This article was sent to me by my daughter Jonica and her boyfriend Trevor, who is trying his hand at brewing his own beer...Just in time for St. Patrick's Day:

The first beer I remember drinking was a Stroh’s.  I snuck it from my grandfather’s fridge before heading out to do some fishing.  To me, it seemed, this was an essential part of growing up and fishing:  Having a cold one.  It has developed into a love and respect of brew, as well as the tradition behind it.  Speaking of love, my girlfriend bought me my first ever brewing kit for Christmas this year…. Best. Gift. Ever.  (Of course I’m speaking of my girlfriend)

Before I could start, I needed to do some learning.  It’s amazing how technical it is to brew beer.  I had instant nostalgia upon opening the kit, likening it to a childhood chemistry set.  I was excited to say the least, but knew I needed to understand what I was doing to produce a good beer.  The fact is, beer brewing takes time and effort, and who wants hours of work to go down the tube because you forgot to start the boil timer on time or messed up a hop addition?  Two thumbs pointed at me, “Not this guy!”

Six weeks ago I brewed my first batch of beer.  I started with an IPA, my favorite beer as of late.  This particular IPA came with specialty grains, malt extract and hops, lots and lots of hops.  This was not the easiest of beers to brew as a starter, but I wanted something I’d be proud to say, “That’s mine.” 

The basic rundown of home brewing can be broken out into 3 stages: Brewing, Fermentation/Conditioning and Bottling/Conditioning. 

 

Brew Day! The Equipment (photo by Trevor Olson)

 

    Brew day was a blast!  I was so excited to “play” with my new kit.  First, you get the water heating up.  (I got myself an outdoor propane burner to avoid making a huge mess in the kitchen, which I’m glad I did because it does get a little messy!)  Once the water is starting to heat, you add in any specialty grains to steep before the water boils.  This is essentially a large tea bag.  You remove the steeping grains before the water starts to boil, right around 170 degrees, and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, I turned down the heat to add my malt extract.  The water is now wort.  From there, you bring to a boil and start the timer for all the various hop additions.  Once your boil is done, the goal is to cool the wort as fast as possible.  There are two reasons for this.  One is to avoid bacteria growth, brewing is about cleanliness and sanitization, you don’t want any “foreign” bacteria messing with the good stuff that will produce your beer!  Second, once cooled to the proper temp, you pitch the yeast.  Cap the carboy (pictured) with an airlock, and start the waiting game.  (Bottle tree also shown drying sanitized bottles)

The "Carboy" (photo by Trevor Olson)
Bottle Tree for drying the sanitized bottles
Bottle Tree for drying the sanitized bottles (photo by Trevor Olson)

                 

After the yeast is pitched, Fermentation begins.  A day after pitching yeast, krausen (see picture) forms at the top of the beer, this is good because it means that the yeast is reacting properly with the other ingredients in the brew.  Active fermentation ceases about 1 week after brew day, then conditioning takes place.  The time frame for conditioning varies by the beer you brew.

Now it’s finally time to bottle.  My kit came with a bottling bucket, so you have to transfer the beer via siphon into the bottling bucket with my priming sugar (this is what finally carbonates the beer).  Once in the bottling bucket, line up the cleaned, sanitized bottles and start filling! 

I’m getting thirsty, let me grab a beer.  Ok, I’m back.  I should point out that a major part of brewing beer is also enjoying a few along the way! 

If you are considering brewing, something to realize is that it isn’t necessarily cheaper to brew your own beer, especially taking into account the amount of time that goes into it.  But cost isn’t everything.  Let me tell you, those hours of labor and waiting were well worth this beer I currently hold in my hand!  I raise my glass to you and all, and on this St. Patricks day, we cheers.  Sláinte!