Do it yourself projects are frequently the most rewarding pursuits. After all, at the end of a whole bunch of hard work stands the reward of something you created with your own hands. While this can often be a reward experienced with your eyes, making a home brew is something that offers a bit more. While it’s pleasing to the eye, it also provides your taste buds a sense of wonder that, frankly, the visual element can’t compete with.
Homebrewing is an exciting hobby. If you’re passionate, it could even develop into something bigger, like a nanobrew, microbrew, or more. However, before you start pursuing your dreams of pulling in medals at the Great American Beer Festival, it’s important to look how to properly dive into the pursuit.
Where Do You Begin?
Before you brew your first batch of beer, you need to familiarize yourself with the tools of the home brew trade. If you’re really serious about the pursuit – that is, if you potentially seeing yourself hitting the market with your suds in the form of a nanobrew – your journey should probably begin by reading a book.
There have been plenty of books written about homebrewing. Some are designed to cover the very basics, while others are geared for the more hardcore aficionado. These books typically come with dozens upon dozens of recipes, providing you with a kettle-full of ideas when it becomes time to start brewing.
A Look at Homebrewing Equipment
Once you’ve devoured the written word, it’s time to start perusing the various forms of homebrewing equipment on the market. There is an eclectic range of product to choose from here, from the humble home brew kit to more sophisticated components with funky names like wort chillers and auto-siphons. If you’re looking to dive into serious homebrewing, you need to familiarize yourself with a few tricks of the trade.
The equipment you’ll consider is typically split up into various sub-categories. These sub-categories include:
- Brewing Equipment – The kits that serve as the backbone for whatever homebrewing pursuit you’re going to embark upon, from beer intended just for your to brews aimed toward friends, family, and other beer fans.
- Boiling Equipment – Tools devoted to helping you kill off bacteria and wild yeast strains – two enemies of delicious beer.
- Wort Chillers – Components to cool your beer to the point where beer yeast can be added.
- Hop Filler Screens & Infusers – Equipment designed to allow you to add hops, spices, or fruit into your homebrew.
- Thermometers – Essential components to help you accurately gauge the temperature of your beer throughout the brewing process.
Each of these components does their part into making sure your beer has flavor, body, and personality. On another level, they conspire to make sure the beer you’re brewing is an extension of you and your brewing style. If you have visions of diving into the brewing market professionally, finding this voice is invaluable.
Buying the Right Stuff
When you start shopping for equipment, you’ll quickly find that the market is saturated with a lot of choices. If you’re new to the homebrewing game, the sheer volume of choices could be extremely intimidating. However, it doesn’t have to send you running to the hills in abject panic. There are a few things to keep in mind as you look for goods.
First off, set a budget that you feel comfortable with spending. When you visit a home brew store and get over the initial shock of the amount of product available, you may find yourself getting enamored with all the cool, shiny gadgets. However, if the objects that catch your eye are out of your price range, avoid the temptation of moving the financial needle to allow for their purchase.
Remember, homebrewing is a hobby – one that can potentially be a time-consuming one. Just because you like drinking beer, there’s no guarantee that you’ll like to make the stuff. If you go over your budget and discover that you, in fact, aren’t into the hobby, that high-end product you couldn’t resist is going to be nothing but a waste. It’s better to make sure you actually like the hobby before you sink a ton of money into things.
Also, you’ll want to make a list of equipment and tools that you’ll absolutely need to get the beer you want to make a reality. The list will most likely consist of the basic building blocks you’ll need for homebrewing, and won’t contain anything that may be considered superfluous. This somewhat ties into the first point about keeping a budget, as writing down a list of essentials and adhering to that list will help keep you on task.
Don’t be shy about using the Internet as a research tool, either. While books will give you a general idea on what you’ll need to start your homebrewing adventure, the web will flesh out those concepts in the form of what brands to consider and what price range you’ll be dealing with.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, solicit advice from those in the know as much as you can. Join a home brew club or listen to a podcast like Home Brew Talk. Better yet, if you have a local craft brewery you like to frequent, bend the ear of the people brewing the beer. Doing so will most likely give you an audience with a certified beer geek; one that will be more than happy to give you a wealth of tips and personalized information.
Homebrewing and Ingredients
Of course, one of the most important things you can buy when you’re a homebrewer has nothing to do with the equipment. Rather, it’s what gets run though the equipment – the ingredients.
In this case, you may want to refrain from trying to pinch pennies. The adage “you get what you pay for” tends to apply here more than it does with the equipment. You’ll want to gravitate toward products that are fresh, from companies that have a good reputation for producing a reputable product. If you skimp, your chances of producing a product you or your friends won’t like will increase.
What to Expect with Your Initial Brewing Adventure
Your first ever batch of home brewed beer is going to be relatively basic. This is okay – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a proper Hefeweizen wasn’t created on a brewer’s first ever try. Like anything in life, practice makes perfect.
Chances are, your point of brewing origin is going to be brewed with malt extract. The process is a go-to because it doesn’t require a whole lot of equipment. This is attractive if your budget simply allows for a minimal setup. It also takes a minimal amount of procedural intrusion, making it ideal for those that are nervous about making mistakes.
There is still plenty of steps involved in the malt extract process, such as boiling water, adding ingredients, chilling the resultant substance, and storing the substance for fermentation purposes. Collectively, the steps almost read like a glorified science experiment. Yet like a science experiment, if you follow the steps without deviation, you’ll be able to have a beer that you can enjoy at the end of the journey.
There is one catch. You won’t be able to enjoy the beer right away. Once you put your beer in bottles – either in standard 12-ounce bottles or 22-ounce bombers – you’ll have to store them at room temperature for two to three weeks. This will allow for the development of the carbonation needed, so that the beer can taste like beer.
Once you feel comfortable with home brewing, you can then graduate to adding extra steps into the process, such as adding different fruits and spices to the mix to create more advanced flavors. You can even start experimenting with different brewing processes like the all grain method, a more classic process that involves grain mashing to convert its starch into fermentable sugar.
If you find that you really enjoy the process, then you can also open up your wallet and improve upon the equipment you’ve previously purchased. The better you become at homebrewing, the more the world of homebrewing equipment will open up to you. This could be a scary proposition for your wallet, but your inner beer geek won’t mind.
There is more to proper homebrewing than just getting a kit. There is plenty of research to do if you want success, from reading books on the subject of homebrewing to picking up cost-effective equipment. It’s not an easy hobby. If it were, there would be a lot more beer aficionados with home kits trying to do this themselves.
However, if you have the patience and the right level of DIY-fueled geekiness, brewing your own beer at home is one of the most rewarding hobbies out there. And who knows? You may ultimately find it to be so fun, you may turn the process into a stepping stone for bigger and better beer-related things.