Brewing 101

In my last post I'd spoken about doing a lot of research into the various methods of home brewing. A few people have asked me about the whole process, just out of vague curiosity, when they ask about Underdog. So I figured I'd throw up a quick crash lesson on brewing. Now keep in mind I haven't actually put these into practice yet so any seasoned brewers out there feel free to correct me where I'm wrong. this is all from what I've read up on.  

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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

 

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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! :)

 

So What's the Plan?

Well before we jump into the deep end of emptying grain hops & yeast into a big pot of water, there's no harm in doing some homework and getting a bit of a plan going! In a nutshell, my plan is to start off with the home brew basics and move on from there, adding extra steps to the process. 

As some of us know,  the best thing about this day & age is that the internet is a vast keg of knowledge which can easily be tapped. YouTube is a great resource for seeing the different methods of home brewing being done right in front of you. There's a lot of comprehensive videos that will go thought each step with you Another great resource, especially for those who might not know an experienced brewer in person but has a lot of questions about specific methods, are community forums. Best have a look out there for local forums. Myself I've found a few Irish based sites such as Boards.ie, Beoir.org and nationalhomebrewclub.com. Boards is a general forum but has a dedicated home brew section. The latter two as well as hosting a forum also have a great a knowledge base of information on brewing techniques, they also host meetings/events and write up on interesting articles about what's going on in the Irish Craft Beer community. There's also some decent books out there too for those who like to leave the laptop off. One that I've seen being recommended time & time again is "How to Brew" by John Palmer. There's a free online version also but I have the book on the Christmas wishlist, just to have something handy. There's plenty of more books out there with recipes and other info. 

I'll be putting up a blog post very soon with an overview of the common methods of home brewing. Once things move on and I've actually done a few different brews myself, I'll be adding  section to Underdog brewing  with some info for those looking to start off. 

For equipment, depending on where you're based, you can either shop online or visit your local home brew store. It seems that there is a bigger market for home brewing in countries like USA & UK so home brew stores would be more common. In Ireland there are about a handful around the country so unless you live near one your best bet is to get online, delivery is very reasonable and quite prompt. 

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Once a bit of research is done, no harm in setting a rough plan together. Just something to aim for in the short term, once that goal is achieved, set another plan out on what your next move will be. As I'm starting off, I'm currently doing a lot of research on home brewing, though it's not absolutely necessary there's no harm in seeing what the common mistakes are and learn from others. After Christmas, I'll begin my first brew, keeping it simple. Once I get the hang of extract brewing (which I'll explain in my next post) the aim by Summer/Autumn 2014 is to stock a few different brews that I've made and have a home version of a Craft Beer Festival for friends. This way I can see what they will think of the beer I'm making. Regardless of the outcome, it will be a bit of craic and free beer for everyone there!  From there on, we'll soon see what the next plan is...

Why Underdog?

So I'm starting out this venture basically on a whim. I've been wanting to start brewing my own beer for a while now and this Christmas, I'll be getting all the equipment and resources to get this hobby going. To make things even more interesting for myself I've set quite an ambitious challenge. Once I've honed the art of brewing homebrew beers with the various of methods that will be shown here over time, I'll be planning on making my own recipes and see if I can get it a decent reputation with in the Irish Craft Beer industry. 

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