By Edward Kdonian
First thing to start with is your equipment. Overall your equipment for brewing beer isn’t too different from that used to make wine, really you just add in a few pieces since there are more steps to brewing beer. To start with you will need a large pot, big enough to boil your beer base in. If you are making a one gallon batch then get a pot that holds at least a gallon and a half. If you plan on making a bigger batch then you will need a bigger pot. Second you need an airtight fermenting bucket with an airlock. These can be pretty easily made with a five gallon plastic bucket with a lid, and then you just use a drill to make a small hole in the lid to insert a rubber gasket and an airlock. Airlocks only cost a few bucks and can be ordered easily online. Or you can pick up any of the supplies you might need over at JEEPERS BREW, a great store about 5 minutes away from campus. They are located at 3775 Post Rd right here in Warwick and they will set you up with everything you need including ingredients, starter kits, and bottling supplies.
Okay you have your pot to boil your ingredients and your airtight fermenting bucket, now you only need a few more things. You are going to want a floating thermometer with a range from 0-100C or 32-220F, temperature is an important part of making sure your beer boils away any unwanted bacteria and then stays at the right temperature to ferment. Lastly you are going to need bottles and bottle caps as well as a tube to help you siphon your beer into them but we will come back to that. For now you have your basic list of supplies. Just remember as we move on that it is very important all your equipment is sanitized so if you don’t have a really good dishwasher to run them all through, pick up a few packets of sanitizing solution. It’s cheap and it will take care of your cleaning needs.
Now that your equipment is on stand-by you are going to need your beer ingredients. Now ingredients can vary based on the type and flavor of the beer you want but the four basics are always the same. First you have your grains. Most commonly beers are made with malted barley. The point of the grain is to provide the sugar that the yeast will feed upon to create alcohol. Grains are also one of the most important factors in a beers color and flavor. Most commonly to make your own beer you would purchase an Unhopped Malt Extract; it makes for a simple already prepared ingredient that the home brewer can use for multiple recipes. Secondly you are going to need hops.
Hops are grown in all different varieties, and pretty much all of them have a place in the beer brewing world. Hops provide the bitterness that beer is so well known for. Every variety of hops has a slightly different flavor just like the difference in grapes when making wine. You can look for hops known for more or less bitter flavors to suit your personal tastes when making beer. Hops also provide beta acids, which are one of the things that along with alcohol help to prolong the shelf life of your home brew.
The last two ingredients are very simple, just water and yeast. I know you aren’t surprised at all, especially if you read my article on making wine. Your water should be filtered or bottled so as to introduce as few chemicals and contaminants to your beers flavors as possible. And as for yeast, it comes in to basic kinds when making beer, ale yeast, also known as top fermenting, and lager yeast, which is a bottom fermenting. Again all of these ingredients and supplies are sold individually or in kits, and can be purchased on line, or over at JEEPERS BREW.
Okay, you have your equipment; you have your ingredients, now what? First you are going to boil your grains, or malt extract, and your hops in your water for about an hour. This will sterilize the mixture and help release the flavor from your ingredients. This mixture, called wort, is then cooled to room temperature before being poured or siphoned into your primary fermenter (the big bucket). If all of your water didn’t fit in your boiling pot then now is the time to add it to your wort. After the wort has fallen to room temperature the time has come to add in our yeast, and seal it up. Don’t forget to top your bucket off with an airlock, because if that gas doesn’t have a way out it will force the top right off of your bucket. Now it is time to wait.
After about 1 to 2 weeks your beer will have finished its’ work. The yeast will have eaten up all of your sugar creating alcohol and carbon dioxide. This will leave you with an alcoholic, bubbly, beverage that tastes like a mixture of hops and grains. Guess what, that’s beer. Now all we have to do is bottle the product of our endeavors, so that it may age a little while. Don’t get me wrong it is perfectly fine to drink now, but aging it will help to make sure any remaining yeast solids have time to sink to the bottle of whatever bottles you decide to put it in, as well as give the flavors time to age and come together. Don’t worry, most home brewed beer is perfectly aged within a few weeks, a month tops. And on the bright side, once it’s done you can share it with your friends and amaze them with the fact that you made it yourself. Or, you know you could always bring me a bottle and share with me.