Apr 302010
 

In tough economic times, we all look for ways to save money. With gas prices going up constantly, the prices of everything just goes right on up with them. Unlike the government, we can’t print up money so anything we can do to cut costs without giving up quality of life is a good move. And if quality of life includes having a nice tasting brew every so often, well then there is definitely something we can do and maybe you are already starting to do that is not only great fun but a very good cost cutting move for you.

The great thing about taking up home brewing that you get three great benefits all in one great hobby. First you get a new passion in your life that will keep you busy and learning a side of beer making that you never knew could be so fascinating. Second, you inherit an entire society of fascinating people who are zealots for this hobby and life style of home brewing. And finally, once you get set up with the equipment and learn the “ropes” of brewing your own beer at home, you can make beer that is 100 times better than anything you can get at the liquor store or in a restaurant. But you can make it for a tiny percentage of what you would pay for retail beer which is inferior to yours anyway.

The great thing about home brewing that in addition to all these benefits, it really is not difficult to learn how to make great beer right at home. It will take some effort and a bit of study or coaching to learn how to use the equipment and what ingredients to buy and store. But because the ingredients are easy and abundant to get, you can set up to make literally gallons of beer for a very small investment. So on top of great fun, that’s just sensible economics.

One great way to get some help with this process and make it even more fun is to learn to make beer with a group of friends. You can split the costs and make it even more economical. And each of you can and pool your knowledge, your learning and your talents to make each batch of beer better than the last one. Because the process of brewing involves several steps, you need that patience and understanding of the process to do it right. And having friends in the process, each one can be watching for steps that need to be taken. Then when the beer enters the fermentation stage and what you all need is patience not to break into the beer and drink it before its time, you can be a support group to be willing to wait for it because you know how good it will be.

This support group can also be very helpful to be patient if that first batch of beer is not entirely perfect. But you know there are ways to get better. So by being faithful with your learning, joining with other beer brewing lovers around your town, you can and will get better quickly.

But the other value of working together with good friends is that you can eventually get a feel for how much beer you will make with each batch and how much each of you will use in a period of time. Then you can time the brewing sessions so you may even have multiple batches in various stages of completion and coming into use at just the right times so you never have to go to the liquor store again. You will have taken control of this one part of your economy by making your own beer so it’s a cost you can control, unlike gasoline.

 Posted by at 5:54 pm
Apr 292010
 

Can you remember the moment you first got the idea in your head to take up brewing your own beer at home? For many it is a tour of a brew pub or some other behind the scenes exposure to all that happens when good beer is made. Before that one pivotal moment, you may have never even thought about beer being made at all. The origin of beer was the liquor store or the market and that was that. But when you realized that not only does beer go through a fascinating transformation from grains, hops and malts to this delicious brew you enjoy but that you can make your own beer if you want to, that is when the idea of becoming a home brewer started to become a reality in your mind.

For others that moment of realization that home brewing could be a whole new world may have happened when you first were exposed to “real” beer, as the home brewing enthusiasts call it. That is when you sampled a brew that was not made by one of the big retail beer makers like Budweiser, Coors or Miller and you discovered what beer tasted like when it came directly from the brewing process to your glass. That may also be the day you found out what an amazing diversity of beer types, textures and flavors there were. And for many when you realize that you can find a diversity of beers that is almost as extensive as in the wine world that it is often very difficult to go back to boring old pasteurized beer again.

So if you are about to “make the leap” to become a home brewer yourself, you are about to step into a rich and full world that is full of history, culture, tradition and new friends and associates. You won’t just take up the hobby of brewing beer, you will “become” a home brewer which is a unique kind of individual indeed.

It isn’t hard to “define” home brewing because the term is self explanatory except to go on to say that it is entirely possible for you to make high quality beer right in your own home with a small investment in equipment, the base ingredients that are readily available as well and the love and patience it will take to learn the process. But the process is not difficult which explains why home brewing is a passion and a hobby that is growing in popularity more and more every year. You might be surprised who you know who has a love of brewing beer because it is not just the hard core beer drinker you might know. Because brewing beer at home is as much about the art and the craft of making a quality beverage, home brewers come from every walk of life there is from bartenders to ministers and from college professors to librarians.

The heart of home brewing is the fun, the excitement and the fulfillment creating your own batch of delicious beer can bring. But what transforms home brewing hobbyists to life long makers of beer is the challenge of always finding new blends, new methods and new ways to make their beer even more flavorful than the last batch.

Be forewarned that a zeal for becoming better and better at home brewing can be habit forming. But if you get hooked, you will meet thousands of others in your town and around the country and the world who have the same addiction as you. It’s a wonderful addiction that you will never regret catching because brewing beer at home can provide decades of fun and enjoyment making your own blends of beer. But it provides something else just as good which is really great tasting beer. So enjoy.

