The Complete Brewing Process
Brewing consists of five simple stages.
· Brewing the Beer – In extract & partial grain brewing, the extract and hops are boiled together with water for about an hour to sterilize the extract and release the bittering qualities of the hops. If grains are used, they are steeped like a tea bag prior to the boil to add additional color and flavor complexity.
· Cooling and Fermenting – The hot mixture (called wort, rhymes with flirt) is cooled to room temperature and siphoned or transferred to a fermenter (usually a plastic food grade bucket), where it is topped off with additional water to achieve the desired batch size. Cleanliness and sterilization are very important since the wort can be easily infected by bacteria while in this state. Once the mixture drops to room temperature, usually by means of an ice bath, yeast is added to start the fermentation process. The wort is then covered and an airlock is used to keep the wort sealed during ensuing fermentation. Your beer will ferment for 4 days to 2 weeks, and usually will be transferred to the glass carboy during this time.
· Priming and Bottling – Once the beer is fully fermented, it is usually siphoned to a bottling bucket to prepare for bottling. At this stage, priming sugars such as corn sugar, dry malt extract, or candi sugar are mixed with the beer, after which it is siphoned into bottles and capped with a bottle capper. While most kits include a hand capper, a bench capper greatly speeds up this process.
· Aging – Once the beer has been bottled, it needs to age for 2-6 weeks. While aging, the yeast will ferment the priming sugar, and create carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide will naturally carbonate your beer. Sediments such as excess yeast and proteins will settle during aging. Usually drinkable after a month, some beers may take several months to reach peak flavor. Special beers could take a year or more.
· Drinking – When the beer is properly aged – usually in a cooler area like a basement, take a few out and place in refrigerator! Try them out and decide for yourself whether you really need to buy the mass produced market beers ever again!
TIME TO BREW!
The outline above and your local home brew shop will get you started. Extract and partial grain kits should contain full information to get your first batch completed.
We recommend you patronize your local liquor store or tavern and sample a “variety pack” of micro-brewed beers. We find that many beginners may think they like “dark” beers, when what they really like is a hoppy beer, or vice versa. Try some beers you’ve never had before, remember what you liked or disliked about each, and let your brew supply shop know your preferences so that they may select a kit or recipe you are sure to enjoy. Then check to see if there is a local beer club you may join or visit. They usually offer tastings of selections you will be sure to remember, and may soon be able to imitate. Then “Hop To It.”
Mark & Chris Flynn are the local proprietors of Hop To It Brewing & Wine making Supplies, located within the 1849 building which houses D P Wigley Company in Downtown Racine.