Though the word “homebrewing” can refer to the process of making any kind of beverage, including wine, kombucha and root beer for non-commercial purposes, today we will be focusing on the art of making beer in your home. This ancient process is both an art and a science and has been going on for more than 7,000 years, beginning in modern-day Iraq, Egypt and China.
As mentioned in the title, homebrewing can be cheaper than buying beer commercially and can be tailor-made to please the palate of the creator, no matter how discerning. The homebrewer may want go out and buy everything from the hardware store or their local homebrewing supply store, or they could get little help and purchase a brewing kit. Legalized in the United States in 1978, the pastime of homebrewing has blossomed into a thriving cottage industry, with an official organization (American Homebrewers Association) and competitions throughout the world.
Before You Get Started
As the homebrewing industry has flourished, the capacity for what the homebrewer can accomplish has kept pace and the combination of ingredients and hence, the types of beers that can be made, is limitless. Beer is and will always be made of just four ingredients: water, yeast, hops and malt. All of these ingredients are just as accessible to the novice homebrewer as they are to the most seasoned professional. Here’s a list of the ingredients and equipment the beginning homebrewer needs to get started:
- Water – This part should be easy, and water out of the tap is just fine to use for most brewers, but for the true connoisseur, minerality, pH and other characteristics can play a minor role in the finished product. Some experts recommend cheap bottled spring water (not mineral) or water with a low pH level (home testing kits are available) and no chlorine.
- Yeast – Yeast is a microorganism and is the catalyst of the fermentation process, which makes beer alcoholic. The yeast converts sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Homebrewing requires brewer’s yeast, as opposed to baker’s yeast and the type of yeast used in a beer will affect the taste. Yeast is responsible for the many delicate flavors that inhabit certain brews, such as fruits, butter, spices and vegetables.
- Hops – Hops are responsible for the more up-front flavors of the beer, and dictate what kind of beer is being brewed. Brewers user hops for adding bitterness, measured in IBUs (International Bitterness Units) as well as contribute floral, citrus and herbal aromas and flavors.
- Malt – These are partially germinated seeds that determine the strength of the beer. The malted grains produce enzymes that the yeast consumes to make alcohol. It also adds flavor to the beer.
*NOTE* The equipment needed to brew beer can vary depending on your budget, the space you have and what kind of beer you want to make. There are plenty of resources that cater to exactly what kind of brewing you want to do.
Now on to the recipes. That’s why you’re here, right? These three recipes are of several different types of popular beers, the IPA (India Pale Ale), porter and German hefeweizen.
INDIA PALE ALE
A simple, deep flavored beer hoppy beer
- 2 cans Alexander’s pale malt extract
- .5 lbs. American crystal malt, 40˚Lovibond
- 4 oz. Centennial hops, 1.5 oz. for 60 mins., .5 oz. for 30 mins., 1 oz. for 2 mins., 1 oz. dry hop
- 1 tsp. Irish moss (optional)
- Wyeast 1056 American ale yeast
- 2 tbsp. gelatin finings (optional)
- 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming
PROCEDURE: Steep grains in 1 gallon of 155˚ water for 30 minutes. Remove grains and add 3 more gallons of water. Turn off heat and add extract. Return to boil. When boiling starts, add 1.5 oz. of hops. Boil 30 minutes. Add Irish moss .5 oz. of hops and boil for 30 more minutes. Add 1 oz. hops during the last 2 minutes of boil. Total boil is 60 minutes. Pitch yeast when wort cools. Dry hop with final ounce of hops (add to primary fermenter 2 days before racking). Use gelatin in secondary fermenter and/or at the bottling.
A quality clone of Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter
- 1 can Edme Super Flavex unhopped dark syrup
- 1 lb. Munton’s light dry malt extract
- 1.5 lbs. Munton’s amber dry malt extract
- .5 lbs. American crystal malt, 40˚ Lovibond
- .5 lbs. English chocolate malt
- .25 lbs. black patent malt
- 2 oz. Fuggle hops (8.8% alpha acid), for 60 mins.
- .5 oz. Willamette hops (4% alpha acid), for 15 mins.
- Wyeast 1098 (British ale)
PROCEDURE: Add grains to 1.5 gals. water and steep 155˚ for 30 minutes. Remove grains, bring to a boil and add extracts and Fuggle hops. Boil for 45 mins. then add Willamette hops. Boil for 15 minutes more then add to fermenter. Pitch yeast when cooled to 70˚. Prime with corn sugar.
This popular wheat beer is light and versatile. Fruit extract can be added for extra flavor, as well as coriander and orange peel for a more Belgian experience.
- 4 lbs. Premier wheat malt extract
- 1 lb. light dry malt powder
- 1 lb. wheat dry malt powder
- 1 lb. flaked wheat
- 1 oz. Tettnanger hops (5% alpha acid), for 60 mins.
- Wyeast 3056 (Bavarian weizen) liquid yeast
- 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming
- Fruit extract of your choice (optional)
PROCEDURE: Steep flaked wheat in 2 gallons hot water (130˚ F) for 30 minutes with heat on low. Strain out most of the flaked wheat, leaving enough to give the beer a cloudy appearance. Bring to a boil, then remove the pot from the burner and add the malt extracts and hops. Boil for 60 mins. When done boiling, transfer the beer into 2 gallons cold water in sterilized carboy then top off to 5 gallons. When beer is cooled to 74˚F, add yeast then ferment at 68˚. If a fruit beer is desired, add the extract while adding the corn sugar. 1-1.5 bottles of extract will suffice, depending on how strong you prefer it.
These were a few simple introductory recipes for the newbie brewers out there. The more experience (and equipment) you gain, the more varied and complex your beers will become, not to mention the increase in foot traffic in your place. When you start homebrewing, you immediately become part of a rich history that goes back for millennia and spans the globe. Its a fulfilling, complex hobby… and you get to drink cheaply!