Home brewing beer is an increasingly popular past-time. From red ales to lagers to porters, brewing your own beer is more than a tasty trend as home brewers learn new ways to blend ingredients, alter alcohol content, and most importantly, improve flavor for some of the most delicious beers around.

Are you contemplating a leap into home-brewing? Have you just not found that perfect lager for this summer’s barbecue season? Looking to enter a local microbrew contest and hoping to piece together that just-right blend? Why not experiment with a few of these tips to get started or improve on your developing skills.

The Recipe

  • Research! You may already be an expert taste-tester but it helps to brush up on the beer brewing process.
  • There is a good amount of science involved with brewing beer so learn the science behind the process to make a tastier product.
  • Seek out a recipe book – or books! – to find the perfect combination for you.
  • Make sure you understand the recipe before brewing – especially when to add ingredients, total boil time, and fermentation times.
  • Experiment with a variety of recipes. Even if you are a straight porter lover, why not branch out to a few stouts or brown ales?
  • Tweak recipes to your preferences. If a particular brew is too hoppy, try it again with fewer hops.
  • Sticky notes are your friends! Getting creative with a recipe? Use sticky notes to document your adjustments until you make it just right then add the permanent notes to your log book.
  • Explore alternative options – how about hazelnuts in your porter or chili powder in your stout?

Foamy Beer & Barrel

The Preparation and Tools

  • Sanitize everything that will come in contact with the beer.
  • Use no-rinse sanitizer, we love Star San.
  • It may seem crazy, but vodka makes a fantastic sanitizer.
  • Glass or stainless fermenters are superior to plastic buckets. They are not only easier to clean and sterilize, they offer a 100% oxygen barrier and better seals at the top of the bucket.
  • While you may start off with a kit, once you decide you enjoy brewing it is worth investing in the higher quality items instead of graduating slowly.
  • An immersion wort chiller can be a beneficial investment – and they are relatively inexpensive.
  • A good hydrometer is necessary for testing the fermentation level of your beer, make sure you’ve got a good one.

The Ingredients

  • Use the freshest possible ingredients to improve the quality – and flavor – of your beer.
  • Grow your own hops! With the increasing appeal of urban and suburban gardening options, growing your own hops is becoming a viable option.
  • Use liquid yeast in lieu of dry yeast.
  • Make a Yeast Starter to help your beer ferment. Two to three days before brewing, boil a small amount of dried malt extract and ¼ ounce of hops in a quart of water, allow it to cool then add your yeast. Cover with foil or an airlock and store in a cool dark place.
  • Be certain to use quality water – reverse osmosis or good spring water are your best bets.
  • If you aren’t brewing immediately upon buying be sure to store your ingredients properly – malt and yeast in the refrigerator and hops in the freezer.
  • Different types of malts can change the flavor of your beer – experiment with them!
  • Experiment with different kinds of hops to adjust the bitterness of your beer.
  • Fruits – like watermelons and apples – can enhance the flavor.
  • Seasonings – we like nutmeg and ginger – add a little zip to your brew.

Four Beers and Barrel

The Process

  • Pay close attention to your recipe – especially any modifications that are noted.
  • Add your ingredients in the right order. It sounds silly but not doing so can lead to disaster.
  • Steep your grains at the proper temperatures.
  • Do not add malts until after the grains have been removed.
  • Add hops as recommended in the recipe.
  • Boil your wort (the liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing of beer) for 60-90 minutes – the longer the boil, the lighter the beer.
  • Be sure to keep stirring so your ingredients don’t boil over – you don’t want to lose anything!
  • Control your heat – you don’t want to burn your wort!
  • Cool wort quickly to increase the fallout of proteins and tannins that ruin the beer.
  • Add yeast after your wort is cooled and stir thoroughly.
  • Use airlock to release gases and keep air out.
  • Store beer in a dark room at around 70 degrees.
  • Leave beer set for the appropriate amount of time according to your recipe.
  • If dry hopping, make sure you let the beer sit for a week before adding the hops.
  • Check beer with hydrometer at various points to monitor the beer gravity (sugar content).
  • Rely more on your hydrometer than your airlock to gauge the fermentation of your beer.
  • If bottling, be sure to mix in sugar for carbonation.
  • Be patient with bottled beer! We know it’s hard but let it set for up to two months for the best results
  • If using a keg, transfer beer to the keg and turn CO2 on low pressure (around 10psi) for approximately a week.
  • If you simply can’t wait that long to tap your keg, turn pressure to 40psi for 24 hours.

The Glorious Final Product

  • We’re sure it’s difficult to recruit guinea pigs for your beer experiments but it’s important to have reliable, honest taste-testers to help you perfect your brews.
  • Mix and match your brews with a variety of meals and sides to create quality pairings that would make even the best restaurants jealous.
  • Enter your perfect custom concoction in local microbrew contests for a little extra feedback – and fun.
  • Connect with other home-brewers to exchange recipes and tips of the trade.
  • Get a little creative and add custom labels to your bottles!

Step into the world of home-brewing and create the perfect blend for you, your family, and your friends. They will love you even more when you show up at the next gathering with a delicious custom brew!