In the last decade, interest in craft beer has grown at an exponential rate. While sales for traditional brewers actually declined in 2018, craft beer grew by 4%, and now makes up almost a quarter of the nation’s total beer market.
For many people, craft beer is more than just a beverage: it’s a hobby. Beer enthusiasts will travel across the country to different breweries, take brewery tours, and even trade beer online to try brews from far-away locations.
Of course, the ultimate step for the craft beer enthusiast is to learn to make their own beer at home. If you’ve decided that you’re ready to take the plunge and learn how to brew beer, we have ten tips for you.
1. Start Simple
If you’ve been involved in the craft beer scene at all, you know that the varieties are endless: lagers, ales, porters, stouts, sours…the list goes on. While you can eventually work your way up to some of the more unique varieties, it’s best to start simple.
The easiest beers to make are simple ales like an American pale ale, an amber ale, or a simple porter. Also, resist the urge to put in funky flavors at first. You want to know whether your beer tastes good before you start throwing in mango or peanut butter.
2. Keep it Clean
The number one rule in homebrewing is keeping your equipment clean. The process of using yeast to ferment your wort is prime-time for environmental bacterias to get into your batch and contaminate your beer. Taking sanitary precautions will prevent this from happening.
Make sure that all of your equipment is spotless before you begin the brewing process. An iodine-based sanitizer is a good choice for making sure that all contaminants are removed.
Also, if you are still in the process of buying materials, look for ones that are easy to clean and inspect. This will prevent contaminants from getting into nooks and crannies, and will make it easier to clean between batches.
3. Invest in Glass
Investing in all of the equipment for homebrewing can be expensive, so it can be tempting to cut corners. It’s best, however, not to cut corners by choosing a plastic fermenter.
A glass fermenter will last longer, and it won’t leak. Also, to go along with the point above, glass fermenters are much easier to keep clean than plastic ones.
4. Use High-Quality Ingredients
Another important area not to cut corners in is the ingredients you use to make your beer. If you wanted to drink cheap beer, there’s plenty to be found at the local gas station!
Also, keep in mind that most of the ingredients used for beer (yeast, hops, malt, crushed grains) have a limited shelf life. You might save money by buying these in bulk, but they won’t hold up long. Instead, buy what you are going to use, and use it quickly.
5. Boil Your Wort
When homebrewing, it’s best to boil the wort for 60-90 minutes. This sterilizes the wort, boils off undesirable compounds you don’t want in your beer, and releases bitter flavors.
Decide how long to boil the wort based on the type of beer you are trying to make. For a light beer, you’ll need to boil for 90 minutes; a heavier beer will be fine around 60 minutes.
Also, try to find a place to boil that isn’t your stovetop. The wort will often boil over, which can be quite messy in a kitchen. You’re usually better off getting a propane burner and taking the operation into a garage or onto a patio.
Finally, invest in a bigger pot that allows you to boil all of your wort at the same time. This is much more efficient than boiling in batches, and it produces better results.
6. Make Sure You Have Enough Yeast
Most people who are new to making beer assume that the most important ingredients to the taste of the beer are the barley and hops. In reality, the yeast used to make beer has a huge impact on the taste of the final product.
The main difference between a lager and an ale is what happens to the yeast during the fermentation process. With a lager, the yeast settles at the bottom, whereas the yeast in an ale floats.
The yeast is essential to fermentation. Essentially, the alcohol and carbonation in beer is the byproduct of yeast consuming the sugary wort. For this reason, it’s essential that you have enough yeast to complete the fermentation process.
To learn more about yeast, which kind, and how much you should use, check out this beer yeast chart.
7. Control the Fermentation Temperature
In order for your yeast to effectively ferment your wort, it needs to be kept at a comfortable temperature. The correct temperature depends on the type of beer you’re making. That said, for the American ales you will be making for your first few batches, the right temperature is typically between 63-68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep in mind that the yeast will produce heat as it ferments, so you may need to take steps to lower the temperature. Some tricks home brewers use including wrapping the fermenter in wet towels or using a fan.
8. Choose the Right Alcohol Level
While you don’t want to make O’Douls, you also don’t want to make something that’s going to knock you out with a few sips. For your first few times, it’s best to stay in the 5 to 7 percent ABV range.
This allows you to work on getting the flavors in the beer right. Once you get more experience, you can work on making higher ABV beers that bring out different flavors.
Start Learning How to Brew Beer Today
With these tips in hand, you will soon be on your way to learning how to brew beer in your own home. This is the ultimate way to experiment with new flavors and take your love of beer to the next level.
For more ideas on hobbies, take a look at the rest of our blog.