Homebrewing on the Mountain

| 1/11/2013 1:31:00 PM

Squirrel out in our woods

Blackberry wine and Rye Pale Ale fermenting in the sun room at Biggers Farm

Samantha BiggersAh, beer. Something I realized I hadn't talked about in the blog at all even though brewing and fermenting are regular activities at Biggers' Farm.

Matt and I have been brewing beer together since we got together at Warren Wilson College near Asheville in 2004. Matt had finished WWC but I had a year left. Our friend was renting a trailer nearby with a small shed attached to it where we set up the brewery. We used glass carboys back then which could be a real pain to clean. All of our beer was bottled by hand. This was made possible by Warren Wilson College's recycling program. We would go and raid the glass bottle recycling dumpster for reusable bottles. To clean them we would soak them in a bathtub of highly concentrated oxygen cleaner for 10 minutes ( we found a brand that was the same thing as Straight -A cleaner sold at brew supply shops but available at the grocery store and much cheaper). The bottles were rinsed and most of the time the oxygen cleaner had took the labels right off. (Note if you use oxygen cleaner, use the type with no scents in it. This is very important.) The washing job fell to me a good portion of the time but I always had help if I asked. It took 150 bottles washed every time we did the weekly beer making. Often we would make beer and bottle previous runs at the same time. I never did the math at the time but we were producing 11 barrels a year. Not too shabby.

We had a pretty good idea of what would make a drinkable beer but some experiments turned out better than others. One of our favorites included a pale ale made with a generous amount of Cascade hops and light malt. Amber malt would do if the brew supply shop was out of light. We could make this beer for a cost of about $15 per 5 gallons. Now it costs about double that. We did some seasonal beers as well. When the weather started turning cold we made our infamous Chocolate Stout, using several packages of Bakers chocolate. One time we added cocoa and the result was a chocolate beer with a thin layer of chocolate at the top! At the end of this post I will include a few of our current favorite recipes.

After college Matt and I went up to Ketchikan, AK to work. The nearest microbrewery was in Juneau, AK and there was no homebrew stores. Beer was very expensive up there but due to the shipping weight of brew supplies we really thought we would have no choice but to buy the expensive beer in the store. Luckily we found a great brew supply store called Homebrew Heaven near Seattle, WA. They had good shipping rates and we did bulk orders. This was the point when we started using Cornelius kegs because we just didn't have the time to bottle beer when we were both working 40 or more hours per week. From there on we have used kegs almost exclusively. We bought a temperature regulator and a used chest freezer and used that set up for a kegerator. We could only fit two 5 gallon kegs in the freezer but that suited us just fine.

4/20/2013 10:06:23 PM

It appears that the issues with the GRIT landing page and comment section has been resolved. I'm looking forward to hearing about what has been happening on your gardening/homestead this last month. May GRIT blogs live and prosper.

Heather Jackson
1/16/2013 7:23:52 PM

Wow! My husband homebrews, but not on your level! I'll make sure he reads this article. I think he might like to try a keg. Maybe I'll get him one for his birthday! Cheers!

Samantha Biggers
1/16/2013 2:30:22 AM

Good to hear from you Dave. Beer will keep for a long time if bottled properly but it since homebrew is not pasteurized it is its best within a year of bottling. Now beer like Bud Light or similar will keep darn near forever because it is pasteurized.

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