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Wildflower Honey 1 Lb

Wildflower Honey is medium to dark in color, medium to strong in flavor, and leaves meads fairly full bodied. Available in a one pound container.
$3.50
* From www.homebrewing.org

Pro-Line Power Pack 125 ft Dist. 1/3 hp, 2 Pumps, Water Cooled

Glycol Power Pack, 1/3 HP
$2,220.00
* From www.micromatic.com

Introduction


Okay, so you like beer. Why not make your own? It's really as simple as that. Good beer can be made by anyone! If you have the ability to function in the world (breathe, eat, sleep and repeat) and you know how to count (one, two, four, three, eleventy) you have the prerequisites for brewing great beer. For around $100 you can have beer that's just as good, or better, than anything you can buy in the store. It will also be cheaper per beer than any decent commercial or micro-brew, and it will fit your taste better, because you will most likely make types of beer that you enjoy.

The freedom to create your own recipes means there are no boundaries, and as long as you stick to some basic rules you're nearly guaranteed to be satisfied. Hey, even if you don't take my advice and make a beer that tastes like a dirty sock from the garbage chute of the lifetime testing department at Toilets R' Us, you'll still be able to take pride in knowing that this hell-icious creation came from your brain and was brought to fruition with labor that was yours and yours alone. Seriously though, it is incredibly easy and a ton of fun, and I can't think of any reason why not try it out. The feeling you get from handing friends a bottle of some magic concoction that you created (and them actually enjoying it) is well worth the minimal effort.

This is purposely a fairly basic tutorial for beer-brewing, because I think that many future 'master-brewers' out there may be intimidated by some of the sources that make brewing seem like a magic act or a talent you have to be born with. It's not. Just give it a shot. So... let's get to it.

We're going to talk about extract brewing, because it's easy, and the first step anyone should take to get into the sport. The wort you'll be making that ferments into beer is basically just sugar water. The sugar comes from making a mash, which is simply heating malted barley to specific temperatures and collecting the juice. It's not too complicated, but it does take a while to do and it requires some extra equipment. Luckily, several nice, thoughtful companies have already done this step and condensed the wort obtained from the mash into thick syrupy goo called malt extract. You can get it in just about any variety and you can make nearly any kind of beer you want without going to the all-grain method (mashing yourself). There are advantages to all-grain, like having complete control over every aspect of your beer, but I'll leave that up to you whether you want to take it to the next level.

To get started, you need some very basic equipment. I'll just list the equipment first, then we'll get into the reasons and specifics as we talk about the process of brewing. This is what you'll need for a five gallon batch of beer, the typical amount that most people start out with. It will give you right around two cases of beer and will cost around $40 per batch. It's not so much that you can't afford to be adventurous (in case, God forbid, you screw up) but it's enough to make your afternoon you spend brewing worth the effort. It's also a convenient size for using a regular household stove.

  • Sanitizer
    • Cleanliness is Godliness. You can use bleach, but I'd use sanitizer made for brewing. Bleach can eat your plastic equipment. Plus, it smells like bleach.
  • Bottle and Carboy Brush
    • For cleaning.
  • Brew kettle
    • Stainless steel stove pot (at least 20qts)
  • Large metal spoon
  • Thermometer
    • A simple meat thermometer works well. Make sure the temperature range is large enough (~70°F - 200°F).
  • Strainer
    • Any kind of strainer that will filter out large chunks (at least 6 in. in diameter)
  • Brewing bucket
    • A plastic food grade bucket will work fine (at least 6 gallons). You will need an airtight lid with a sealed hole in it for an airlock (see next item)
  • Glass Carboy
    • Just a big glass jug with a narrow opening, at least 5 gallons. You'll also need a cork with a hole in it, called a bung, to seal the carboy off
  • Hydrometer
    • Calibrated glass scale that measures the density (specific gravity) of your beer.
  • Airlock
    • Device that allows gas to escape, but not enter, fermentation vessel.
  • Siphon
    • For transferring beer from one vessel to another; can be as simple as a five foot section of plastic tubing, but there are auto-siphon gadgets available that are really useful and a lot better.
  • Bottling bucket
    • Similar to the fermentation bucket but with a nozzle and a shut-off valve for dispensing beer from the side (~1 inch from the bottom).
  • Bottles
    • Use brown bottles with non-screw off tops. Light can cause chemical reactions in beer, and screw off tops don't hold enough pressure.
  • Caps
    • I have no idea what these are for, but they just might come in handy.
  • Bottle filler
    • Could be just a hose from the bottling bucket to the bottles. There are bottle filling attachments that work well though (sold in most kits).
  • Bottle capper
    • Several kinds are available. The more expensive ones might work better, but I wouldn't know. Spend what you want, but I opt for spending money on better ingredients over upgraded equipment that may save two seconds per batch.

This is the mandatory equipment, and you can make a great batch of beer in any style of beer, with just these items and some ingredients. You could collect all the pieces separately if you want, but I'd recommend buying a beer kit from a reputable company though. It saves a lot of hassle of finding each piece, and it will be cheaper. There are also some tweaks to the basic equipment that come in the pre-made kits that would be a pain to make on your own, like the auto-siphon and the bottle filler. These really make the process run smoothly and are included in the good kits.

Ok so now you have the equipment, right? So what do you do with it? Well, you need some ingredients. For most beers, these are barley and hops. They are easy to grow, and if you want to do this, go buy a tractor and a gold star for yourself because you earned it with your ambition. For the rest of us, there are a few good, easy options.

Good recipes are fairly easy to create, and there are plenty of good resources to get you started. (Hint: You're at one. Look here ) There are also some great books that can help you out. Even easier, though, is to buy an ingredient kit, at least for your first time. All the proportions are right, and you don't have to worry about making mistakes. You can get some good ingredient kits here.

Now that you have everything you need, let's get to business. I'm going to break the brewing process up into 3 parts, because it makes sense to me. Also, three is a great number. Here they are: Brew day, transfer day and bottling day.

One of the most important things throughout the process is sanitation. Everyone that brews beer will tell you this. I, personally, have not screwed a batch up due to poor sanitation, probably because every source in existence stresses this enough that I believed them and followed their orders. So should you. The environment that lends itself to yeast reproduction and fermentation is also perfect for a lot of different bacteria that can and will distort the flavor of your beer (no known pathogens that can make you sick though, thank God). Everything that touches the beer after the boil needs to be sanitized. A thorough cleaning with a regular soap or in the dishwasher is the first step. Next, create a solution according to the instructions for the sanitizing powder in your homebrew kit (or bleach) and water. A quick rinse in this solution will get you where you want to be.


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Robust Porter 'Adapted'

Had to adapt BeerNard's Robust Porter recipe for what the homebrew store actually had - will let you know in a few weeks how it turned out! More

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