Brewing your own delicious beer

Beer has been brewed by people of many different cultures for literally thousands of years, a process practiced even since the earliest recorded civilizations of the Sumerian and Babylonian empires. While the process is by no means exceedingly complex or difficult, it has been made substantially easier in more recent years with the introduction of new tools, products, and technologies. The modern home brewer can create a diverse array of very high-quality beer in their spare time with little investment, both in terms of finances and time.

One of the biggest time and energy saving innovations in brewing comes in the form of malt extract, one of the primary ingredients in beer production. Malt is made by forcing the germination of the grain barley. Once the germination has reached the appropriate stage, the germination process is abruptly halted by the application of heat. This process can be somewhat sensitive and difficult for novices which is why the extract is so commonly available. The malt contains the natural sugars needed for the production of ethyl alcohol which is excreted along with carbon dioxide by the yeast as a result of its metabolic processes. Besides yeast and malt, water and hops are used to make the initial brew. Hops serve as a fragrant, often bitter flavoring while raw sugar is used before bottling to stimulate the remaining yeast into producing carbonation which is stored under pressure, rather than immediately released as is true during initial fermentation.

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As far as tools go, the list is short and sweet. A large five-gallon pot is needed for brewing the hops and malt, while a secondary storage unit such as a glass jug or food-safe plastic bucket is used for primary fermentation whereupon the malt's sugars are broken down and turned into alcohol. A strainer, non-wooden stirrer, thermometer, funnel, and siphoning tube are all necessary at different points in the process. These may be available in kits or can be purchased separately, often the more cost-effective choice. The hardest item to obtain is a bubbler valve, which uses a water-filled loop to allow carbon dioxide to escape while keeping outside air from entering. It can be found in home brewer's shops as well as online.

Very simply, the process begins with making the wort which is done by boiling the brew of hops, malt, and any other flavorings to be used. When the brew is done "cooking," the solid contents are strained away and the wort is cooled. Yeast is allowed to proof in a separate container until it has been sufficiently activated, at which point it is added to the cooled brew. The brew is oxygenated to promote healthy fermentation during transfer to the fermenting vessel which is sealed and allowed to do its work over the course of a couple of weeks. Dead yeast and sediment fall to the bottom, and the clear beer is siphoned off into bottles for secondary fermentation and storage. For additional detail regarding the various steps in this process there are many free online resources waiting to be utilized. Study hard and in time you can become a master home brewer!

Copyright Jason Fuller 2006