The summery weather has me thirsty. For beer.
Yesterday I stopped by a favorite haunt, Brooklyn Homebrew, with one goal in mind: five gallons of hoppy, summery pale ale. I sometimes dream of cooking up something crazy in my cauldron, like a black ale, or a lager, but I always end up sticking to a good old IPA or, if it’s dead-hot summer, a saison. This time around the Brooklyn Homebrew’s house recipe pale ale sounded mighty fine, so I gave it a go. It’s a partial mash, meaning some grain and some malt extract; I prefer these to all extract brews because they taste better, and they’re a lot easier and less fussy than all-grain.
I learned to homebrew from the man himself, Uncle Charlie. Charlie Papazian’s book, The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, is known as the homebrewer’s bible. It’s the perfect book for complete beginners, but it also includes more advanced stuff to delve into over time. Highly recommended. But there are lots of free resources out there online, too. One of my favorites is a forum called HomeBrewTalk, which has lots of info and lots of wisdom for grasshoppers.
In my opinion, one of the best parts about learning from Uncle Charlie is his mantra, RDWHAHB… Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.
Believe me, it really comes in handy. There are lots of moving parts in homebrewing: temperatures to keep an eye on, time to keep an eye on, sanitizing to do to just about everything, did I just add the aroma hops instead of the bittering hops… it can be easy to get flustered, and something(s) will always go wrong-ish. But luckily, barring complete catastrophe, even if you make mistakes here and there your brew will turn out just fine. Trust me. I’ve had a carboy volcanically erupt in my bedroom… but what was left ended up being pretty tasty.
Why go through the trouble? HB’ing is a great hobby that pays dividends and gives good buzz. You can spend buttloads on fancy equipment or use pretty much all salvaged stuff, and either way turn out great beer. It comes in handy when you can’t afford the good stuff as often as you’d like, or when all you’ve got for options in the neighborhood are InBev brands. And it’s fun!
Well, without further ado, here’s my home brew how to, photo-essay style.
Add bittering hops and boil away.
While you boil, sanitize. I use Star San.
A watched pot never boils. An unwatched pot boils over. Always. RDWHAHB.
Wort chiller: a grown man’s slinky.
Add the chiller for the last ten minutes of the boil to sanitize.
Aroma hops in the last minute or two.
Boil’s done. Hook chiller to faucet and run cold.
Siphon wort off into carboy. Or just pour into funnel, trying to keep out at least some of the sediment.
Top off with water for 5 gallons. Temp at 60. Time for the thief!
Add theived wort to beaker. Get ready for some science fair action, boys and girls.
Hydrometer. Specific gravity. Look at you, smartypants.
Add yeast. I like dry cause it’s less of a pain.
Aerate well (I just shake the carboy around a bit) and cork it. A blowoff hose and jar catch any junk that foams up in the first few days.
And wait. After the first few days, pull out the blowoff hose and attach a fermentation lock. And wait some more. Then, voilà, beer.
Stay tuned for Home Brew How To: Part 2: Bottling edition.
If you are just really excited about homebrewing and want some in-person help to get started, there will be a homebrew 101 as part of the Brooklyn Homesteader Backyard Bootcamp next Saturday, April 7. Reserve your spot here!