Humans have been brewing beer for almost 10,000 years. So before you buy another case of cheap, mass-produced, domestic lager why not consider brewing your own? For $50 to $100 a batch, depending entirely on the type of beer and ingredients you choose, you can produce approximately 50, 12-ounce beers. That’s only about $2 per bottle. Rather than pay a high price tag for craft brews at a bar, enjoy the priceless satisfaction from the fruits of your own labor. Home brewing doesn’t require a lot of space, equipment or time; just some patience, attention to detail and dedication.
1. Find a reputable home brew supplier.
Don’t order a starter kit online from Amazon or eBay, find a local expert. It will make all the difference. Reputable doesn’t mean a shiny, big-box store; most suppliers are locally-owned, mom-and-pop type shops. This is the type of place you have a real (and helpful) conversation with the staff. You can read books, or find techniques and recipes online, but the people who own and work these stores are experts and enthusiasts, so listen and learn from them.
2. Choose a type of beer to brew.
What’s your favorite beer? There’s a home-brew clone of it out there somewhere. It’s a great place to start if it’s your first time brewing. As a beginner, plan on sticking to ales since they can be aged at room temperature. Lagers require refrigeration, so don’t get ahead of yourself.
3. Do you prefer a keg or bottles?
Should you serve your homebrew from a keg or bottle? If you have a kegerator, or have long been seeking an excuse to buy one, a keg is a great option. If you prefer your brew to be more portable or shareable, you may want to bottle it. Transferring the beer from the fermenter to a keg is much easier than bottling it. Regardless, be sure you’ve got the container well sealed. For kegs, that means checking o-rings (applerubber.com has a great o-ring size chart). For bottles, that means capping carefully and checking your work.
4. Don’t forget to sanitize, sanitize and sanitize.
That shiny new brewing pot? Wash it and sanitize it. Ditto for the spoon and spoon rest you’re using. Sanitize everything that comes in contact with your beer. After you cook the wort, the beer will ferment for seven to 10 days (unless your recipe states otherwise). Can you imagine what bacteria could do in that time? Ruining your beer would be at the top of that list. Beer making is an exercise in delayed gratification. That delay is heavily compounded if you brew a skunky beer, which you could have avoided by sanitizing!
5. Share and then repeat.
Now that you’ve found a local wealth of knowledge and fantastic ingredients, chosen a recipe, sanitized, brewed and bottled (or kegerated, as it were), what’s left? Share with friends and family and start a new batch because this one will be gone before you know it. Oh, and when your friends and family get greedy for more of your delicious craft brews, just tell them how easy it is to do it themselves and help them get started.
Josh Santos: Josh is a cooking expert from the Southwest, with a penchant for cast iron and outdoor ovens.