Brewing beer basically is a process of soaking malted grain (usually barley) in hot water so they release natural sugars into the water to make what’s called a mash. Boiling this while adding hops to fuse flavours and aroma, turning the mash into what’s now known as wort. Once this is done the mix is chilled and yeast is added which over time will convert the sugars into alcohol and CO2, thus giving us beer! There's basically three common ways of home brewing. Kit brewing, Extract Brewing and All Grain
- Beer Kits: This is the simplest way to brew beer, the kits will include a concentrated mix of wort (this is what the grain & hops mix is referred to) and yeast. Most of the hard work is done already in the contents of the can, all it involves is heating the contents, mixing with water and adding (or pitching) the yeast. Its a great way to get a familiar with the basic equipment, develop good habits with fermenting at the right temperatures and keeping your equipment sanitized. It also minimizes the chance of you making a bad brew. While most kits are made for brewing a specific beer, limiting ones creativeness, they can be slightly altered by going for different yeasts or adding more hops. If you want to show your creative side though, it's best waiting until you move onto the following brewing styles.
- Extract brewing: This is when the fun begins. A lot of people will often skip the beer kits method and jump straight into extract brewing. This brewing process involves using concentrated Malt Extract. This lets the brewer skip making the basic part of a mash, saving time, allowing move directly to the boil and fermentation steps. Before the malt extract is added, speciality grains (for unique flavour properties) are to be heated in water in a sieve-like bag. Heated to a certain temperature until the sugars are released, this process is called steeping. Malt Extract then is added directly to the brew pot and boiled together with Hops to create wort for fermenting. You can make very high quality beer using extract brewing and many home brewers will prefer this method. While it is important to note that extract brewing isn't really considered an inferior method it does not offer the full range of ingredients and variations that are possible with All Grain brewing.
- All Grain Brewing: To really master the art of brewing, All Grain Brewing is the way to go. It would not be recommended for beginners starting off to go straight into all-grain brewing but while it is a method that involves a lot of work and attention, once it is done right, it will become a simple task to do over time. More equipment will be required, the main one being a ‘mash tun’ used to make the mash from grains & water. As the cost of the ingredients will be minimal, if you stick to this you will make your money back in no time. Grains of choice are milled and heated in the mash tun with water. The mash is then boiled for an amount of time (depending what beer you’re making) hops are added again to make wort and the mix is chilled. Once again the yeast is pitched and the fermentation process is under way to make beer.
There are a few other methods like ‘partial mashing’ and ‘brew in a bag’ but the core concepts are quite similar. Regardless of what method you start with, the end result from the fermented wort will be beer. However before you can drink the beer it needs to be bottled or kegged and left for a little longer. This allows the beer to condition, clear up and carbonate. Then finally you can crack open a brew and enjoy your creation!
I’ll be starting off with the first method, Kit brewing, after Christmas. Keep an eye on the “Keep Updated!” section for the countdown to the first brew day. I’ll be going into more details of each method once I've done them, making an actual tried and tested guide on UnderdogBrewing.co.
This will be my last post until after Christmas. In the meantime, as it’s coming up to Christmas when you’re in the off licence going to get your drinks in for the holidays keep in mind how your beer has come to the final product. Also, try some of the great craft brews out there if you get a chance, the pale ales, chocolate stouts, honey porters or anything that’s a little bit different. Even if it’s just the odd bottle, you’ll be surprised what beers have been created out there, most which probably began as a home brew!
Oh and have a good one! :)