How to: Brew Beer That Doesn’t Suck
Like grilling meat and hitting things with sticks, the desire to brew beer is deeply ingrained in most men. Too bad for us (and worse for our politer friends) that it most often ends in foul, yeasty sludge. Follow these steps to become a regular Sam Adams.
Gather fresh ingredients
Stick to the basics until you’ve found your brew legs.
- Liquid yeast. Ale yeast is simplest to pull off; must be under two months old.
- Spring water.
- Corn sugar (aka dextrose).
- Hops. Higher alpha acidity strains for more bitterness.
- Malt extract syrup. Lighter malts for pale beer, darker for stout.
Fill a 4-gallon steel kettle 2/3 with water. Bring to a boil and add the malt. Stir until it’s dissolved, then add hops. Boil for at least 60 minutes. Try adding higher-acidity hops at the beginning for more bitterness; lower acidity hops with 10-20 min left for more flavour; high beta-acidity hops with 0-5 min left for aroma.
Gently place the kettle in an ice bath until the contents cool to 18-23°C.
While you’re waiting
Cleanse the fermenting vessel and funnel in a bleach solution to kill brew-destroying bacteria. Repeat with all tools and containers (even bottle caps) right before use. Rinse well.
Invest in a 5-gallon glass carboy; easier to clean and offers a better seal. Pour mixture into the carboy, topping it off with water and sloshing it around before pouring in the yeast. Store in a cool dark place and leave it alone for the next 1 to 2 weeks.
But It’s Gonna Blow!
Lots of bubbling means the yeast is working. Not before it’s all but stopped do you open it. From here on, sun, air and sloshing are the enemies of taste. Try using a hydrometer to confirm full fermentation. Gravity should be 1/4 less than when you checked before yeasting.
Place carboy on a table one full day before fermenting is complete. When bottling, put a 5-gallon plastic container primed with boiled corn sugar on the ground. Use a clean hose to siphon the beer.
But I Want Beer Now!
Impatience is what undoes most would-be brewers, so don’t cut corners at any stage.
The Fruits of Your Labour
Pop one open, cross your fingers and take a swig. Not quite bar-worthy? Shake it off and try again.
Make a note: Keep a detailed record of every “cook”—ingredients, cook times, storage temp; knowing exactly what’s changed between batches is the only way to refine your craft.