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What's Up Magazine

The Art of Homebrewing

Nov 10, 2010 11:46PM ● By Anonymous

We spoke with four Chesapeake home-brewers, who filled us in on the perks and pitfalls of brewing and bottling at home.

The brewers
• Micah Carlson; Arnold; Owner, Defense Architecture Systems Incorporated; Started brewing in college, brewing seriously for one year
• Chris Dicey; Annapolis; IT Manager; Brewing for two years
• Tim Trigilio; Cape St. Claire; Veterinarian; Brewing for three years
• John Vanore; Eastport; Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Planner, Department of Defense; Brewing for four years

What’s Up? Annapolis: What piqued your interest in brewing beer at home?

Tim Trigilio: My interest in brewing beer at home was a direct result of my increasing passion for beer in general. As I started trying a greater assortment of beers from around the country and the world, I began to wonder if I could make some of these beers myself. As a veterinarian, I tend to lean toward scientific things. I personally found the in-depth brewing science part of beer making fascinating.

John Vanore: I’ve always been a bit of a craft beer fan (and, alas, a beer snob), and had a lingering thought in the back of my head that homebrewing might be fun. Then an old friend from high school days got into it about 10 years ago; we talked about it, and he bought me a starter kit for my birthday. Life hasn't been the same since then.

WUA: Did you start by using a home-brewing kit?

Chris Dicey: My first three batches were all extract beer batches using Cooper’s Beer Kits. My next two batches were partial grain batches using Annapolis Home Brews recipe kits. Since those first five batches, I have moved to all grain brewing.

WUA: What kind of investment do you have to make to brew beer at home?

Micah Carlson: You can start for a little more than $100. That will get you a bucket, air lock, 5-gallon carboy, capper, and a beer kit. You also need some tubing and a large pot.

Dicey: As you move toward all grain brewing, usually the investment is much larger with the addition of larger volume pots, outdoor propane burner, wort chiller, and potentially more fermentation equipment. The sky is the limit from there. You can invest in kegging equipment, stainless steel fermentors, wood barrels for aging, refrigeration units for lagering, and many other fun gadgets.

How long does brewing take from start to finish?

Vanore: Brewing itself take maybe two hours. The big investment in time comes from cleaning, as sanitation is critical in brewing good beer. Sanitation can double or triple the time required.

After brewing, you wait. You wait for fermentation to start, you wait for fermentation to end, you wait until it's time to bottle, and you wait for bottle-conditioning to be done. My beers are typically ready to drink 10 to 11 weeks after brewing day.

What’s the best part of brewing your own beer at home?

Trigilio: In my opinion, the best part of brewing your beer at home is the entire process from the specifics involved in brewing the batch through to the moment when you can finally taste and share the final product.

It’s a hobby where I can create something good from disparate ingredients, I can share it with friends, and I get bragging rights from producing a brew that some have compared favorably with the commercial products they were meant to resemble.

My wife will tell you about the green side. Recycling bottles, not paying for trucks to haul around a product that is largely water, and dumping my post-brewing by-products on the compost piles are all good things.

WUA: What is the most important thing for home-brewers to know? Any special tips?

Carlson: Remember that any foreign bacteria can produce contamination, which will definitely make your beer funky and not nearly as enjoyable. For the most part, making beer should be enjoyable, but I find a little focus on the steps counteracts the stress of having five gallons of beer you really don’t like.

stress of having five gallons of beer you really don’t like.

Homebrew instructions

5-gallon glass carboy (fermenter)
Stainless steel brewing pot, 16 quarters or larger
Fermentation lock
Rubber Carboy Stopper with hole for fermentation lock
1-3 sparge bags, depending on the recipe
1 large plastic funnel
Measuring cup
Hydrometer (optional)
1 Bottle unscented bleach
Container with a sturdy base
3 feet of 1 1/4 inch outside diameter clear plastic hose
5-6 feet 3/8 inch inside diameter clear plastic hose

Brew 5 gallons of beer by following these 10 basic steps:

1. Sanitize. In a large tub, mix 2 ounces of unscented bleach per five gallons of cold water. Sanitize the glass carboy, then rinse it thoroughly to remove traces of bleach. Soak the rest of the equipment for 10 minutes, and then rinse them thoroughly.

