with the occasional rant about tin openers...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

This year I’m going to continue to observe my ‘No Carlsberg’ resolution from a few years back (it’s harder than it sounds), and to it I’ll add ‘Spend more time in the kitchen’. That means brewing!

So, did you get a homebrew kit for Christmas, and have found this blog after Googling some home brewed beer related words? Then isn’t Google clever, sending you here. The following is some advice to those new to the hobby, or as is often the case, those returning after years spent having a family.

Brewing your own beer from a tin, box or bag is really easy, and very rewarding.

Your basic kit is:
Your tin kit (plus 1kg / 2lbs of sugar)
A 5 gallon bucket, plus lid
A 5ft-ish tube to siphon your beer
Sterilising stuff
Anything else is needlessly fancy: hydrometer, thermometer and so on. People have been brewing without these for thousands of years.

If you’ve been given just a tin your kit won’t be as instant as all that, but as most homebrew starter kits come with everything you need, you can get cracking right away. If you do need anything from the above list, you’ll not go far wrong with your local farmers co-op. Start there. And while you’re in the co-op, get yourself some wood, put up some shelves, as you’ll soon need more space than you know. This ‘hobby’ is addictive.

Now I have no intention of reproducing the instructions given with your can, as I’ve yet to brew from a tin that had insufficient instructions within. However, I’ve some additional info here, which may help understand the instructions.

Firstly, don’t let the instructions scare you. Whilst I too can’t stress enough the importance of cleanliness in brewing, it’s not something you need to stress about. The instructions are likely to give you nightmares about making 5 gallons of malt vinegar. This simply isn’t going to happen. If the bucket is dirty, wash it up. A clean bucket should then be sterilised with any old household sterilising stuff (Milton, VWP, a weak bleach solution), and rinsed until there’s no trace of your cleaner or steriliser. Now it’s ready to use. There’s no need for lab coveralls and industrial steam cleaners. It’s homebrew.

Now go back to the instructions. The next thing it’s probably going to harp on about is how quickly your wort is likely to become infected. Your wort is the watery malt extract stuff you’ve now got 5 gallons of, which hasn’t yet been fermented. If you leave the bucket unattended for a day or two then yes, you might have a sour tasting, very weakly alcoholic, undrinkable beer, but if you pitch (chuck in) your yeast into the wort as directed, you’ll have no problems. Put the lid on, put it somewhere not too warm, not too cold, and leave it for 12 hours. After twelve hours, or a day, or whenever you’ve got time, open the lid a little and take a peek. There should be a lovely, fluffy cloud-like layer going on, with lots of brown bitter-tasting bits sticking to it, and the smell can be anything between a loaf in the oven to rotten eggs. This is normal. Normal. Replace the lid having not sneezed into the bucket or dipped in anything unsavoury, relax, and continue to follow the instructions.

Finally, exercise patience. So it says leave your beer in bottles for 3 weeks? Leave it 6 and you’ll be amazed at what you’ve created. Don’t forget to tell everyone about it now; you’ll never make it through 5 gallons on your own.