Issue 30

Basement Brewing

Basement Brewing

Home brewing – two simple words that can spark the interest of beer expert and novice alike. Every time I mention I am a home brewer, I get asked seemingly thousands of questions about this awe inspiring hobby.

Questions that I hear the most are; is it difficult, is it expensive and how many variations can you do? Now, brewing beer at home is not as difficult as you would think, but at the same time it isn’t that easy either. The beer making process has two major requirements; it involves a knack for sterilization and a lot of patience.

The beer making process has four major steps – steeping, boiling, fermentation and bottling. The steeping stage is where you heat up an amount of water (depending on the amount of beer you are brewing) from 150-160˚F and steep in grains for half an hour. During this step you need to maintain the temperature in the correct range, which requires your undivided attention and a good thermometer. The boil stage is when you add malt extract (a grain reduction) and the hops (the ingredient that make beer bitter). In this step you boil the wort (unfermented beer) and when it’s boiling, be careful, because there is a chance that it will foam up and boil over. This can be prevented by turning down the heat when you add the hops – be sure to watch it carefully and stir it occasionally. This process takes up to one hour.

After the boil is done, the wort goes into a fermentation container and is chilled to 70˚F. This is when the yeast can be added. This fermentation container must have a lot of head room because the yeast will make a head of foam called a krausen. If you have a five gallon batch you need a 6.5 gallon bucket. This container must be cleaned and sanitized. Depending on the beer it can ferment from 3 weeks to 6 months.

The beer can be ruined if it gets a wild strain of yeast, which can enter the beer during the fermentation process. So, you need a way to let carbon dioxide (omitted from the yeast) out while letting no air in. I use a devise called a three-way valve and plug it into the top of a 6.5 gallon bucket.

Finally, the bottling stage and it can be the most costly part of the process. They sell empty bottles for brewing in a lot of places, however, you don’t need to necessarily buy any of those bottles. Bottles can be recycled from beer you buy at the store. They can’t have twist off bottle caps and there are some bottles that have different cap sizes but most beer bottles can be recycled.

The brewing process has a few specialty items as well that you have to purchase, but it’s not extremely expensive. There are kits for starting home brewers with most of equipment that you need. Kits like these will cost approximately $60 and you also need to buy a stainless steel kettle for approximately $60 dollars. The beer ingredients come in kits as well; they cost about $30-$40. You can start brewing beer for about $150. After you buy all the start up equipment you will be able to make high quality homebrew for 75 cents a bottle.

With the long fermentation process, that all beers have, you can brew seasonal beers so they will be ready for that season. For example, brew summer beer in the spring and brew winter beer in the fall. Winter beers are usually the heaviest beers containing the most alcohol. I like to add cinnamon and nutmeg to my winter beers for a nice flavor. Summer beers are lighter and sometimes have citrus flavors. I like to add orange peel and coriander (to make the beer have a peppery taste).

Home brewing is a fun and interesting hobby – one you will enjoy and can be shared with family and friends. So, go out there and do something different, I did and I never looked back.

Jeremy Katz

Jeremy Katz

Jeremy Katz is a third year culinology student at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He received an associate’s degree in culinology from Metropolitan Community College in summer 2008. He is currently at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln to receive a bachelor’s degree in culinology. He has been brewing beer with his father and brother for 5 years.

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