Non-vegan stout got you down? Tired of paying way too much for an item as necessary as beer? Brew it yourself already!
No better way to start Vegan MoFo than to share the discovery of how easy and cheap it is to brew beer in your own home. This isn’t really news to anybody, but I remember thinking that it was harder than described and required all kinds of special equipment and bottles and seemed like I would waste a bunch of time and money making undrinkable rotgut. Not true at all, if you can make tea you can brew beer, and it’s delicious beer at that!
There’s a ridiculous amount of information around the web and in books about the subject and it can seem daunting to somebody who’s brewing for the first time. I’m going to strip that all down and share the basics of how I do it in an attempt to make brewing more accessible.
There are a number of different ways to brew at home, the easiest of which is making what I refer to as beer Kool-Aid, but is more commonly known as extract brewing. In this sort of brewing you simply mix a can of hopped malt extract with water, add yeast and let fermentation do it’s thing. You will need some equipment to get started, which can either be purchased at a homebrewing store, as a kit or individually, or cobbled together using readily available items.
- Bottles – I put this as number one because you need a lot of bottles, especially if you start getting a few batches going at the same time, so start saving them now. The homebrew store folks will tell you not to use screw top bottles, but I use them all the time and they work fine. It will save you time if you rinse your used bottles before storing them.
- Primary Fermenter – A fancy word for a bucket that you ferment the extract/water mixture (wort) in. Use a five gallon bucket, preferably food safe, or buy one of the garbage can looking things that the homebrew store sells.
- Secondary Fermenter / Glass Carboy – One of those big glass bottles that look like the plastic water cooler bottles.
- Siphon – You could just use a length of thin plastic tube for this, but I’d recommend buying a siphon with a clamp from the homebrew store.
- Fermentation Lock – A rubber cork that fits into the opening in the carboy. It will have a plastic valve on the top that allows air to leave the carboy, but keeps outside air out.
- Bottle Capper and Caps – To seal up the brew after bottling.
Using a hopped malt extract allows you to brew beer without having to boil anything or make much of a mess. It doesn’t make the most amazing beer possible, but it’s a perfect starting point for new brewers. In the interest of eliminating discouragement, I’m only going to lay out the basic steps just to show how easy this brewing business is. Truth of the matter is there a some things that can go wrong and a ton of variations on how to brew if you want to get a little bit more advanced. If you get to that point, there are many more resources out there from much more informed people than myself to learn from. These are the basic steps.
- Sanitize – Everything that will touch your beer, from start to finish, must be not only cleaned well, but completely sanitized right before use. I use the pink powder you get at the homebrew store.
- Mix Wort – Take your can of hopped malt extract and combine it with water in the primary fermenter using the method stated in the extract’s instructions.
- Ferment – Add yeast and cover the primary. Leave it sit somewhere where it’s not too cool, dark is good too. After a few days you should see the wort getting all foamy, that means it’s working! Leave it in there for about five days total. The extract you purchase will give you more specifics on fermentation times.
- Secondary Fermentation – Place the primary on a table or somewhere higher than the floor. Siphon the beer into the glass carboy leaving behind the sediment created during primary fermentation. Place the fermentation lock, filled with water, into the carboy and put the carboy in the same place you were keeping the primary. Wait for however long your extract instructions tell you, probably around two weeks.
- Bottling - Clean, sanitize and rinse your beer bottles really well. Dissolve 1.5 cups of corn sugar into some warm water inside your primary fermenter. The corn sugar is extra food for the remaining yeast which will result in a nicely carbonated beer when you pop a bottle in a few weeks. Siphon the beer from the carboy into the sugary primary and mix it up a little. Siphon the beer from the primary into the beer bottles. Cap the bottles and store them outside of the fridge for a few weeks.
- Chill and Drink! – I will assume anybody interested in homebrewing needs no instruction on this step. Enjoy!
Now that you know the bare bones process hopefully your interest has been piqued, so get down to the store and get started! I’m off to rack some Oktoberfest into the carboy; it’s been in the primary for far too long!