Your new favorite brewery could be in your own home
Whether it’s in a bottle, a can or straight out of the tap, beer is the quintessential American beverage. While it may seem like the simplest of ways to imbibe, the humble beer is carefully crafted, with precision that imbues each step with purpose. And the formula is actually much more intensive than one might expect.
Distilling the process to its bare bones, it takes nine steps to brew a batch of beer: malting, milling, mashing, lautering, boiling, fermenting, conditioning, filtering and packaging. To get started, an aspiring home brewer will need some equipment, including a kettle, fermenter, air lock, sanitizer, siphon and, of course, their ingredients. Luckily, these necessities are available to beginners in starter kits that usually include recipes and ingredients for a first brew.
The process starts with the “brew day,” in which ingredients are assembled and prepared; this is most of the work. The brewer steeps his or her grains in carefully heated water—usually around 170 degrees—then the grains are removed, malt added, and the kettle is brought to a boil.
This creates wort, a special sugar water, which is then removed from heat and quickly chilled. The cooled wort is then added to a fermenter diluted with water, and aerated. After this step, yeast is added and the concoction is sealed and left to ferment, typically for around two weeks. At this point, the initial “brew day” is over.
After the fermentation process is complete, the beer is mixed with priming sugar and immediately bottled. Once the bottles have been filled and capped, the beer must sit for a time, again usually two weeks, to allow the brew to carbonate. Then it’s ready to refrigerate and enjoy.
Seems like a lot, right? Well, home brewing isn’t for casual beer fans; it’s for the die-hards.
Joel Kodner, the head brewer at Boca Raton’s Barrel of Monks Brewery, is no stranger to the process of brewing beer, although his batches are typically around 500 gallons each—a far cry from the five- to 10-gallon brews that the average home brewer will take on. But he says the process really isn’t all that different.
“The funny part,” Kodner says, “is that you probably have about the same length of a brew day at home as you do on a big system—anywhere from six to eight hours. Even though it’s different equipment, smaller equipment, the fundamentals are all the same: It’s lots and lots of cleaning.”
He’s not kidding—cleaning is universally regarded as the most important part of any brew, with each piece of equipment requiring thorough sanitization before ever coming into contact with a batch of beer. “We have an industry term,” Kodner says, “that it’s 99 percent cleaning and 1 percent brewing, and that applies whether you’re doing five gallons or 500 gallons.”
Still, any brewer—home or professional—will tell you the reward of enjoying your own brew is well worth the effort.
“It’s a good time,” Kodner says. “You drink some beers, you have some fun, and hopefully you’ve got good beer at the end of a couple weeks.”