2. Boil the Wort. Add 1.5 gallons of cold water to the brewing pot. Put cracked grains in a sparge bag and let them soak (like a tea bag). Turn on the burner. Just before the water starts to boil, remove the sparge bag.

Mix the malt extract into the pot and return the mixture to a boil. Stir immediately and often so it doesn't burn. Boil for 20 minutes.

3. Add the hops. Measure out the hops into the sparge bag and steep them for 30 minutes. If you are using finishing hops, put those into the sparge bag and steep for anywhere from one to 10 minutes, depending on the recipe.

Remove the wort from the burner and cover the pot.

4. Prepare the glass carboy. Fill the glass carboy halfway with cold water.

5. Bring the temperature down. Make an ice-water bath and place the brewing pot in it. Drain the ice bath and re-add ice water as necessary as the temperature lowers.

6. Prepare the yeast. Add 6 ounces of lukewarm tap water to a measuring cup, then add dried yeast packages. Cover and set aside.

7. Transfer Wort to Fermenter. Once the brewing pot is cooled to the touch, transfer the wort to the glass carboy using a large funnel. Fill the fermenter with 5 gallons of water. Agitate the water with plenty of splashing and shaking to incorporate oxygen into the wort.

8. Check Temperature and Pitch Yeast. When the temperature reaches below 75 degrees, take a hydronmeter reading to record the specific gravity. This isn't necessary, but recommended. Add the yeast.

9. Attach Blow-Off Tube. Place the fermenter somewhere out of direct sunlight that is cool and stable in temperature. Fill a sturdy container halfway with water and set it next to the fermenter. Take the outside tubing and insert one end into the fermenter, creating an airtight seal, and the other end into the container of water. This blow-off tube lets extra foam escape.

Let the beer ferment until the yeast is finished, which can be anywhere from five to 14 days. Once the air lock has stopped bubbling, the beer is ready to bottle. If you have a hydrometer, take a reading to be sure the fermentation is complete.

10. Wait. During the first few days, excess foam will flow out the top. Make sure the tubing stays under water to maintain an airtight seal. After three days, the yeast activity will slow down. Remove the blow-off tube and insert the stopper and air lock, along with 3/4-inches of water


Homebrew Recipes

Try out making your own beer with one of these four classic beer recipes.

Type of Beer: India Pale Ale
What You Need:
6-7 pounds amber malt extract
1 pound crystal malt specialty grain
1/2 pound Cara-Pils mild toasted malt specialty grain
3-4 ounces Cascade bittering hops (10-20 HBU)
Wyest #1056 or #2112

Type of Beer: Imperial Stout
What You Need:
10-11 pounds amber malt extract
.5 pound chocolate malt specialty grain
4-6 ounces Northern Brewer bittering hops (40-45 HBU)
1.5 ounces Cascade or Willamette finishing hops
Wyeast #1056 or #1728

Type of Beer: American Lager

What You Need:
4-5 pounds light malt extract
1 ounce Cascade or Willamette bittering hops (4-6 HBU)
.5 ounces Cascade finishing hops
Wyeast #2035 or 2007

Type of Beer: Octoberfest (Marzen)
What You Need:
6-7 pounds amber malt extra
.5 pounds crystal malt specialty
.25 pound chocolate malt specialty grain
.5 pounds Cara-PIls Munich malt specialty grain
1.5-2 pounces Halertauer, Saaz, or Tettnanger bitter hops (5-9 HBU)
.5 ounces Hallertauer, Saaz, or Tettnanger finish hops
Wyeast #2206 or #2278