Who doesn't like beer? It cools you down during summer, warms you up during winter, puts a 'spring' in your step during spring, and helps you brood during autumn. It is the inspiration behind the drinking game and now, the beer bong is a compulsory companion for any sporting event. It works best at bringing friends, enemies, and strangers together. And as if any more advantages are needed to be listed, you can make it at home! You can have an endless supply with your personal and unique blend. The recipe may look long, but it's actually simple and the end product is worth it. Here's how to do it.
- 3 gallon pot
- Siphon hose with clamp
- 5 gallon plastic or glass bucket with lid (also called carboys)
- Bottle filler
- 12 oz. bottles (avoid twist-off bottles)
- Bottle capper
- Bottle caps
- Sanitizing solution; starsan or iodosphor
- 6 lb dry or pale malt extract
- 2.25 oz. hops
- 1 packet brewer's yeast
- ⅔ cup priming sugar; corn sugar (preferred) or white sugar
Steps of Brewing
Sanitize: The first and most important step is cleaning all the equipment. Beer is highly sensitive to contamination from bacteria, so first use hot, soapy water and then a sanitizing solution to clean your equipment.
Brew: Pour 2-3 gallons of water into your pot and heat it. Once the water has warmed up, mix in the malt extract gradually and keep mixing while you do so. This combined water and extract mixture is 'wort'. Bring the wort mixture to a boil slowly. When the mixture starts foaming, use a spray with clean water to reduce it. Do not cover the pot while boiling. When the wort is steadily boiling, add the hops. Stir occasionally, else the extract will settle at the bottom and caramelize. Boil the mixture for 30-60 minutes.
Cool and Ferment: Cool the mixture quickly to room temperature. You can add chilled water to make the mixture 5 gallons. Siphon the wort mixture into the carboy. Prepare your yeast according to the pack's instructions and then add it to the carboy. Mix, close the top, fit the airlock (put a little water in it), and store in a dark, cool place, where the temperature remains steady (20-24 °C). Within 12-36 hours, bubbles will form in the airlock and continue to ferment for a week. If there are no bubbles, check the pail and airlock as there may be a leak. Let the mixture ferment for 1½-2 weeks before bottling.
Priming: Before bottling, priming is done to carbonate the finished beer. Again sterilize all the equipment. Make sure the bottles are clean and free of debris before sterilizing. You can soak them in a weak bleach solution, and then rinse well. Washing them in the dishwasher works but you will need to wash them well with hot water afterwards. Siphon the beer into a bucket carefully, do not splash or mix any air. Add ⅔ cup of the priming sugar to the beer and mix gently. Using the bottle filler, siphon it into bottles. Leave an inch or more of space at the top of the bottle. Fill one bottle at a time, capping when you finish.
Aging: If you taste the beer now, it will be flat. The best taste comes between 8-15 weeks after brewing. Store it in a dark, cool place like a basement. Avoid storing it in the refrigerator for the first 2 weeks after brewing. After 2 weeks, refrigerate the beer (also called lagering) to help it clear. When you are ready to sample your brew, chill the beer well and pour it into a glass, leaving any sediment in the bottle. The opened bottle will remain good for 2 weeks after opening.
- Add flavors like molasses or herbal teas to give a unique flavor to your brew.
- Use fresh and good quality malt extract and yeast. Freshness affects the fermenting rate and taste.
- Let your beer ferment completely before bottling. Check for bucket leaks. If unfermented beer is bottled, the bottle can explode.
- Check how much you need and weigh the priming sugar.
- Do not store beer bottles in hot or well-lit areas.
- Clean your equipment.
- Boil the wort for at least 90 minutes to improve taste and stability.
- Cool the wort quickly. You can use an immersion chiller for this.
- Be patient while fermenting, bottling, and aging. Most brewers jump the gun in these 3 stages, then wonder why their beer tastes like vinegar.
- Expert brewers recommend glass carboys over plastic. Plastic is more porous than glass and hence, are more prone to leaks. Also, glass is easier to clean.
- Keep a brewing diary, so that you know what mistakes you made and how to improve your techniques.
Home Brewed Beer Features
While brewing beer at home, there are some features that characterize the brewed beer like:
- Bitterness: Not too sweet, not too sour. Beer shouldn't leave a nasty aftertaste or be too sweet or grainy. Bitterness is usually caused by use of bitter hops, alkaline water, or boiling for a long time.
- Diaceytl Flavor: If your beer has a buttery or oily taste, it's due to incomplete fermentation.
- Astringency or Phenolic Flavor: a raw or husky flavor or a medicine like taste, caused by over boiling grains or too hot water mixed in your wort.
- Body: The full, thick beer taste makes up the body of your brew. You can go for a thin, light feel or a heavy, deep flavor.
The trick to brewing beer is to keep trying. No one gets a perfect brew in the first attempt. But with time and patience, your technique and brew will improve dramatically. Now that you know how to brew beer at home, get brewing. With your own stash of beer, there's no need to fight with your friends over the last can!