LEARN THE CRAFT
Become a Brewmaster
An intro to the art of home brewing
by Alex Shoenthal • November 1, 2015
You can brew beer. Yes, you, sitting there reading this. It’s not nearly as hard as you think, and lots of people do it. In fact, there are an estimated 1.2 million home brewers in the U.S. right now.
People home brew for a variety of reasons. Some parts of the country have a dismal beer scene or ABV-percent restrictions and home brewing is the only answer to having an excellent IPA. Some do it to save money. It’s definitely cheaper to make your own, especially with the average craft 6-pack price of $10-15. I think for most brewers though, it is simply the pleasure of enjoying something you’ve crafted by hand, as well as the outstanding camaraderie of the home-brewing community.
Brewing equipment is another big, but flexible consideration. How big do you want to go? Are you going to start with extract brewing or all grain? Will you employ a simple gravity-fed system, or do you want a sophisticated brew stand with an electric control panel?
OK, so that might sound complex. Now, for simplicity. Beer requires only four main ingredients: malt, hops, yeast and water. Beautiful, really.
Barley is the most common malt used in brewing and has many different examples, ranging from crystal malts that give color and flavor, to darkly kilned roasted malts such as chocolate malt or black patent, which provide intense color and flavor contributions. Malt is available as a whole grain, or as a prepared extract. Most brewers begin with extract brewing. It’s easier, and a great way to learn basic procedures while making great tasting beer. All grain brewing is more advanced and requires more equipment, but produces richer, more authentic brews.
Hops are the “flower” of the hop plant, adding essential bitterness, flavor and aroma to your beer. There are well over 100 different hop varieties, each with its own unique flavor and aroma. Hops are produced commercially all over the world; they give many beer styles their characteristic flavors and aromas.
Brewer yeast (saccharomyces) is a cultivated fungus that eats the sugars from the malt, creating alcohol and CO2. Many underestimate yeast’s importance in creating good beer at home. Of all ingredients, the yeast is what gives specific beer styles their defining traits. Yeast is available in liquid or dried
This is your beer’s main ingredient, so treat it with some consideration. Water chemistry is more important for all grain brewers, as it can greatly impact your efficiency. That said, most brewers who have good tasting/smelling water simply get it straight from the tap. Certain styles may call for various water treatments. Bottled water can also be used.
Home-brewing clubs are a great — and fun — resource for the aspiring brewmaster. Most urban areas have a club or two, maybe more. Clubs are a great way to meet other brewers and learn more about the craft. Most clubs have social events where you can see what other brewers are doing and get hands-on experience. Club events are also where you get to enjoy my personal favorite aspect of brewing —sampling! Sharing home brews gives you a chance to show off your brews and get honest feedback to help you improve it.
The American Homebrewers Association is an essential resource for all levels of home brewers. Check out their website at Homebrewersassociation.org for info on brewing and details on how to find a home brew club near you.
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Homebrew Supply Stores
Beer & Wine Hobbies
(704) 527-2337 Ext 3
(704) 527-2337 Ext 2
Seven Jars Products
Cabarrus Homebrewers Society
Public group meets the second Thursday of the month at Cabarrus Creamery.
Public group meets the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at Dilworth Neighborhood Grill.
Iredell Brewers United
Public group meets the second Monday of the month at Ultimate Ales in Mooresville at 7 p.m.
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