So you like to craft drink beer, do you? Well, it seems like you are not the only one. At the end of 2013, there were around 2,722 operating breweries in the United States, according to the Brewers Association. That is the highest number seen in the country since 1876, which was before the Prohibition Era. Even more intriguing, half of those breweries are microbreweries, meaning they are independently owned and only produce a limited amount of beer. Because of this “craft beer movement”, casual beer drinkers are starting to brew their own homemade beer.
Up until 1979, brewing beer in your own home was illegal. Today, you are allowed to as long as you are 21 years of age or older and you do not sell your homemade beer. When you are more familiar with the process, brewing your own beer can be a lot of fun and a great learning experience. It is also fairly easy to do, especially with the Mr. Beer Kit and online brewing courses to show you how to use it properly. There are a number of reasons why beer drinkers prefer to brew beer in their own home, and you will see why in the following section.
Why Should I Brew My Own Beer?
Just because you don’t know how to cook food, doesn’t mean you can’t brew beer! Currently, it is legal to home brew beer in 49 states (except Alabama). So if you don’t live in Alabama and you are still on the fence, maybe these reasons will convince you to start brewing your own homemade beer.
Save money – If you are more of a Bud Light beer type of drinker, this might not apply to you. However, drinking craft beer at a bar or purchasing bottles at a liquor store can add up in terms of spending. You can purchase a basic beer starter kit and a cheap 5 gallon stock pot easily for less than $100. The ingredient kits cost around $40 or less, depending on what type of beer you want to brew. This will give you a good five gallons of delicious homemade beer, and when you compare that to the price of a 12-pack of beer at your local store, you will notice how much money you save right away. And as you start to brew beer more often, you can re-use some of the same equipment and all you will need to pay for is the ingredients.
Learn about beer – What’s the difference between an IPA and a regular pale ale? What makes a stout beer so dark? As a casual beer drinker, these type of questions might come to mind but you don’t know the actual answer to them. When you start brewing beer regularly, you will become more familiar with the ingredients and all the different types of beer. Similarly with food, a good chef can often distinguish all the flavors in a dish and appreciate it more. The same holds true with beer. When you truly understand the process of brewing beer, it can change the way you experience drinking it.
Customize your beer – When you are still in the beginning stages of brewing, you may want to stick with the traditional lager or pilsner beer. As you understand the process more, you can experiment with different ingredients and see what works well and what doesn’t. I’ve seen beers made with habanero peppers, au jus, pizza, and even elephant poop! They might not all taste very good, but having the freedom to customize your beer can feel liberating.
Make new friends – There is definitely a community of “craft beer people” that has formed throughout the country. If you’ve ever been to a brewery, you know what I’m talking about. They are usually nice people and very knowledgeable when it comes to brewing beer. Even people within the craft beer industry are known to be very helpful towards one another, and sometimes microbreweries will join forces to brew a “special limited-edition” brew for beer enthusiasts to try out. So when you start brewing your own beer, you can reach out to these people either in person or online and they are usually more than happy to help point you in the right direction. And unless you can drink four gallons of your own brewed beer by yourself, you will have a lot to share with your friends, and I’m sure they will be grateful.
Have fun – It may seem more like work at first, but most people usually find it fun and rewarding. Brewing beer is a science, and I bet you had fun during your high school science labs playing with fire, using tubes and mixing ingredients. Although the entire process usually takes a few weeks, most of that time is spent letting the beer cool off and ferment. If you don’t want to do it alone, it can also be a great way to bond with your family member or friend.
Four Steps To Brewing
The process for brewing beer has generally been the same for centuries, whether you are a commercial brewery or a home brewer. Here are the four main steps for brewing:
- Malting – One of the main ingredients in beer is barely. In order to use barely to make beer, it must first be malted. This means the grains are dried through a heating process, allowing them to be stored for a long period of time, and develops malt flavors that eventually get extracted during the brewing process. However, most home brewers usually buy already malted barley because it saves them time and malting requires certain equipment.
- Mashing – The purpose of mashing is to convert the starches in the malted barley into fermentable sugars. This typically involves soaking malted grains in hot water for a few hours. The key to this is controlling the mash pH and temperature. If you are a home brewer who uses extract, this step is not necessary as it’s already been done for you.
- Boiling / Cooling – The next step is to boil the liquid from the mash so it can be sanitized. Hops are added while it’s boiling to give the beer a bitter taste. After that is done, you are left with unfermented beer, also referred to as wort. The wort then needs to be cooled off quickly so yeast can be added.
- Fermenting / Conditioning – After the wort is cooled, yeast is added to begin the fermenting process. Depending on the type of beer being made, the fermentation can last from a few days to a few weeks, or sometimes longer. Once the beer is fermented, it needs to be bottled and refrigerated. The next step after that is to simply enjoy the beer that you just created!
If you’ve decided to take a leap into the wonderful world of home brewing, it is important that you learn from people who have experience and can guide you on the correct path. Beer Making 101 is a great course if you are new at brewing and have a beer kit in hand. Or if you want to learn about beer and cellar management, this course on beer and cellar management might be just for you. Brewing beer is the same as learning any other skill, it takes studying, patience and a lot of practice. Who knows, you may end up opening up your own brewery and adding to America’s craze of craft beers.