Home Brew 101

Make your own home brew craft beer, and you can save a buck — it’s easier than you think!

| March/April 2017

There’s something about a cold brew that helps bring a hard day’s work to a close. Beer in the United States has come a long way in the last 40 years. As a young man in the 1970s, I remember seeing generic beer on the shelf. At that point, it was just a commodity — a pale, fizzy beverage indistinguishable from others like it except for the labels.

These days, the beer aisle is overflowing with styles of beer from all different types of brewing traditions: British ales, German lagers, strong Belgian beers, and more. Brewers in the United States are taking classic styles from around the world and giving them their own twist. American-style IPAs, for example — all the rage right now — are descended from English India pale ales. This “beer renaissance” has been partly driven by home brewers, and you, too, can brew any beer you desire in your own home.

The equipment

The most common batch size for home brewers is 5 gallons. This makes just over 48 standard 12-ounce bottles. You can easily brew beer at this scale in your kitchen with a minimal amount of equipment. Home brew shops sell kits that include everything you need to start, except a large brew pot and empty beer bottles. The price of starter kits is generally between 70 and 200 dollars, depending on what the kit includes. Starter kits including kegging equipment are typically more expensive.

The main items in a brewing starter kit include: a food-grade plastic bucket or glass carboy in which to ferment the beer; a second bucket to hold the beer before bottling; tubing necessary to move the liquid from vessel to vessel; and a bottle capper.

For beginning brewers, a 5-gallon stainless steel pot will work well as a brew kettle. At a minimum, you’ll need a pot that will hold 3 gallons of boiling liquid with at least a gallon of headspace for foaming.

The ingredients

There are four basic ingredients in beer: malt, hops, yeast, and water.

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