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Brewing your own beer

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by MisterCreosote, Dec 7, 2012.

  1. MisterCreosote

    MisterCreosote Well-Known Member

    Does anyone here do this? I need another hobby, and this seems like a natural fit.

    Anyone have any advice on where to start? Any experiences to share?

    Much appreciated.
  2. Fly

    Fly Well-Known Member

    I did for a couple years, haven't since summer of '06. There are so many great beers available for purchase that it became not worth the trouble.

    If you enjoy cooking and chemistry/science then brewing is right up your alley. There's a lot of both involved in the process, especially if you're going to get to the point of creating your own recipes rather than riffing off some pre-packaged kit or what you find online.

    There's all kinds of things required to get started: you have to decide if you're going to do extract brewing (the easiest of all, utilizing liquid malt extracted from actual grain; downside is you don't necessarily get the optimum flavors), partial-mash (utilizing extracts along with whole grains, sometimes specialty grains for added colors/flavors) or all-grain (how the pros and best homebrewers do it...requiring more steps in the process and larger kettles to do the boils (mashing, which is basically cooking the grain to extract the sugars) and separating (lautering, which separates the wort (cooked sugar water) from the spent grain).

    I started with extract and moved to partial-mash. Never did any all-grain batches, as I gave up before it came time to make that type of investment into the equipment required for all-grain. It would be tough to do all-grain brewing in your kitchen, likely it's a process you'll need to do outside due to the large amount of space needed for the mash and lauter tuns (many people use re-purposed kegs as mash tuns, and large coolers retrofitted a bit as lauter tuns). Then you have to decide if you want to bottle or keg...I just don't drink the same beer that often since I like variety, so I got out of the game. But had I continued I definitely would have gone to kegging as I despised bottling. The main reason is that it's quite a chore to assure all your equipment (bottles, caps, hoses, etc) are all sterilized and sanitized prior to use.

    Guess I'm just too lazy...:shrug:
  3. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    I agree with Fly. The few people I know who home brew seem to put a ton of time, effort and money into it. Then whenever I taste their beer, my reaction is usually, something like "eh." I can get something this mediocre at the liquor store. But hey, if you can brew up something you enjoy and you like a challenge, go for it.
  4. doctorquant

    doctorquant Well-Known Member

    I brew my own, using that partial mash method (you use some specialty grains for extra flavor/character, but malt extract for the main chunk of the beer). And bottling's a bit of a pain, if only because you have to do that careful pouring bit so that the yeast in the bottom of the bottle doesn't make it into your glass. So I have one of those homebrew kegging setups with a 5-gallon soft drink keg in my garage (beer) fridge. I am going to splurge soon on a little gun-type bottle filler that will allow me to take carbonated and kegged homebrew and then bottle it for portable (and yeast-free) consumption.

    I really enjoy doing it, and my beer's pretty damn good. I have a couple of favorite recipes -- my go-to is a Czech blonde ale, and I'll make a Koelsch if it's summertime -- that my wife and I really enjoy. A 5-gallon batch costs about $30 or so -- I use expensive yeast, but you can harvest some from one batch and use in another -- so that's $15 a case for import-quality beer.
  5. bronko

    bronko New Member

    You can find Alton Brown's good eats brewing episode online. That's a good fairly good place to get an introduction, although you will read plenty of folks pointing out errors. You can get a lot of smaller size ingredient kits now that produce a 2.5 or 3 gallon batch that you can make without investing in a giant kettle. I like the looks of William's Brewing offerings for beginners. Of course finding a local shop would be best.
    This got a lot of folks started back in the 80s:
  6. jlee

    jlee Active Member

    Charlie Papazian's "Complete Joy of Homebrewing" is a good place to start, too.

    I did it as a hobby for a couple of years and wasn't concerned about creating anything mind-blowing. Dropped $150 on the initial equipment and about $25 per batch. It was worth it to me -- killed a lazy day or two every month and gave me a great conversation-starter.

    I'd suggest, if you go for it, to start with an extract brew and get a feel for the procedure without having to worry about recipes. Sterilization and temperature are important, and it's best to get the processes surrounding those under your thumb before you dive into the many, many flavor possibilities.

    Get a friend to help, too, if possible. It's fun.

    Bottling is time-consuming, and I preferred spending a little extra money for larger bottles to cut down on the workload. I'd keg only if I got back into it, but bottles' portability is really useful. Also, aging in the bottle is nice. A "meh" beer today could be a much better one in three months.

    If you go the bottling route, repurpose some 30-ish oz. craft beer bottles. It's a good size to split with friends for tasting, and the fewer bottles you have, the less time you spend worrying about pouring yeast into a glass.
  7. spikechiquet

    spikechiquet Well-Known Member

    Been brewing for a few years now.
    I love it. Have met a lot of cool people and been able to have some good bar conversations because of it.
    And it's been stated already, there are many levels and ways to make beer. Start small, see if you like it.
    Heck, ask for a kit for your Christmas present or birthday and then not worry about the money aspect. :)
  8. Fly

    Fly Well-Known Member

    Ditto on Charlie Papazian's two howebrewing books. They're the bible for the hobby.

    Also look into homebrewing clubs in your area. MOST are filled with good folks (some are uber-nerdish) who can be valuable resources. Check with your local homebrew supply retailer for some recommendations.

    You can check check out some homebrewing forums on some of the big beer sites for assistance as well (RateBeer, Beer Advocate but I'm partial to The Beer Spot...much smaller group of folks but there are some big-time pros (GABF medal winners) who hang out there and can offer great advice into the entire process, plus the site as a whole is WAY more low-key and more flexible as to other discussions other than beer).
  9. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty New Member

    when my uncle retired as an electrical engineer, he needed something to eat up his time. he chose home brewing. made his own yeast ... yada, yada, yada. and to be honest, about 80 percent of his stuff is better than any ale i can buy in a store.

    it is a terribly time-consuming hobby, tho. i know that one "batch" a week eats up nearly a day of his time.

    if you're serious and he's still online - he moved away to a warmer climate - i can see if he'd like to contribute.
  10. Buck

    Buck Well-Known Member

    Dabbled a bit in my youth, 1989-90.

    I'd like to try distilling my own liquor.
  11. Glenn Stout

    Glenn Stout Member

    If you can make soup, you can make beer. Partial mash gives a stunningly good product with much less that the effort required for a full mash - figure an hour - two hours for your initial boil, maybe another twenty minutes when you re-rack, then about 45 minutes to botttle a bit over two cases. You can equal the taste of most microbrews at about 75 cents to a dollar a bottle.
  12. Fly

    Fly Well-Known Member

    I don't dispute the actual brew/bottling time but I considered the santization process pre-bottling to be an utter and complete pain in the ass.

    Even doing partial-mash (and my last was a big-ass barleywine that had a pretty large grain bill in addition to a huge amount of LME, DME and honey to boot), many of the beers tend to have the same basic background flavors. If I got back into it, it would be all-grain or nothing. My two cents...
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