99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer, take one down pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall. This old bar song rings truer in today’s brewing world than it has for quite some time in the beer-drinking American landscape. Independent brewing is becoming a force to be reckoned within the beverage industry and there are many opportunities to become involved in this revolution. The seed of home brewing was planted in the 1970s, as beer drinkers looked back at the more traditional beer recipes brought over by immigrants from Europe. These beer recipes are now being perfected in homes and garages, while beer-drinkers’ palettes are becoming more sophisticated as the options for different styles of beer increases. The days of two, maybe three tap handles of flavorless, cheap beer at the bars are slowly fading. Instead, more tap handles, with designs unique to their brewery or brew, are being added. There is a true brewing renaissance that has entered the forefront of the beer-drinking community, and it’s called craft beer.
Craft beer recipes typically include traditional ingredients, and non-traditional ingredients are added to give the brew a twist, giving it a more distinctive flavor, it’s own unique flair. After all, it is craft beer, not your uncle’s PBR. As the craft brewing industry is continuing to grow year after year, it might not hurt to brush up on your malt knowledge. If you’re interested in learning more about the brew process itself- to either understand more about the beer you’re drinking, or maybe you want to try your hand at crafting your own brew- check out this course on the basics of beer making. At the very least, after learning more about the brew process, you will be able to hold your own at a table of beer snobs. And yes, they do exist. Snobbery is not just for the winos anymore these days.
Real Brew Talk
First off, we should probably discuss what exactly these terms are that we’re throwing around, just in case home brewing and craft beer sounds like a foreign language to you. Or perhaps you’ve heard them, but aren’t exactly sure about the specifics. Let’s lay it all out on the bar and define what we’re talking about here. When we discuss craft beer, we’re not just talking about your average beer anymore, the pale, sometimes flat liquid, served in plastic red cups, that you probably were first introduced to at house parties in college (because you waited until you were of the legal age to drink alcohol, of course). As the beers get fancier, it turns beer drinking into an appreciation of the flavors, not just how fast you can chug your cup. Now back to our quick craft beer vocabulary overview. Home brewing is just that, making your own beer at home, in your house or garage, with brewing equipment. You even get to bottle your own beer if you decide to bottle it versus kegging it. Once you decide what type of beer you would like to make, then have at it, the beer world is your oyster! It will probably take a few tries to get the process down because it does involve some basic chemistry. If you skipped chemistry class one too many times in high school or perhaps you just want to brush up on your periodical table, there is a Chemistry 101 course available for you to take in order to understand the finer points about why you need specific levels of CO2 for the fermentation process. You wouldn’t want to over or under brew your beer, right?
So what exactly defines craft beer? Is it only beer that is home brewed? Craft beer can be brewed at home, but the main quality that labels a brew as a craft beer is when it is brewed independent of a large, corporate beverage company. Craft beer is typically created by small, independent brewers, who employ traditional brewing techniques, but yet are innovative with their beer recipes. They often start with traditional styles of beer and add unique ingredients to create their own interpretation of a standard recipe. Craft brewers also tend to be very involved in their communities and with their customers. Craft brewing is an art and like artists, brewers can have a loyal following. They have become celebrities within their own right, especially when they’re spotted during keg tapings of their newly released brew during a local Beer Week (we might know a few fans of those brew masters).
Brew, Baby, Brew
Is all this talk about beer making you thirsty? Are you inspired to try brewing your own beer now? Or at least check out an intro to beer-making course that lays out the basics? Either way, there are so many beer recipes out there in the world for you to choose from and we want to help you narrow down the selection. Whether you are brewing for yourself or planning to share with your friends (we hope), let’s start you off with one of the basic beer recipes that is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. It’s the Centennial Blonde Ale which is on the lighter side but garners a wide appeal. We like to think it’s perfect for relaxing with friends on a sunny afternoon. The recipe is courtesy of the friendly brewers over at homebrewtalk.com.
You will need the following ingredients to make roughly 5.5 galloons of beer (that’s going to be a lot of beer bottles for your wall):
7.00 lbs. Pale Malt (2 Row) US
0.75 lb. Cara-Pils/Dextrine
0.50 lb. Caramel/Crystal Malt – 10L
0.50 lb. Vienna Malt
0.25 oz. Centennial (9.50%) boil for 55 min
0.25 oz. Centennial (9.50%) boil for 35 min
0.25 oz. Cascade (7.80%) boil for 20 min
0.25 oz. Cascade (7.80%) boil for 5 min
Danstar Nottingham Ale Yeast
Mash at 150 degrees for 60 minutes. Sparge (basically means rinsing and mashing the grains) with 175° F water to create enough wort (this is the liquid you get from mashing) to reach 5.5 gallons after the boil. Boil and add hops according to the schedule above. Chill to 68 degrees and pitch the yeast.
The Waiting Period, Fermentation:
Ferment at 68 Degrees for 10 days before bottling.
And then comes the fun part, bottling your beer! That is, if you decide to bottle it versus keg it. However, you decide to contain your very own craft beer, it’s important to know how to store it properly so you don’t run the risk of your new favorite beer going flat before you can enjoy it with your buddies. This course will review the different storage and cellar options that best suit your beer’s needs.
The Beer Times are A-Changing
The times for beer are changing, as there are more registered independent craft brewers each year and along with them, beer drinkers are evolving as well. There is more support these days for local, independent businesses, including brewers. We are seeing that more people are truly interested in appreciating the process and the art of craft brewing. There is an excitement that’s almost tangible in this industry. It’s the energy in the air when you talk to someone about their favorite craft beer and they are always happy to offer a recommendation in the style of beer you prefer, all you have to do is ask. If this is a community you’re interested in learning more about, you can always start with learning the basics in this beer-making course. Who knows, before long, we could be posting about your beer recipes!