Lessons  in Home  Brewin

With everyone having ample time on their hands these days, why not try something new and submerge into that hobby you’ve always wanted to try? The latest craze these days is home brewing (brewing beer at home).

Home brewing is certainly a process, and it requires a lot of time and patience, but it’s a great way to learn something new and enjoy the unique taste of a good beer that you can say YOU made! And who knows, it might be something you want to make a lifestyle out of. Plenty of brewery owners first started out in their garages, brewing beer at home and enjoying the process of infusing new tastes and flavors into their favorite alcoholic beverages.

Beer is basically as old as society – there’s actually evidence of beer brewing that dates back 15,000 BC. Along with bread and onions, beer helped fuel projects including the pyramids in Egypt. Back then, beer was just three ingredients: water, barley and hops. These days, the four main ingredients in beer are grain, hops, yeast and water.

Before getting into the home-brewing process, it’s important to note that there’s quite a lot of information and steps when it comes to brewing beer. But fear not! There are plenty of resources online and around the region that can provide a first-time home brewer with the right equipment, brewing kits and knowledge for getting started.

Brewtopianh in Keene is a great place to start. It’s local and the guys over there definitely know what they’re doing when it comes to home brewing. There is so much to learn and the process may take some time to get down right, but once the recipes are perfected and a tasty homemade beer is poured, it’ll be easy to keep at it and make more delicious beer for everyone to try.

Let’s start with malt. Malt — typically referred to as malted grains — is the principal source for fermentable sugar in beer. Utilizing specialty malts when making beer is a relatively easy way to add more complexity and personality to extract brews. Different malts produce different beers; lighter malts produce a bready flavor one would typically find in lagers, blondes, pales, IPAs, etc. Caramel malts produce a more toffee or caramel flavor found in ambers, browns, IPAs, lagers, etc. Darker malts produce coffee or chocolate flavors in stouts, porters and some lagers.

One might see the term “mashable adjuncts” when researching grains for home brewing. This is another term for any of the other sources of starch that are not malted barley, the main grain that’s used in the fermentation process. Alternative starches such as corn, rice, rye, oats and wheat have also been known to produce different colors, hazes, flavors, headiness and clarity to the brew. Some of these are a little cheaper and easier to extract, so it all depends on what kind of beer the home brewer wants to make and at what cost.

On to hops… they’re the green, cone-shaped flower of the plant utilized to help add stability, taste and aroma to the beer. Hops contain alpha and beta acids and essential oils that give beers their signature smell and taste. Home brewers sometimes “dry hop” — the technique in which hops are added after fermentation to create aroma and flavor. Hops are also an ideal preserver of beer.

Brewer’s yeast is a type of fungus that consumes the fermentable sugars in the wort, otherwise known as sugar water, and produces alcohol, CO2 and other byproducts. The distinctions of fermenting beer come down to the type of yeast used — either ale or lager yeast. Different yeasts produce different compounds that add to the character of a good, tasty beer.

Last but certainly not least… home brewers will need water; good old H20 makes up the vast majority of a beer, so it is critical to the homebrew process.

Along with the ingredients, home brewers need the necessary equipment to actually make the beer. There are kits available online or in stores such as Brewtopia. A few essential products for brewing at home include:

  • Fermenter
  • Airlock and bung
  • Brew pot (or kettle)
  • Heat source
  • Siphon and tubing
  • Cleaner
  • Sanitizer

Once the products are there, it’s time to start to brewing. There are four basic steps to the process: preparing, brewing, fermenting and bottling. When preparing to brew, make sure to have all of the ingredients needed for the recipe. To start, steep the grains and bring the kettle to a boil, ultimately producing the wort. Once the wort is chilled, it’s time to start fermenting. Add water and yeast, seal the fermenter and give it a dark, cool place to do its thing. After about two weeks, the fermentation process should be completed, and it’s on to bottling the beer. Last step… refrigerate and enjoy!

The great thing about home brewing is the trial and error process. Home brewers can figure out the recipes they like best and tweak them accordingly. What’s more fun than creating a nice tasty brew that can be claimed as your own creation?

For more information on home brewing, contact Brewtopia at brewtopianh.com or call (603) 357-7773. Other resources available include: homebrewersassociation.org and homebrewing.org.