For the last 10,000 years men have been enjoying beer. This love affair started at about the same time that we stopped being nomadic and settled down. A natural outcome of the settling process was farming. And a natural outcome of farming was grain. And the natural ingredient in beer is grain. See how it all comes around. For this first brew, it’s likely that a couple dudes were sitting around and forgot that they left some grain out in the rain, when the rain stopped, natural air born yeast got into it and the yeast ate up and left behind an inebriating elixir.
And I would put money on the conversation that ensued. “dude it smells horrible” “Seriously man, it does” “Dude, dude drink it” “Ah hell no, I’m not doing it, you do it” “Give it to Mikey, he’ll drink anything…Hey Mikey”
And Mikey did drink and it was good.
Modern man doesn’t have to go through the tedious task of planting the seed and waiting for the harvest to start a brew. Hell, we can just head out to the closest grocery store or gas station and pick up a six pack. Of course, along with this ease of availability we also note the degradation of quality. So, for the sake of quality and for the sake of rooting back to some ancient manliness, we should know how and attempt to, brew our own. There is something extremely gratifying about sitting down and enjoying a brew that you’ve crafted yourself. Once you become a bit proficient with the process you will be able to craft a beer with subtle nuances and that rival the most expensive brew on the market. Promise, it’s easy.
When I first started brewing, I simply picked up 2 gallon a kit I found on sale. The kit version of brewing is called extract because you’re using the extract of the grain to make the beer.
Although this is simple, it’s not very satisfying nor is it cost effective.
Steps for an extract brew:
Pour contents of extract can in water
Boil the water to create wort, (pre-fermented beer)
Pour the wort into a container and add yeast
Wait 2 weeks, then bottle
Wait one week and drink
Steps for all grain:
Make wort-like making tea
Boil wort-thicken the tea
I am a firm believer that all grain brewing is the way to go, and the way to start. Here I will show you how easy it is to brew a batch of phenomenal brew from scratch. The type of beer we’ll be covering is called a SMaSH, Single Malt, Single Hop. This is a great place to start because its easy, and it will help you learn the profiles of grains and hops. We’ll be making a 5-gallon batch that should come out around 6.5% ABV. You’ll end up with ~50 beers. Your cost for the beer itself will be about $16.00. Total time for this type of beer is only 3 weeks, so it’s also very fast.
To start you’ll need some basic equipment. You’re set up fees will run you around $60, possibly less if you shop around.
2 Stock pots- One 3 gallon and one that can hold 5 gallons of water (you can use one 5 gallon only but it’s going to take longer)
Used to boil water and wort
A five-gallon pot will run you about $20 on amazon, nothing fancy, you only need to be able to boil water and wort
Used to steep the grain
A five-gallon cooler will run you about $20 online
You can shoot for a 10 gallon to expand later or if you find one on sale but a 5-gallon round is perfect
You can also opt to use the 5-gallon stock pot where you see the cooler directions below if you want to save money, but sooner or later, you’re going to want one
Mesh grain bag
Used to hold the grain during the steeping process
About $5 at the home brew store
A fermenting vessel
Used to, um, ferment the beer-kind of obvious
A plastic fermenting bucket with lid will cost you $11.00 at the brew shop
An air lock
Used to let gasses out of the fermenter while not letting air in
An S lock will cost you $1.99 at the brew shop
Used to test the potential and actual alcohol content of the beer, or juice if you have kids, cause that’s fun
$6.50 on Amazon
$1.50 for 100 at the brew shop
$5.00 at amazon or the brew shop
Don’t be scared at the prices you see above. Not only is everything mentioned above reusable it’s also cheap in the long run. The average 5-gallon batch will yield 50 beers or 4 cases. A case of decent beer will run you about $17, taxes included. So that means that after your first batch of beer, including the ingredients, you’ve already broke even.
Alright, you’ve made the above purchases now what else do you need.
Ingredients for the beer are simple. You need a grain and a hop, that’s it.
Grain-10 lbs. -American 2 row
Yeast-Safale 4 or 5
Hops-1 ounce, your choice, I’d recommend anything in the C family, Cascade, Citra etc.
Directions, we’re going to assume the cooler is being used to steep the grains, if not, use the 5-gallon stock pot in place of the cooler and hold the temp at 158 degrees for the duration mentioned:
When buying the grains, crush them at the store
Creating the wort-Nothing fancy here, it’s just like making tea
Fill the 5-gallon stockpot with water and bring it to 158 degrees
While the water is heating, pour the grains into the grain bag and set into the cooler
Pour the water over the grains, close the lid and wait an hour
While waiting, use the 3-gallon stock pot to warm up another batch of water to 160
Drain the liquid into the 5-gallon stock pot-You’ll likely end up with 2.5-3 gallons here
Repeat the process
Drain this into the stock pot you should have about 7.5 gallons by the time you’re done
Set aside 2 ounces of the wort in a large glass, add an ice cube and bring this glass to room temp
Fining the wort-you’re going to boil the liquid down-by the end your 7.5 gallons should be about 4.5 to 5 gallons max
Bring the wort to a boil, once boiling starts a timer
Put in .5 ounces of the hops when the water is boiling
After 15 minutes add .25 ounces
After 30 minutes add .25 ounces
After 15 minutes cut the heat and stir the wort for about 5 minutes, this is called whirlpooling
Now you need to cool the wort
You can use an ice bath
You can also cover the wort and let it sit overnight, not recommended as this could introduce bacteria
Take a small sample of the beer and get a gravity reading. Basically, this is the amount of available sugar in the wort that the yeast will turn into alcohol You should be around 1.052-1.06
Once the wort is cooled to room temp pour into the plastic fermenter add the yeast and the air lock and seal it up for two weeks
You should notice active fermentation begin within 24-48 hours after you added the yeast. The airlock will bubble and will continue to do so for several days.
After two weeks, you now have beer and you’re ready to bottle, hopefully you have about 50 bottles you can use.
So, let’s bottle:
What you need:
-Cooler, Bottles, Bottle caps, Bottle Capper, Beer, small pot
Put 1.5 cups of water into a pot
Add .5 cups of table sugar
Bring to a boil and stir into mix
Add some ice cubes to cool it down-once at room temp move on to next step
Open the fermenting bucket and take a sample for a final gravity reading, you should be at 1.01-1.015
Add the sugar mix to the cooler and slowly pour the beer over it
You will have left over junk at the bottom of the fermenter, try to leave that behind
I usually fill and cap 6-12 bottles at a time
Once done, set the bottles aside and wait one more week
Pop the beers in the fridge to cool
Crack open and enjoy
So it’s three weeks later. You’re enjoying your very first crafted beer.
Likely in that time, a beard spontaneously sprouted from your pre-pubescent face and your normal khakis and t-shirt have been replaced by jeans and a flannel shirt. As you sip, you may have the urge to go chop down a tree or do some other manly activity.
But really, you’re wondering “what’s next?” Well, using the same directions above you could replace the 2-row with Marris Otter. This is the English version of 2-row. You’ll note subtle differences in mouthfeel and flavor. Or replace the hop you chose for a different one and note the characteristics of the differences.
Whatever you choose to do with this, you’ll know that you have partook in an ancient right of passage. You have crafted your first beer and it is amazing!