By: The Wife
There is no doubt when looking at Dadslifeblog or my Instagram feed that we really enjoy a good beer and love to home-brew. I’m honestly not sure if Jason loves beer as much as I do. So what do you do if you reeeeaaaalllly love beer?
You home-brew your own, of course!
We love to brew at home. We don’t home-brew as much as I would like, but we do love to brew. As our household Brew Master, I often am asked why I love to brew so much. Well, I guess home brewing is a great combination of four things I really enjoy: cooking, science, beer and socializing. Yes, I said socializing. Seriously, I can’t brew without a crowd. It makes it more fun. Brew beer, hang with friends and family and drink beer. This in my mind is the trifecta for a good weekend.
If home brewing is an activity on your “to do” list. Here are some thoughts from our experiences that you might find helpful.
Brewing requires a fair amount of equipment. Many brew at home shops will sell you a kit that will get you started. Generally these kits have tubing, carboys, buckets, a hydrometer, a thermometer and perhaps a spoon and a screened funnel. Depending on how much you want to spend and how much “stuff” you want to have, a kit will cost you anywhere from $80 to a couple hundred dollars. You will also need to invest in a good pot, and I would suggest a portable, gas, cooking surface. We use a turkey fryer. It’s perfect for brewing five gallons of beer. The last and MOST IMPORTANT item you need, to brew, is a good liquid sanitizer. We use StarSan. If you want to be successful, this is an essential. Be careful at the home brew store. They generally have lots of cool stuff and it’s easy to buy a lot of stuff you don’t need. You can also find used equipment, often at a reasonable price on Craigslist or Ebay.
Yes, beer is just water, grains, yeast and hops. But it isn’t really that simple. With so many types of beer to brew, there are an endless number of combinations of the ingredients. We are fans of kit brewing, it makes brewing simple, and allows you to easily try different beers without a lot of effort. Kits are also the perfect way to learn technique without a huge expense. Kits come with everything you need to brew between 2 and 5 gallons of beer. They include grains, malt, hops (usually in pellet form), yeast and a set of easy to follow instructions. This is the perfect place to start if you have never brewed at home before. Once you get more comfortable, you can move on to more complicated brewing techniques.
Some Helpful Hints
- Sanitize the heck out of everything. If beer product is going to touch something, sanitize it. Did I mention you should sanitize everything? Seriously, good sanitization is the key to making good beer. Equipment that isn’t well sanitized can introduce microorganisms that you don’t want, into your beer. This can result in strange tastes or odors, or even worse, beer that doesn’t ferment.
- Don’t Brew in Your House. Unless, you want your house to smell like a brewery for days and days. Most people who brew love the smell, but don’t want their house to smell like beer. That’s where the portable cooking surface comes in. Home-brew in your garage or on your patio. Besides the smell, there is the inevitable over flow. Wort will foam while cooking, and it can be really challenging to clean up. It’s a lot easier to hose out your garage or patio than scrub your stove. Don’t brew in your house, it’s just a pain.
- Invest in a Good Home Brew Book like Designing Great Beers. There are lots out there, some are easier to follow than others, but this is a must if you are going to progress beyond the kits. These books provide full details on larger scale brewing and often some basic recipes. They can also help you with solutions to common brewing problems.
- Brewing is Not Instant Gratification. If you are looking for a quick result, just go to the liquor store. Brewing beer from start to finish can take a month or more, depending on the type of beer that you are brewing. If you want beer, now, home brewing is not a great activity for you.
- Find a Local Brewing Club. These folks are serious about brewing, and helping each other. A group of local home-brewers is a great resource for ideas, help with problems or just a social community. We also subscribe to 2 magazines Brew Your Own and Zymurgy to keep up with the newest trends.
Bottles vs. Kegs
This is the real question with home brewing. Do you bottle or keg? The answer is yes. Start by bottling. You will end up investing in a bunch of bottles and a capper. We use 20 oz bottles, and can get between 20 and 30 bottles per five gallons of beer. This is a good place to start, since they can be easily sold if you don’t like to brew. If you find that you like to brew, but don’t like the hassle of cleaning and sanitizing bottles, think about kegging. Kegging is not a cheap option, unless you can get equipment used. You will need a kegerator and soda kegs. The kegerator in most cases is the easiest part of kegging. Soda kegs are hard to come by used and are fairly expensive new. The nice thing about kegging is that you cut your brewing time in half, and don’t have the time expense of cleaning bottles. Kegging is well worth the investment.
Is home brewing for every beer lover? No. But if you are ready to adventure into the world of home brewing, it can be a fun and entertaining hobby. For some people, the hobby even becomes a full time job. Whatever your motivation, if you’ve been thinking about starting to home brew, I would encourage you to take the leap.
If you have questions about home-brew or beer related topics, let us know in the comments. We love to help!