Sunday, January 13, 2013

Homebrewing

I'm excited to say that Olie started brewing his first batch of beer the other day.  The process was a bit long (3 hours at least), and there is still some waiting to do.  We will probably be drinking the first beer in 2 weeks.  I can't wait to try that first beer.

Here's the thing:  I've never brewed beer before.  This is a huge learning experience for me.  Also, I didn't do very much.  Olie did practically everything.  I just documented the process.  But here is my basic understanding of what is happening.

Beer is basically a mixture of malted barley, hops and yeast.  You start with a combination of malted barley and hops.  This creates flavor, but it is also the food for the yeast.  When you add yeast to this sugary, hoppy substance, it goes nuts and starts reproducing like crazy.  It's like an all-you-can-eat buffet.  You immediately cut off all oxygen to this mixture, so that the yeast will produce alcohol instead of carbon dioxide.  Then you let this sit for about 10 days to 2 weeks until the yeast has calmed down and basically become dormant.

Then comes the bottling stage, which we haven't gotten to yet.  You put the beer in the bottles and add a bit of sugar to each bottle.  Then you cap the bottle.  What happens now is that little bit of sugar, plus the small amount of oxygen at the top of each bottle allows the dormant yeast to start reproducing again.  This time, (because of the oxygen) it produces carbon dioxide and that is what carbonates your beer.  Make sense?

This is what is basically happening.  However, since we brewed an I.P.A (my favorite type of beer, love you Olie), there were a couple of extra steps.  With an I.P.A., to get that super aromatic hoppy flavor, you add hops twice.  You also add crystal malt (don't ask me what that is, I don't really know).  Also, we added wood chips to the beer.  I think this just flavors the beer?  Not sure, but it was pretty cool to add wood chips to beer.

If you are thinking about brewing your own beer, here are some words of advise.  First, start with a kit. Beer kits are readily available, come with all of the ingredients you need for your beer, and detailed instructions on how to make the beer.  Second, keep a beer journal, even for beers made from kits.  If you are interested in someday coming up with your own recipes, you need to understand what every ingredient does to the taste of the beer, which beers you like better, and which beers were a complete disaster.  This is where your journal comes in.  And third, do some studying!  Olie has gotten a copy of The Joy of Homebrewing and so far it has been extremely helpful.  Most cities also have stores that sell kits and ingredients and the employees are always passionate about brewing and eager to give some guidance.

Brewing is a very popular hobby these days and is very rewarding.  Now I'm not advocating that you drink only home brewed beer, because every beer has its place.  Is there anything better than a cold Bud Light on a hot day?  And how great is a Ghost River Glacial Pale Ale on tap (Memphians, you know what I'm talking about!).  And if you've ever had a home-brew, you know the excitement of tasting something completely unknown to you (that was probably made by a close friend).  Beer is one of life's greatest pleasures.  Don't be a snob, try it all!

This is the crystal malt.  It's kind of like a tea bag.  It steeps in the water before adding the barley and hops.


Pouring boiled hops and malted barley in a glass carboy before adding the yeast.



Adding the yeast
Steaming the woodchips so that they are sanitized.



Olie taking notes in his beer brewing journal.

The Joy of Home Brewing, plus some other materials.







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