Sunday, 15 January 2012 17:36

Homebrewing Basics

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The culture of beer stretches back more than 4,000 years.  Cheers to Jimmy Carter for launching the more recent microbrewery movement back in 1978, by making it legal to homebrew. In most states, it is legal to homebrew up to 100 gallons of beer per year for each adult in the household or 200 gallons maximum if more than one adult of legal drinking age resides there.

Homebrew is primarily made from malt extract, malt, hops, yeast and water.  Once you know the basics, you’ll be able to experiment with offbeat ingredients and truly understand the craftsmanship that is home brewing.

In order to get started, visit your local homebrew supply shop. You can search the Homebrew Supply Shop directory at www.HomebrewersAssociation.org or search “brewing” or “home brewing” in your search engine.

Terminology:

ABV: Alcohol by Volume is a standard measure of how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in an alcoholic beverage (portrayed as a percentage of total volume).

Adjunct: Any grain used in the brewing process besides wheat and barley.  The grains used are typically either rice or corn.

Ale: Ales are any beer that is fermented with top fermenting yeast at warmer temperatures.  Ales typically are associated with fruity flavors.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2): The gaseous by-product of the fermentation process along with alcohol.  Sometimes this is captured and used to carbonate casked or Real Ales.

IBU: International Bittering Units provide a measure of the bitterness of beer.  This measurement depends on the style of beer.  Light lagers typically have an IBU rating of 5 while big, hoppy India pale ales have an IBU rating between 40 and 140.

Lager: Lagers are any beer that is fermented with bottom fermenting yeast at colder temperatures.  Lagers are associated with crisp, clean flavors.

Ingredients

Malted Barley – Barley is a cereal grain that provides the sweetness, body, and much of the flavor in beer including tastes such as: grainy, toffee, toasty, caramel, chocolate, coffee, and roast. Malt extract is sugar extracted from the malted grains. Once malted, the barley provides sugar for the yeast to consume which provides the carbonation for the beer, when the alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2) is created.

Hops - The hop is a climbing plant related to hemp, and there are both males and females.  Hops, flowers of the Humulus lupulus, are the balance to the malt in beer.  It takes about an ounce of these dried flowers to bitter a ten gallon batch of beer but different styles of beer require different levels of bittering. Hops lend spicy, herbal, floral, citrus and earthy notes to the beer aroma and tasting experience.

Yeast - Yeast is a single-celled organism that consumes sugar while releasing alcohol and carbon dioxide (carbonation). The life blood of beer, yeast also provides hundreds of flavor and aroma compounds including fruity flavors such as apple, banana and pineapple, clove and smoke and earthy notes.

Water – It’s important to have high quality water when producing high quality beer. Water affects the perceived bitterness and hop utilization of finished beer. Different mineral contents in water will impact different factors in beer.  

You will need:

Fermenter
Usually a 6.5-to-7-gallon (24.6 to 26.5 L) food-grade plastic bucket with a tight fitting lid. The lid will have a small hole where the air lock will be inserted.

Racking cane and tubing
Clear or white plastic cane and tubing used for transferring the beer (racking) from one vessel to another and during bottling.

Bottling bucket
An open-topped plastic bucket used during bottling.

Bottle capper
A device used to affix bottle caps to the filled bottles of beer.

Sanitizing agent
Your homebrew shop can recommend various options.

Bottles
You can purchase clean, new bottles from many homebrew stores.  You can also reuse empty bottles and clean them yourself.

Hydrometer
This is used to measure the specific gravity or density of the beer before and after fermentation.

Carboy and accessories
Plastic carboys are rated up to 140°F (60°C). For each carboy, you will want a stopper, a carboy brush for cleaning the vessel and possibly a handle or web harness.

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