Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Celebrating a Year of Homebrewing, and 3 Golden Rules Learned

Roughly a year ago, Meg bought me a Coopers Brewery Kit. If you can make Kool-Aid, you can make beer with the Cooper's kit. You pour a can of malt extract, a pound of corn sugar, and some hot water into the plastic fermenter and stir until dissolved (it all comes with the kit). Then you top with cold water, and add a packet of dry yeast. When it's done fermenting, you attach the bottling wand to the fermenter, and bottle away. We did this twice, the first batch was just drinkable (the "lager" it came with), the second batch (a dark ale) we poured out.

This lead to homebrewing lesson numero uno:
You have to boil something to make any sort of decent beer.

You may read reviews of the the Coopers kit where people are amazed at how good it is, and how easy the process was. If you drink a lot of commercial beer, this may very well be true. However, if you are a fan of craft beer, then don't listen. Pick up of copy of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian, and just follow his directions for making your first batch. Even if you buy a Cooper's kit (the fermenter is actually pretty nice), chuck the directions, the corn sugar, and the "carbonation drops." Go to your LHBS (local home brew shop) and buy some hops and liquid yeast. You'll be glad you did, trust me.

Now, when you're fermenting your ale, here's lesson number two:
Try to keep the temperature around 68 degrees (20C), or a little lower. Keep in mind that the fermentation process itself will raise the temperature at least a few degrees inside the fermenter. This is why cool basements are good for fermenting ales. You'll just get a cleaner tasting beer.

And the final lesson of homebrewing is: Relax - your making beer. It's supposed to be fun. As long as everything is clean/sanitized and you're following rules 1 and 2 - you'll get some good brew, and your friends will be glad to suck it down. Cheers.

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