 Posted by at 5:59 pm
Apr 282010
 

The time between when it first dawns on you that you could start learning to brew your own beer at home and when you actually take a stab at it is often a long one. For one thing, it takes a pretty significant learning curve to even begin to visualize that it possible to make beer at home. Oh, you may have heard about home breweries but to think of doing it in your own home setting is a leap of understanding that takes some time to get through.

The internet is often a source of information that we go to start learning more about a new area of life like home brewing. Perhaps that is how you found this article and that’s good. That means you are off on the right foot and using free information from people who have already learned a few things about brewing at home to get your orientation to what it would take for you to learn to brew your own beer at home.

As often happens with any new area of interest, if your fascination with how to brew beer at home starts to get some momentum, it’s a good way to go to log on to the major home brewing web sites and begin to get oriented to the methods, the equipment and the process of brewing beer at home. Do be aware that some of these sites get very technical and it’s easy to get intimidated.

But if you can just get an understanding about the equipment and the ingredients and some basic ideas of how the process would go if you were the one doing the brewing, that is a good start. Because online articles and web sites mix expert knowledge with newcomers orientation, if you do stumble into a section of those sites that you don’t understand, just surf on to pages that are intended to help you where you are and understand that when you get to that level that that technical sophistication, you can always come back to these pages. Just build a good bookmark library because it will serve you well.

But to pick up speed on learning the real details of what brewing is all about, you don’t have to depend just on reading or books. Because brewing beer in your own home is more than just book knowledge, it is handling of equipment and ingredients, the more direct exposure you can get to the brewing process, the better. But it is also very likely that you developed your interest in home brewing while enjoying a good brew at your local brew pub. Most towns have brew pubs where home made beers are sold in just about every flavor, color ant texture. Many times these brew pubs grew up out of a home brewing hobby that just got bigger and bigger until it became an enterprise and a money making business

That is why most brew pub owners are more than happy to give tours and lessons in home brewing. This is probably some of the most value exposure you can get to how the process of home brewing works. By walking through a brewery where the beer you make is made, you can step through the process to get a feel for how you will proceed. You can see the boiling pots, how the strainers are used and the filters and fertilizers and everything that is needed to take beer from raw materials to the finished state of a fine brewed beer. In fact, with a little charm and by working for free, you may be able to apprentice in the brew pub making beer. This time will be tremendously valuable to you to help you learn the ropes of making your own beer.

You combine this hands on knowledge with what you are learning on line and from other training sources along with what you can learn by networking with other experienced home brewers and you have a powerful source of knowledge that will pay you well when you start making your home beer yourself. And that knowledge will result in some great tasting beers from your kitchen so you will be glad you took the time to learn all you can before taking the plunge.

 Posted by at 6:04 pm
Apr 262009
 

Brewing is the actual process of making alcoholic beverages and alcohol through fermentation. This method is used with beer production, although the term can also be used for other drinks as well.  The term brewing is also used to refer to any chemical mixing process as well.
The process of brewing has a long history indeed, which archeological evidence tells us that this technique was actually used in ancient Egypt as well.  Many descriptions of various beer recipes can be found in Sumerian writings, which are some of the oldest writings of any type.

Even though the process of brewing is complex and varies greatly, Below, you’ll find the basic stages relating to brewing.

1.  Mashing – This is the first phase of brewing, in which the malted grains are crushed and soaked in warm water in order to create an extract of the malt.  The mash is then held at constant temperature long enough for the enzymes to convert starches into fermentable sugar.

2.  Sparging –  At this stage, water is filtered through the mash to dissolve all of the sugars.  The darker, sugar heavy liquid is known as the wort.

3.  Boiling – The wort is boiled along with any remaining ingredients to remove any excess water and kill any type of microorganisms.  The hops, either whole or extract are added at some point during this stage.

4.  Fermentation – The yeast is now added and the beer is left to ferment.  After it has fermented, the beer may be allowed to ferment again, which will allow further settling of the yeast and other particulate matter which may have been introduced earlier in the process.

5.  Packaging – At the final stage, the beer will contain alcohol, but not too much carbon dioxide.  The brewer will have a few options to increase the levels of carbon dioxide.  The most common approach is forced carbonation, via the direct addition of CO2 gas to the keg or bottle.

After it has been brewed, the beer is normally a finished product.  At this point, the beer is kegged, casked, bottled, or canned.  Beers that are unfiltered may be stored for further fermentation in conditioning tanks, casks, or bottles to allow smoothing of harsh alcohol or heavy hops.

There are some beer enthusiasts that consider a long conditioning period attractive for various strong beers such as Barley and wines.  Depending on the beer enthusiast and what he likes to drink, it will vary.

 

 Posted by at 11:12 am
Apr 122009
 

The hobby of brewing your own beer at home is growing steadily as more people discover how much fun they can have making their beer at home and how great absolutely fresh beer can be.  There may be no more gratifying moment for a home brewer than to serve your own fresh beer to your guests iced down in your favorite beer mugs and hear the rave that your beer is as good as the store bought beer they like best or maybe even better!

