Intimidation of complex set-ups and big beards be damned; see how surprisingly easy and inexpensive making beer at home can really be.
Engage a homebrewer in a discussion regarding their most beloved craft and there’s a fair chance the one-sided interaction will last for hours. Like any other specialists, homebrewers geek out on the complexities, the sciences and the culture of making their own beer at home. And with so many obscure terms and combinations to make the perfect brew, it’s no wonder how the common individual can be scared off from diving dome-first into the hobby.
But the reality is: If you can cook ramen without burning down the complex, you can make homemade beer. It isn’t all that difficult to begin and it doesn’t have to be expensive, either. We spent an afternoon with homebrewing expert Steve Salkeld to guide us through the general process of a beginner’s all-grain recipe. As the owner of Beer at Home on South Broadway in Englewood, CO, Salkeld knows what’s up when jumping into the wonderful world of homebrew, and gives us valuable tricks on how to be the best frugal boozer one can be.
Brewing/Bottling Supplies (<$50):
Sanitize & Rinse: The number one rule of brewing is to keep everything clean through the process. Bacteria kills yeast, and when the yeast is dead, so is any chance of fermentation. “You can use bleach water as a cheaper cleaning alternative," says Salkeld, "but you have to rinse it off really well. One drop of it can kill the yeast.”
Heat & Watch: Heat a given amount of water (varies slightly per recipe) in a 5 qt. pot then “mash in” — or drop in — grains. Keep the temperature at a given point.
Raise & Wash: Up the temperature while stirring (“mashing out”), separate the grains from the water and pour additional hot water over the grains (this is “sparging” and it pulls the sugars off the grains for the yeast to dine on and poop out alcohol).
Boil & Hop: Boil the beer-looking liquid (“wort”) for a set amount of time and toss in hops (again, per recipe).
Bath & Pour: Make an “ice bath” in the sink and place the wort in it to cool. Then pour it in the glass jug.
Pitch & Shake: Toss (or “pitch”) the yeast directly into the jug and shake.
Lock & Wait: Secure a sanitized airlock or blow-off tube (Google it) and let it sit for at least 2 weeks in a closet or other area out of the way before bottling.
Sanitize & Rinse: Again, this is crucial. Clean everything.
Prime & Pour: Dissolve whatever priming sugar is available (honey, table sugar or store bought priming sugar) in the 5 qt. pot with water and add by siphoning or carefully pouring the now-fermented beer into the pot. The added sugar will ferment the yeast for a second time in the bottles — the resulting gas carbonates it.
Cap & Cry: Siphon or pour the liquid again into individual bottles. Cap and patiently let it sit for two more weeks. At the end of the two week period, place beer in the fridge for a few days before going ham on that brew.
It may all seem like a bit of work on paper, but the process is simple, really — perfecting it after being hooked, however, will keep most everyone occupied for a lifetime …
For more information on how to boost the hombrew game, read John J. Palmer's "How To Brew" and watch his in-depth videos online for free.