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Guide to Making Your Own Beer

Beer has always been a popular alcoholic beverage but with the advent of so many new varieties as well as the microbrew, so many more individuals have developed an interest in this thirst-quenching treat, especially in America where beer was once largely limited to the mass produced varieties that simply aren’t very imaginative.

Indeed, many people have also opted to test out their own brew-making skills and there are a few different ways to delve into the world of beer making. In some locales, you can find Brew on Premises establishments, which have been popular for the last 10 years or so. It’s easiest to find them in large cities. At a BOP, visitors can choose a beer recipe and, with the help of staff, become a brewer for the day. When their batch of brew is complete, brewers book a bottling date (the beer needs to ferment first) and come back later to pick up the finished product. In all, it’s a lengthy process – and not inexpensive - but there’s an experienced staffer to help you along the way so that you have a palatable beverage at the end.

While BOPs remain popular in some areas, many people opt instead to try beer-making on their own, anxious to develop their own recipes and work at their own pace. Again, it’s not an easy process and home brewing can be quite expensive at the start, but once you obtain some of the things needed to begin, you won’t need to make the same investment again.

Equipment

Most people begin by purchasing what is normally marketed as a basic home brewing starter kit. This will include most or all of the equipment you need to begin your home brewery. These items are:
o A brewpot – This is generally a stainless steel pot that has a capacity of about 16 quarts or more. It can also be made of enamel-coated metal. It’s necessary to understand that you can’t use just any pot you have around the house as a brewpot. Some, like those made of aluminum, will add an unusual taste to your beer.

o Primary fermenter – This is where the beer goes to begin the fermentation process. It must have an airtight lid and a hole that accommodates the airlock and stopper (see below). It should be 7-8 gallons or more in size and should be made of food-grade plastic.

o Airlock and stopper – This allows carbon dioxide to escape during fermentation but stops other things from getting in. In other words, it keeps your beer safe and clean during the fermentation process.

o Stick-on Thermometers – These are used to maintain the temperature in the primary fermenter. They are often found in pet stores as they are used on aquariums, but you should also be able to find them at any place that sells brewing supplies.

o Plastic hose – This should be of food grade plastic and about 5 feet long. It will be used to transfer the beer from one place to another. It’s best to buy new hose; don’t re-use anything you’ve had around the house. Be sure it’s clean and doesn’t leak!

o Bottling bucket – This is simply a large, food-grade plastic bucket with a spigot at the bottom.

o Bottling tools – At the minimum, you’ll want to have a bottle brush to insure the cleanliness of the bottles, as well as caps and a bottle capper to be sure that the caps go on properly and are airtight. You can find these at brewing supply stores or online.

o Additional items – You’ll also need a stainless steel mixing spoon, a rubber spatula, an additional stainless steel bowl or two, and some oven mitts to protect your hands.

The Process

Gathering the equipment is easy, but learning how to use it properly can be a real challenge. The key is to find a written or video guide that clearly explains the process step-by-step. Video programs are excellent as many people are visual learners and this gives them a chance to actually observe each step rather than just read about it. Some basic beer-making kits come with both written and video instruction.

Remember, everything you need to start is in that kit. However, once you’ve progressed past the kit, you can begin to experiment with choosing your own ingredients and adding your own flavors. There are many books on home brewing and also a few magazines dedicated to the art. Magazines provide different tips each month as well as a host of recipes you can try, so they’re a good deal if you’re really interested in pursuing home brewing. These publications include BYO (Brew Your Own), Celebrator, and Zymurgy.  

Just remember to move slowly at first and before you know it, you’ll be delighting your friends with your new brews and will have developed a hobby you can enjoy for a lifetime.


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