One of the main focuses of this site is to inform as many people as possible about how amazing good beer actually is. Reading about this can only take someone so far. To truly understand the beer you’re drinking, you need to do more than just drink it, you need to brew it.
With this being said, I am kicking off a weekly series on the site where I help you to get from just a beer consumer, to a beer producer! There are countless ways out there to learn this, but I am hoping to put all that information together for you in one place so you have one bookmark to get to for not only learning how to brew, but to come back and reference over and over. In the coming weeks, I will be posting not only pictures and instructions on the home brewing process, but actual step by step videos of the brewing process. This way, you can watch them as you brew.
Let’s look at some of the basic terminology of home-brewing to get started with this process. I recommend following the site closely in the coming weeks to keep up with the very first Craft Beer Academy Home-Brewing 101 class. Let’s get started.
The Bavarian Purity Law
Basically, beer is made from 4 ingredients. This is also known as the Reinheitsgebot, or the Bavarian Purity Law. The original Bavarian Purity Law had only 3 ingredients, however, as yeast had not yet been discovered when it was enacted in 1516. Basically, the updated law states that only these 4 ingredients are allowed in beer. While this isn’t a real law for brewing anymore (it was law in Germany until 1987!), it is a guideline for what beer really is. The ingredients are:
With this law in mind, we have the basics for pretty much every beer you want to make. Some beers use a few other ingredients, but this is the basis for most everything you want to brew. Lets look at this more.
First, water is pretty obvious. This is what all the other ingredients are added to. You must make sure your water is as pure and clean as possible, and for small home-brewing, I strongly recommend using 5 gallon jugs of water meant for water coolers.
Next is Barley. This is the grain that is used to get the fermentable sugars that the yeast will turn into alcohol and CO2. Other grains are used today for different styles, like wheat for weizens, so barley is mostly a placeholder for fermentable material. For now just know that a grain is used to create sugar.
The third item is hops. While you may like or dislike “hoppy” beers, every beer must have hops in them. Hops are the dried flower of the hop plant. This is a vine type plant that grows very similar to grapes. Hops do two things for beer. First, they give the bitter taste and unique smell, but they also help preserve the beer. More on this in future posts. For now, the important thing you need to know is that hops are in every beer.
The last ingredient is the newest to be understood. This is Yeast. Yeast is microbes that are used in the brewing process that convert sugars into alcohol and CO2. This is how bread rises when cooked. The difference is the type of yeast used. For beer, we use yeast that produces more alcohol than CO2.
I think this is a great place to stop for now. Hopefully this is a useful primer on brewing at home. In the next post, we will look into the terminology of brewing in greater detail, to get you comfortable with it before jumping into an actual brew. Don’t worry, this will be far easier than you can imagine. And at the end, you will have a beer to drink that you actually made yourself!
Until next time, Cheers!
If you’re looking for some home-brew recipes to help you get started, this is a pretty awesome book of recipes for most every skill level. Click here for the book. Also, check out the books Posted in the side bar if you are looking to get serious. They are pretty awesome at turning a novice into a serious home-brewer.