To take advantage of the recent cooler weather, I partook in an outdoor activity: homebrewing! The art of making beer has picked up steam and acknowledgement over the years thanks to craft brewers like Stone Brew in San Diego, CA inspiring people like me to experiment with my own creativity.
The process of brewing beer is one to be respected: it takes knowledge of chemistry, a meticulous and patient eye watching over, and instinctual taste buds. I had no idea until I was actually in the brewer’s seat, choosing from a huge collection of recipes and brainstorming how I wanted to alter it to my liking, that homebrewing takes a lot more skill than most people would assume. My goal is to describe my experience so maybe you curious readers will want to try someday.
First, we needed all the necessary supplies which you can get in a starter homebrewing kit — it includes things like steeping bags and bottle caps. After finding a recipe that I wanted to make, we bought the ingredients: hops, dry malt extract, barley, yeast (and whatever else your recipe calls for) at a local brew supply store and brought it home, making sure everything that needed to be refrigerated went in the fridge.
One thing I learned was how crucial it was to sanitize EVERYTHING before letting it touch your precious beer using a diluted iodine solution. Now for the brewing: we steeped our crushed malt and barley in what was basically a giant beer sock in boiling water for 30 minutes, adjusting the heat so the water would stay at 150 degrees more or less.
We brought the giant pot of malt and barley tea outside and used a larger flame to bring everything to a rolling boil. Once it began boiling, we slowly and carefully added the liquid malt extract (which is thicker and stickier than molasses) making sure to stir well and scrape the bottom to avoid burning.
This is when it got the most dangerous since adding the malt extract to the rolling boil caused a lot of hot chemical things to happen. We had to be careful of it boiling over (which it did) by keeping our feet very far from the base of the pot — but don’t let it boil over too much otherwise you’ll lose a lot of the key malt flavor in your beer. The timing of adding ingredients is crucial. Adding the hops in at different times alters the flavor tremendously, so follow your recipe carefully in order for it to end up the way you want it to.
After that, we had to let it cool down to room temperature using a water bath. Since the liquid was still extremely hot, we had to switch the water every few minutes until it came down to 80 degrees — cool enough to add the yeast. Sprinkled the yeast on top, put the lid on, and placed it in a cool room (it has to stay between 60-80 degrees). Now, we wait. About one week until we can add flavorings, which in our case is vanilla bean!
It was and still is a long process, but when the day comes where I can taste my hard work, it’ll be worth it (I hope). I’m sure this is how everyone feels doing anything they love, whether it’s at work or home — the end product is worth all the time and effort you put in during the process.
I’ll update you readers on how it tastes when it’s ready in a few weeks!