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Stay Calm and Brew On: A Basic How-to

Mar 01, 2016 08:30AM ● Published by Jason Huddle

Stay Calm and Brew On: A Basic How-to

Craft beer is considered a specialty. Time and attention are given to creating a brew that can actually be sipped to appreciate all the flavors and nuances.

While a brewing kit isn’t an absolute necessity in making beer at home, it does provide the convenience of all-inclusive equipment that simplifies the process. Basic kits can be purchased through Macy’s, Target and Sears, but more sophisticated equipment is available online and in surrounding cities like Mooresville and Charlotte.

The four main ingredients needed to make beer are water, barley, hops and yeast. So let’s break them down.

Beer is 90 percent water and can dictate how your beer will taste, so if what is supplied to your home stops you from drinking it straight from the tap, it can be treated or purchased. Purified water is typically used to make beer. This is the first ingredient to go into the pot.

“All you really need is a cooking pot of some sort,” craftbeerathome.com says. “Generally you’ll want to go with a larger cooking pot so you can brew more beer with the same amount of time and effort. Either a five-, eight- or 10-gallon pot will do the trick.”

The boiling stage allows the ingredients to steep, releasing the flavors and sugars into the water. Homebrewacademy.com calls this “mashing” and they suggest letting the ingredients – which we’ll delve into next – steep for about an hour. This also kills microorganisms that might exist.

Barley is a cereal grain that is processed into malt (malted barley). The barley grains are allowed to germinate, then are dried or roasted. During the boiling stage, the malt’s starches are converted into sugars. Proteins also present in the malt break down into nitrogen compounds that impact color, texture, flavor and quality of the finished product.

“Give malt a lot of credit because it adds much more than just alcohol to beer. Flavor, aroma and body are all influenced by malt. Malt leaves traces that are generically summed up by an essence of sweetness,” according to homebrewacademy.com. “Malted barley is to beer what grapes are to wine. They give their sugars to the beer and leave a unique imprint on it.”

Next into the pot are the hops, the flowers of a tall, vine-like plant grown internationally but very commonly in the northwest U.S. They resemble little green pinecones and contain resins and oils that add bitterness, flavor and aroma to the beer. Boiling hops triggers the release of their flavor; timing is utilized to alter the sweet versus bitter. For example, if a brewer adds hops to the boil early, the beer will be more bitter. Other sugars and syrups may be added to the boil at this point.

Next comes the yeast, which “eats” the sugar and converts it into carbon dioxide and ethanol alcohol; the carbon dioxide escapes into the air while the alcohol remains in the beer. After the barley and hops have boiled for the recommended hour, the pot needs to be quickly cooled to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Adding the yeast before this cooling point will kill it.

“Technically it is a fungus, invisible to the naked eye but nevertheless the magical ingredient that makes a beer a beer. Yeast also influences the final flavor, usually adding fruity and spicy notes,” says craftbeerathome.com.

Now your beer sits quietly for one to two weeks.

Clean and sanitized bottles are then needed for packaging. The website homebrewing.org provides specific steps in adding priming sugar and bottling the beer, including siphoning it from the bucket while leaving any sediment behind.

Bottles need to be filled to about one inch from the top – leaving headspace – then capped and left to age at room temperature for two to three weeks. This important stage creates carbonation: the bubbles and frothy head that appear in your mug when the beer is poured. And it may take some tweaking to get the carbonation right. The Homebrewers Association provides an outline of necessary equipment and important sanitation steps for making beer. Please refer to the sidebar and their website. There are also various websites with step-by-step brewing recipes; choose what works best for you.

Becoming proficient in making home brew takes practice and experimentation. Appearance, aroma, flavor and body will determine whether you prefer ales or lagers. Regardless, enjoy the process and, just as importantly, the beer.

Article By: Kim Cassell

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