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by Matthew Jackson

So, you've decided that store bought beer just isn't all it could be. Or you've got a taste of really good beer, and now think that mega-brew sucks, but can't afford a lot of Fat Tire or Steam Beer. One way or another, you've decided to give brewing a try. . .

CONGRADULATIONS FROM ALL OF US. . . TO YOU!!!! CHEERS!

So, what is it and how is it done? First thing to cover in your brave quest is an agreement as to what exactly is beer. Beer is a combination of four primary ingredients: malt, hops, water and yeast. This holy grouping is thus brought together in a specific way to create the carbonated goodness we call beer. Each one of these is covered in a separate part of this website. Check them out from the links below.

malt, this is the heart of the brew.
Hops, are the spirit of the brew.
Water, The body of the brew.
Yeast, is the magic stuff that makes beer. . . beer.

So, with all of these choices, where do you start? Well, the reason most start in extract is that it is less time consuming, and a great deal more forgiving than all-grain or partial brewing. The three main factors in this equation are thus: time, money, and skill. If I have all day, I'll brew all-grain because it's usually great and it is cheaper, and well I've been doing this for a while and can consistently whip up a batch of the same brew time and again. On the other hand, if I've got all of 30 minutes or so, and not running low of funds extracts are the way to go. It is a fairly common misconception, even amongst the brewing community, that all expert or veteran brewers do all-grain all of the time. I do all-grain, I also do partial, and occasionally I'll still whip up a batch of extract brew. Especially when I'm experimenting with a recipe and don't want to blow a bunch of time on something that might not turn out any good. My recommendation is to start with extract, and hopped extract is just the right ticket for a great brew on your first go.

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH get on with it. . . .

Ok, here's the equipment you are going to need:

1) 5 gal kettle. (your best bet is stainless steel)
2) 6.5 -- 8 gal plastic bucket with a lid fitted with a airlock hole.
3) 5.5 -- 6 gal plastic bucket
4) Siphon (the Auto-Siphon rocks. . . and easy to use)
5) Sanitizer (B-Brite or Iodophor. . . bleach works but requires more work)
6) Airlock (the three piece airlock is great and easy to clean)
7) Long plastic stirring spoon or spatula
8) Thermometer
9) Hydrometer
10) Capper ( the two- handled one has lasted me for over two years)
11) Caps
12) Bottle brush
13) "The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing" by Charlie Papazian
14) some form of notebook for logging your brews

Good night!!! Do you really need all that stuff? Yep. . . you really do. The up side is that most places are kind enough to put one together for you. Check this set up here. It's cheaper to buy this than to buy it all separately and it comes with virtually everything you need.

You now have a beer kit worth respect. Opt for the free can of extract. If given the option, go for an Edme Devilishly Strong Red Ale. We're assuming that you have a 3-5 gal stockpot hanging around. Now for the bottles. You've got options here. You can buy bottles here, or do what I did and throw a "goodbye to tasteless swill" party. Invite all your family and friends, and have them bring over either non-twist off bottles or beer in plastic bottles. Save the plastic bottle caps with the bottles. NO CLEAR BOTTLES!!! After the party, you'll have all the bottles you need for your first few batches, and a far greater appreciation for good beer.

So, here's how you make a "devilishly strong red ale". Here is what you'll need:

1) can of hopped red ale (you got this in your kit)
2) 2 lbs light dry extract
3) pack dry ale yeast
4) 1oz. Fuggle hop pellets
5) 3/4 cup priming sugar

This being your first batch and all you'll probably want to make a starter with that dry yeast. Click here to find out how you make a starter with dry yeast.

Find your stockpot and start up about a gallon of water. Use bottled water; it is just better that way. Heat it up to near boiling, then remove from heat or turn off the burner. Empty the can of extract into the pot and stir. You have to stir until all of it is dissolved, which is easy enough to do. All you have to do is stir at the bottom for a bit, and pull the spoon out and look. If it still has syrupy stuff on the end. . . keep stirring.

Now put the pot back on the burner, or start it back up and add your dry extract. Now this stuff can do strange things when air moisture contacts it. What you want to do is cut the entire bag open from end to end. And quickly empty the bag, and be careful not to spill it all over your stove. Stir in the now clumpy malt extract floating all over the top of your wort.

Pay attention to your wort, for it will most likely boil over if left unattended. Trust me, this is not a mess you want to clean. Keep a glass of cold water handy, and if it starts to get close to the top of the pot, give it a splash. Don't empty the glass, just give it a splash and the boiling foam will go away. When boiling, start the stove timer for 15 minutes. If your stove doesn't have a timer, use your watch or kitchen clock. After the timer goes off, add the hops. Yep, just toss it in there with the rest of the stuff. Odds are you're going to get a foam rise when you do that, so have that water handy. After you've calmed down the foam, set the timer for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off, put the pot in your sink. If there's still dishes and whatnot in the sink, first remove them, put the plug in the drain and then put the pot in the sink. Fill your sink up with cold water and ice and wait about 30 minutes. Every once and again add more ice to the sink, and stir the wort.

Now is a good time to sanitize the equipment. Follow the instructions on the bottle and sanitize the fermenter. Now add 4 gallons of cold water to the fermenter. By this time the wort has probably cooled down to around 100 degrees take a reading with the sanitized thermometer, and if so add it to the fermenter. Take a small sample out of the fermenter and take a hydrometer reading of your beer, and write it down in your brew log. This is called your original gravity (O.G.) Pitch your activated yeast when the balloon is getting inflated. Empty the bottle into the wort and secure the lid and add the airlock. Now follow the fermenting instructions. Mark down on your calendar your bottling day. Write it in large letters "BOTTLING DAY!" for it is a momentous occasion! Some brewers, myself included, still brew up that first batch and bottle it on that same week to mark the special occasion.

Now we come to bottling day. On the day before bottling day, take a hydrometer reading of your beer, and write it down. Now, on bottling day, take another hydrometer test. Is it the same as yesterdays? If not, put it back and try again tomorrow. If it is, then you're ready. Sanitize your bottles, caps, and siphon hosing before you go any further. Now, put a quart of water to boil in a saucepan and add the priming sugar. Stir it until the sugar is dissolved. Cover and cool it in the sink with ice water, just like before until it's temperature is down under 90 degrees and then add it to your beer. Stir the primer up a bit with a sanitized spoon and start bottling. If you're using the bottling wand that comes with your kit, then follow the instructions and you'll be fine. If not, then fill to about an inch from the top of the bottle and then cap.

Now comes the hard part. . . you wait until the beer is primed. Usually it takes about a week or two, but can take longer in cold months. After this time is up ice some down and drink up. . . but save one 6pk for about 2 months and try it well aged. . . you're going to love your very own beer.

Welcome, fellow brewer!
TO YOU!!! CHEERS!

 
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