Beer

Beer

Brewing is an excellent hobby. It develops knowledge of chemistry, thermodynamics and biology and the result is quite delicious.

On this page, you’ll find a brief overview of equipment, recipes, and techniques we’ve developed.

My friends and I have brewed around a dozen batches, so take the following advice with a small grain of salt.

Getting Started

The first thing to do is pay a visit to your local homebrewing store. We went up to Beer Necessities in Alpharetta, Georgia (this was before Hop City opened – which is much closer).

We got started with a True Brew basic kit which included the following stuff

  • Fermenting bucket
  • Bottling bucket with spigot
  • Hydrometer
  • Airlock
  • Bottle filler
  • Tubing and accessories (racking cane, hose clamp etc)
  • Bottle capper
  • Self adhesive thermometer (for the side of the fermenter)
  • Bottle brush

We also bought some spring top bottles thinking that capping would be difficult (also on the advice of Alton Brown). This was a mistake. Capping is easy, the hardest part is cleaning the bottles and you have to do that with the spring top bottles anyway.

If you drink a lot of beer like us, you have a limitless supply of free bottles. Use them.

For our first recipe, we chose a “kit” (like making a cake from a box) from Brewer’s Best – and American Ale. This was a good call. Though it turns out that you can essentially completely make up a recipe, starting with a kit built confidence to develop our own brews.

The beer was ok, though some of the flavors were a little off. We suspect this was caused by pouring the hot wort directly over commercial ice to cool it down. In subsequent batches, we have cooled the wort with an ice bath, and have had favorable flavors.

Equipment

It’s not difficult to brew beer, though there is some equipment which is necessary

  • Fermenting bucket
  • Bottling bucket with spigot
  • Hydrometer
  • Airlock
  • Bottle filler
  • Tubing and accessories (racking cane, hose clamp etc.)
  • Bottle capper
  • Thermometer
  • Stove
  • Large brew pot (at least 4 gallons)
  • Bottle brush
  • Scale – really useful for weighing hops

There is some equipment which becomes necessary as your recipes become more complex

  • Glass carboy – for secondary fermentation and extended aging, a must for IPAs
  • Wine thief – used to sample the beer as it is fermenting to measure its specific gravity or to taste it
  • Wort chiller – various different contraptions exist for chilling the wort quickly so the fermentation process can begin as soon as possible to reduce contamination

Many more gizmos are needed for full grain brewing which we have not done yet.

Consumables

In addition to the recipe ingredients, every batch requires some additional consumables.

  • Bottles (or Keg!) – you’ve gotta have somewhere to put the beer, the cheapest place is in empty beer bottles (clean them thoroughly). Cleaning bottles sucks – kegging is much easier.
  • Bottle caps
  • Bleach or other sanitizer – the best way to ensure good beer is through fastidious cleaning
  • Bottling sugar – used to carbonate the beer in the bottles

Notes

Hops

The Complete Joy of Homebrewing recommends that “if hop pellets are used, use 15% fewer hops”.

Water

We have had no problems using standard city (Atlanta) water. We do no filter or boil our water before using it. Commercial breweries in our area (Atlanta Brewing Company, Sweetwater) do the same.

Nevertheless, it is often convenient use bottled water (maybe buy one or two gallons) because it allows you to chill and easily measure water.

If you must use bottled water, look for spring water.

Resources

There are two very excellent books about homebrewing which are highly recommended.

  • How to Brew– which is available for free on the author’s website, some beginners may find this a little too technical
  • The Complete Joy of Homebrewing – an easier read than How to Brew, but a little out of date


One Comment

  1. […] some of the information I skipped over in the handout. This post also should serve as an update my previous ramblings on this […]