Cheers! With brewing surging in popularity (Camra’s 2013 Good Beer Guide lists over 1,000 breweries – the most in its history) and even Barrack Obama brewing his own White House beer only a few weeks ago, we thought it was time here at Exposed to get serious about the subject…
For the first post on Exposed's new Beer Revere blog, I thought I’d go back to basics and home brew some beer! Thornbridge Brewery and Nicholson’s pubs are currently running a competition to find the best home brewed beer in the UK – ‘The Great British Home Brew Challenge 2013’ – and their website goes into depth about the parameters so I’d recommend you read through that before buying your ingredients – if you’re thinking about entering that is! If you just fancy a go and it’s your first time I’d recommend using an app like BJCP (it’s currently free) which covers all beer style descriptors and start from there to build up to your final choice.
Taking a few steps back and being honest here, it’s only my third time brewing. But as Bob Dorough and De La Soul have it, three is the magic number. I’d like to get all fancy here and say beer is made up of three ingredients but it’s more like four; water, malt, hops and yeast. Then there are other things like adjuncts, and sugar – and once you’ve mastered the main principles of brewing you can start experimenting and pretty much add any type of spice or herb you like – even woodchips – to build flavour!
Now, there are three main events that happen in brewing beer. Firstly, the conversion of starches and carbohydrates to sugars; secondly, the conversion of those sugars to alcohol, and thirdly, creating the ‘magic’ by adding hops (and adjuncts) which create the flavour and preserving effect. There are also three main areas to get right and to ensure you’ve got a drinkable brew at the end – cleanliness, water and storage. Wow, some things really do come in threes…
After reading through the descriptions on the Great British HomeBrew site, researching recipes ideas via a first rate book called ‘The Homebrew Handbook’ (by Dave Law and Beshlie Grimes) and checking out ingredients online at another great site, UK Home Brew, I decided to plump for two beers both in the speciality beer category. I’m going to attempt to brew spiced ale (as it’s coming up to Christmas) and a honey porter in a vain stab at recreating one of Obama’s White House brews. Porter is one of my favourite beer styles, with its dark roasted and chocolate flavours and there’s some great examples; from Saltaire Brewery’s ‘Hazlenut Coffee Porter’ to Marble’s ‘Chocolate Marble’, as well as Anchor Brewing ‘American Porter’ and Acorn Brewery’s ‘Old Moor Porter’…
I’ve ordered my ingredients from the home brew shop and am now waiting for the box of goodies to drop on my doorstep. So while I wait, here’s a basic guide to the equipment that should get you through your first kitchen brew. I always advise on the first brew to use a kit. It’s an easier introduction than going straight into an all grain brew. However, I’m going to take it as read you’re onto your second or third brew here as you’ve read past the second paragraph, so you must be interested in beer!
Now, just to do a bit of a Marty McFly and travel back a few months – start collecting your empty beer bottles, make sure you rinse (in sanitizer) and turn upside down straight after finishing your last drop. Then store in an airtight container. Otherwise you'll spend hours trying to clean minute bits of mould from the bottom corner of the bottles which will send you stir–crazy and may make you cross–eyed. Ideally keep the brown bottles, larger size (500ml).
Other items you will need, that you might not already have in your kitchen, include:
– Stainless steel brew pot: ideally four or above gallons, with a lid. I found mine in a local Indian supermarket at the best price.
– Five gallon (20–25 Litres) x two plastic buckets (one with airlock). You will use these as a fermenter and bottling vessel. You can buy glass carboys; I just went for plastic buckets as it cuts down the risk for me to break anything. I sourced from my local home brew shop.
– An airlock: Allows carbon dioxide to escape from your fermenter (produced during fermentation).
– A racking cane and vinyl siphon hose that fits over the end of the cane.
– Secondary fermenting vessel – I use collected beer bottles & ask friends to save theirs. After a couple of months you should have enough, I reckon 50 should cover it. You can use a carboy, or other vessels.
– A bottle capper and crown caps: Home brew shop. The bottle capper’s a good investment, which you’ll use again and again. Mine only cost £15.
– Santizer / steriliser powder. ESSENTIAL.
– Measuring cup, large spoon for stirring, large funnel (if fermenting in a carboy), hydrometer, metal thermometer and a large strainer (helps make your brew day not be an absolute nightmare when using leaf hops).
– Your brew ingredients of course – hops, malt, water, yeast!
You can find these items at your local homebrew shop, online or down your local curry mile. My next instalment will go into the brew day in detail, and by them I should be either half way through, bottling or onto the second batch, erm, I hope! Till then I’ll just finish this beer.