I tried to homebrew once. Once.
It didn’t go very well, but I got some nice pictures out of it.
People told me it’s the kind of thing you’re supposed to do if you work in the beer industry, because you have to understand how beer is made. That is true. “Homebrewing is so easy,” they said in encouragement, “even an idiot can do it.” That is false.
Sydney brew store The Hop + Grain was a great place to start my homebrew journey. Manager Alex Levi (who I interviewed here) invited me to a demonstration class, then generously sent me home with a starter kit and a ingredient bag for a very delicious sounding stout, as well as a few swing-top bottles. Most importantly, he also gave me a little booklet of instructions, which I read several times before starting anything.
Here is what the little book said.
STEP 0: ASSEMBLE YOUR EQUIPMENT
Most of the stuff pictured here came with the starter kit, except for the pot, sieve and funnel. I had this in my house already, because I am a responsible adult. Before anything else, the first instruction is to measure out 4.5 L in the glass carboy. Easy. Acing it already.
STEP 1: STEEP THE SPECIALTY GRAINS
The specialty grains are some nice roasty dark malts, which need steeping. The rest of the malt is in extract form, which I am grateful for, because I don’t want to jump in to the deep end to soon. Still, being able to steep some grain helps me feel like I’m doing something important.
STEP 2: THE BOIL
Next, the liquid from the steeped grains are filtered into a bigger stockpot and some dry malt extract is added.
The liquid is brought to a boil and the first hop pellets, Magnum, are added. The 60-minute timer begins. Things start to smell really good.
Like a real brewer!
50 minutes later, which is plenty of time to drink a beer in between, the rest of the malt extract is added, along with some more hops, East Kent Golding.
STEP 3: CHILLING, SANITISING AND PITCHING
With 10 minutes to go, the sink is prepared with cold water. Once the boil is done, the pot is removed from the stove and put in the sink.
Whilst it cools, we prepare some sanitiser solution and SANITISE EVERYTHING. Actually, we didn’t need to sanitise the hose just yet but we did it anyway, to practice sanitising.
The beer is transferred to the carboy, leaving behind as much hop sediment as possible, then the carboy is topped up to that 4.5 L mark with water, because of evaporation during the boil.
Add the yeast, stick in the stopper, cover it with your finger AFTER SANITISING IT and give it a shake.
Finally, the airlock is put in the stopper and we take a picture with our beer baby before putting it in the garage and forgetting about it for a week.
STEP 4: BOTTLING
A week later, those hose is sanitised again, for real this time, as well as some bottles. White table sugar is added to each bottle for secondary fermentation.
Next, the beer is siphoned from carboy to bottles. It needs a little encouragement to get in to the hose.
The bottled beers are ready to be put back in the garage for another two weeks (although we left them for three, just to be sure.)
STEP 5: DRINK IT
In a sad turn of events, our beer tasted really quite awful.
Desperately, we went back to Alex at the Hop + Grain and he determined the problem straight away, which just goes to show how much these guys know about homebrewing. An infection, probably because we didn’t sanitise something properly. You know, like our hands or mouths, when we decided to `encourage’ that beer in to the hose.
Pictured: the exact moment we f*cked up.
STEP 6: TRY AGAIN
Not ones to be discouraged, we already have stout ingredient pack number two. We’ll get it right next time.
If you want to have a go at homebrewing too and have as much fun as we did, find yourself a starter kit at the Hop + Grain. Ask for Alex.