Thursday, November 11, 2010

Brewing Beer 101

Chris requested some knowledge about brewing beer. As a homebrewer, how could I possibly refuse?

If you are too lazy to read, watch the video.
If you are too lazy to do either, SEE MY PICS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST!

Boring Disclaimer: If homebrewing is illegal in your area, do not do it. Fines and jailtime could be thrown upon you. I can speak for US folk and tell you that it is legal for anyone of any age to buy all of the equipment and ingredients necessary to brew beer. Law states that you must be 21 to produce alcohol. Also, the amount of beer you can produce per year varies between countries and states. It's usually around 100 gallons per resident over the legal drinking age.

I am going to be lazy and let Alton Brown do most of the talking for me. ^_^

Beer is made up of barley, hops, water and yeast. the barley provides color, flavor, and fermentable sugars for the yeast to turn into CO2 and alcohol. The hops provide bitterness, a lot of flavor, and a lot of aroma. The yeast produces the alcohol and can carbonate beer if desired. (FUN FACT, the term "wort" is used to describe beer that is unfermented, (no yeast added)).

Have you seen those shitty beer commercials where they claim "triple hops brewed" to make it sound fancier. THEY ARE ASSUMING YOU ARE RETARDED. In order to achieve bitterness, hops must be added in a certain time frame, same case for flavor and aroma. Here's a pretty graph to visually see wtf is going on with hops. (the % on the left hand side shows hop utilization.)

I don't feel like writing a whole book on the process of making the beer, instead, I'll summarize what happens.

You'll need to use either malted barley or malt extract to get the fermentable sugars you need to make beer. Beginners should go the malt extract route, it's super easy to learn.

I'm making 2 assumptions before I get into the process. I'm assuming we are making a pale beer that requires no grain. I'm also assuming we are brewing an ale. Ale yeast needs to ferment between 60-80F, depending on the strain of yeast.

The first step will be to bring a bunch of water to a boil, followed by adding the malt extract (comes in either powder or liquid form). Stir this constantly until it completely dissolves. Once this starts boiling, start a timer for 60 minutes and add your bittering hops. You'll want to add hops again with 20 minutes left in the boil to add flavor. To get aroma you'll want to add hops again with 7 minutes left in the boil. After this has boiled for an hour, you'll want to cool the wort down to room temperature as fast as you can. (for malt extract recipes, you can just be lazy and add ice, as long as you didn't start with too much water you won't water down the beer). Once the beer has cooled, move into a fermenter, throw the yeast, attach an airlock, and wait 3 weeks for the beer to fully ferment. After 3 weeks, you can either bottle the beer, adding a little big of sugar to allow the yeast to carbonate the beer, or you can be lazy and throw it in a keg hooked up to a CO2 line. If you bottle the beer, it will take anywhere from 2-3 weeks for the beer to carbonate, depending on how high the alcohol content is. The more alcohol, the longer it takes.

The initial cost to get into brewing is around $100 + ingredients.
A typical 5 gallon beer kit based off of malt extract (easy) usually runs between $25-$50.
A typical 5 gallon beer kit based off of grain usually runs between $15-$35.

Brewday will take anywhere from 3-5 hours, depending on your process.
After that, it will take 3 weeks to ferment.
If you bottle your beer, it'll take another 2-3 weeks to carbonate fully.
If you keg it, it can be carbonated in as soon as 3 hours, or 2-3 days, depending on your technique.

Beer with yeast in it literally has the same shelf life of spam. It'll only go bad if you had an infection of the beer to start with (from poor sanitation) or if the seal goes bad on your bottle cap. It will also get better over time. I try to hide a few bottles of each batch so I can come back a year later and thoroughly enjoy them.

Homebrewing is a very rewarding experience. As I type this, I am drinking a homebrewed cream ale (6% ABV). The cost to make it comes out to $0.21 USD per 12oz bottle. For comparison, a 12oz can of natural light (3.2% ABV) would run about $0.46, and a 12oz bottle of a microbrew beer would run about $1.50. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention it tastes pretty damn smooth, smoother than any cheap lager on the market.

TL:DR, here are some damn pictures of a pale ale I made.

OMG, watch my beer boil!

Using a hydrometer to determine the specific gravity. The tan stuff floating in there is yeast btw.

Here's that whole batch after I bottled it.

And lastly, here's the end product! Damn tasty!


  1. Good post! Looking forward to reading you next one

  2. good info, will look forward to the next one

  3. Very nice. I've been wanting to brew for a while now. Just dont have the time.

  4. I'd love to try making my own sometime, looks possible.

  5. thanks for posting this - I've been wanting to start homebrewing for about a year but it just hasn't happened yet -- damn inertia.

  6. Wow this is surprisingly very cheap!