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A brief introduction to homebrewing

We at Community Beer Works come from a homebrewing background. Not all of us, but many, and while we try to support the local community — your Niagara Associations of Homebrewers, your Sultans of Swigs — we have not, perhaps, done as thorough of a job convincing the rest of you to brew beer as we could. So: I’m here today to give a brief overview of the process of making your own beer.

The ingredients

I’m sure we’re all aware of the basic ingredients that make beer: earth (barley and hops), fire, wind (yeast), water and heart. Heart hadn’t yet been discovered when the Reinheitsgebot was written (that being German for “word you will hear on every brewery tour you ever take”), so it’s often left off the list of ingredients.

The recipe

CBW President Ethan Cox helping to brew a batch of homebrew, seven years ago when we had time for things like that

CBW President Ethan Cox helping to brew a batch of homebrew, seven years ago when we had time for things like that

Brewing is much more cooking than baking. That is, “eh, close enough” will serve you well. Always remember: if it’s preboil, it’s fine. Everything gets sanitized in the boil. A leaf falls in? Eh, it’s preboil. Child sticks their jam-encrusted hand in the wort? (German for “it’s pronounced ‘wert'”) Eh, it’s preboil. You’d be surprised just how hard it is to get jam-hands at a production scale. It’s part of what makes small, independent breweries’ beer taste better. Budweiser simply can’t match our jam-hands-per-barrel ratio.

The brewing

Okay, listen, I’m going to level with you: brewing beer is really nothing more than making a volume of liquid be at the temperature you want for an extended period of time. The most complex method of homebrewing, “all grain”, can be summarized as follows:

  • make water hot
  • make oatmeal
  • keep the oatmeal hot
  • drain the oatmeal water into a pot
  • make the oatmeal water boil
  • dump in hops, which either look like hamster food pellets or something that would get me stopped and frisked if I wasn’t so white
  • cool the hoppy oatmeal water and add yeast
  • keep the yeasty hoppy oatmeal water cool for a while while it ferments

The only way to make this more difficult is to perform a “decoction”. If you or someone you know wants to make a decoction please notify a therapist, as it is a sign of ennui.

The waiting

Comedy = tragedy + time. Beer = yeasty hoppy oatmeal water + time. There is no more detailed explanation. Scientists are baffled.

It is a little known fact that Tom Petty’s iconic song “The Waiting” was about homebrewing. You see, Mr. Petty had made his first batch of beer and decided to taste it after one week of conditioning in the bottle, despite warnings from his local homebrew shop urging him to wait for three weeks. The beer did not taste good. Always listen to your local homebrew shop.

The beer

Congratulations! You have made beer. Please like, follow and subscribe for more Science(TM).