Part of the reason for the huge popularity is that getting set up to make beer and finding good supplies and equipment is neither difficult nor overly expensive.  You can find or create the equipment fairly easily or get it discounted from others who have retired from the brewing business.  And right now there is probably a home brewing store in your town ready and able to provide you with the ingredients as well as instruction books and recipes for all kinds of wonderful tasting beers you can make right at home.  And with the explosion of web sites, ebooks and articles out there on the internet about home brewing, all the help you could ask for is at your fingertips to help you get started.

The reason different people get into home brewing vary.  Some love the social aspect as you join a large local and international community of brewers.  Another reason is that it is just great fun to assemble the equipment, learn the recipes and take a stab at making your own home grown batch of tasty beer.  Even if you “botch” a batch of beer, its all in the spirit of learning and it just drives you on to learn from your mistakes to make even better beer next time.

A third great reason is you have so much more control over your beer when you brew it yourself.  Because you are not dealing with a beer that is mass produced and shipped from hundreds of miles away, you can control the taste, the consistency and even the level of alcohol to make your beer as strong or mild as you want it to be.  And you can make changes with each batch with virtually endless variations on the recipes that are available to the home brewing community.

The supplies you will need to get started are easy to find and not very expensive either.  Probably the best way to get a feel for what the best equipment is and who are the suppliers to favor would come from becoming a regular at home brewing clubs and gatherings and making some friends there.  If you make it well known that you are a “new recruit” and need some mentoring in how to get set up, you will be overwhelmed with offers for you to sit in on a brewing session or two to get a feel for the process.  If you take advantage of their zeal to help you get started, you will be way ahead on the game when you go shopping for the stuff you need to get set up to make your own beer at home.

The equipment you will need is pretty much only used for brewing beer so you will need to think of storage.  The pot for boiling your initial wort and the equipment to handle the beer, filter it and ferment it are all made in sizes and at prices to encourage the home brewing markets.  You can find them at retail prices at your home brewing retail outlet in town.  You can use the internet and shop second hand shops to get better prices.  But many like to patronize the home brewing store that helped them get their start just to make sure they stay in business to keep selling you great fresh ingredients.

That same retail outlet will be a good source for the grains, yeasts and hops you need for the actual production of beer.  Freshness is the key so communicate with the management of the store to learn of just how fresh those things are. As with the equipment, you can buy these things from the internet and that is fine.  But get to know your supplier whoever you use and make sure you are confident you are getting the highest quality materials to make your home made beer. It will make a big difference.

 Posted by at 10:53 am
Jan 122009
 

The main ingredients found in beer are water, malted barley, hops, and yeast.  There are, however, other ingredients such as flavoring, sugar, and other ingredients that are commonly added.

Starches are used as well, as they convert in the mashing process to easily fermentable sugars that will help to increase the alcohol content of beer while adding body and flavor. Below are the main ingredients.

Water

Seeing as how beer is mainly composed of water, the source of water and its characteristics have a very important effect on the character of the beer.  A lot of beer styles were influenced by the characteristics of water in the region.  Although the effect of minerals in brewing water is complex, hard water is more suited to dark styles, while soft water is more suited to light styles.

Malt

Among malts, barley is the most widely used due to its high amylase content, and a digestive enzyme that facilitates the breakdown of starch into sugars.  Depending on what can be cultivated locally, other malts and unmalted grains can be used, such as wheat, rice, oats, and rye.

Malt is obtained by soaking grain in water, allowing it to germinate, then drying the germinated grain in a kiln.  By malting the grain, enzymes will eventually convert the starches in the grain into fermentable sugars.

Hops

Since the seventeenth century, hops have been commonly used as a bittering agent in beer.  Hops help to contribute a bitterness that will balance the sweetness of the malts.  They also contribute aromas which range from citrus to herbal.

Hops also provide an antibiotic effect that favors the activity of brewer’s yeast over the less desirable microorganisms.  The bitterness in beer is normally measured on the International Bitterness Units scale.

Yeast

Yeast is a microorganism that is responsible for fermentation.  Specific strains of yeast are chosen depending on the type of beer produced. The two main strains are ale yeast and lager yeast, with other variations available as well.

Yeast helps to metabolise the sugars that are extracted from the grains, and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as a result.  Before the functions of yeast were understood, all fermentations were done using wild or airborne yeasts.

Clarifying agent

A lot of brewers prefer to add one or more clarifying agents to beer that aren’t required to be published as ingredients.  Examples include Isinglas finings, which are obtained from swimbladders of fish and Irish moss, which is a type of red alga.
Since these ingredients can be obtained from animals, those who are concerned with either the use or consumption of animal products should obtain detailed information from the brewer.

 Posted by at 11:27 am