few days in a dark cool place to improve the flavor.
Over time, as you gain mastery over your home beer brewing skills, you may want to begin experimenting with other more elaborate beer recipes. You may also want to start investing in better and more expensive beer brewing tools and equipment. The BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog ( http://beersmith.com/blog/ ) is an excellent resource for finding out more about the craft as is the Brewing Network ( http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/ ) which even airs shows and podcasts on the home brewing lifestyle.