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Simple Beer #1

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My uncle was a master brewer, and I must own up to being a bit of a beer snob, so I have wanted to brew my own beer for some time. I even bought myself some equipment, but I was held back by information. 

Too much information. It turns out that there is an awful lot of very detailed information out there, probably quite a bit of it written by men in Arran sweaters who know what sparging is without looking it up. Unfortunately,  they often forget that some brewers have only just started, and wouldn't know a sparge if it climbed out of the barrel and bit them.

My uncle has been dead for some time, so I couldn't ask him.

Eventually, I realised that I was guilty of over-thinking the problem.

I decided to keep it simple, and brew a craft beer suitable for sharing with friends at a barbecue. 

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Please remember that I am not an expert brewer, and that this is not "the" way to brew beer.  This is just documenting what I did for my first batch.  If you follow my example, you should produce something drinkable, from which you can experiment to find a beer that is perfect for you.

I should also point out that I am brewing this in the UK.  Here, we expect beer to have flavour. Proper beer does not need to be chilled to near freezing-point to be drinkable.  If you think that beer is yellow, cold and fizzy, then you are about to embark on a learning experience that will result in you growing up a little as a beer drinker.

Beware: it is difficult to accurately know the strength of home-brewed ales - drink responsibly, and do not drive or operate dangerous machinery after even a single glass.
 
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Step 1: The Recipe

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There, as I mentioned, lots of sites out there with lots of information.

What there are most of, though, are recipes - lots of combinations of grains, malts, hops, yeasts, sugars...

So, to keep it simple, I went for an extract method. This gives you a lot more flexibility of flavours compared to kits, but is a lot less fuss than the various full-grain methods.

So, my simple beer recipe, aimed at making forty pints* is;
  • 3kg malt extract
  • 50g hops
  • 1 packet yeast
  • Water.
For this first attempt, I decided to use a dried "amber" malt and a "Gold" beer yeast.

I bought them online, from The Home Brew Shop, but there are many other suppliers around the world.  If you are lucky enough to have a physical shop that sells brewing ingredients nearby, then I recommend you talk to them. [Edit: I've found a "real world" supplier called You Can Brew It in Diss, Norfolk. Not a huge range of malts, but enough to experiment for months, and it's easy for me to get to, and they have all the equipment you could possibly need. They also cater for cider and wine making from kits or raw materials.]


*A note on units - beer is drunk in pints, but European legislation means that ingredients have to be sold in metric units. Such is life.

Step 2: Equipment

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There's no easy way around it, to make beer you need to buy specialist equipment.

You can buy kit online from many sources, to fit many budgets.

The kit I bought contains:
  •     A 25 litre Fermentation container (a big bucket with a lid)
  •     A 25 litre pressure barrel
  •     A syphon tube (a bit of flexible pipe)
  •     A bubbler airlock
  •     A hydrometer (for checking the strength of the brew)
  •     A liquid crystal thermometer to stick to the side of the bucket
  •     Steriliser
  •     A long spoon for stirring the mixture.
You don't want lumps in your beer, so you will also need a method of filtering the liquid. You can buy special mesh bags for doing this, but I used a piece of muslin in a colander.

You will also need a cooking vessel. You could splash out on a large stock pot to cook the whole batch as one, but they cost a lot, and I'm not willing to risk the weight on my induction hob.  So, I used a normal stainless steel, five litre (one gallon) cooking pot.

Unless you are planning to host a large party on the day your beer is ready, you will also need bottles. You can buy new bottles, with reusable flip-tops, but I chose to recycle bottles, adding fresh crown caps (which meant I had to buy a capping gadget).

Step 3: Sterilising

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It is vital that you properly sterilise your equipment.

Unlike normal cookery, where bacteria are killed by the heat, brewing happens at the perfect temperature for microbes to thrive and multiply (that's kind of the point), so you need to use proper sterilising chemicals to clean your equipment before using it. If you don't sterilise properly, the best you can hope for is something that tastes really bad.

Your sterilising compound will have instructions on it, but you can sterilise a lot of your equipment in the fermentation vessel.  Do not be tempted to use bleach, as the flavour lingers in the the equipment, and on into your beer.

Glass bottles can be sterilised later, while the beer is in the pressure vessel, using the original fermentation vessel as a bucket, by boiling them in a large pan, or using the same equipment used to sterilise baby bottles.  I have also heard of people sterilising them by "baking" in an oven at 160C for ten minutes, but I've never tried that.

Step 4: Cooking and cooling

When you are planning your own brew, be aware that this stage, done to my method, takes an entire day. You need to be able to stay close for around 12 hours. You will be able to do other things between stages, but you won't be able to go to work or go shopping.

You need to cook your ingredients in about 20 litres of water (with your ingredients, that should add up to about 25 litres).  You also need to cool the mixture fairly quickly to close to room temperature, to cut the chance of bacterial growth.

If you have got a big pot, then just put 20 litres water in the pot, along with the hops, sugar and malt extract, bring to the boil and then simmer for an hour.  You will then need to cool the pot down.  There are several ways of doing this, including special "wort chillers", standing the pot in a bathtub of cold water, or standing it in the sink and letting the cold tap run down the side.

Since I was using a small pot, I could cheat on the cooling. This technique also meant I didn't have to stagger around the house with a thirty kilo bucket of hot liquid.

I boiled three five-litre pots of water, poured them into the fermentation bucket, then let them cool in a cold draught for a couple of hours (with the lid on!). I then cooked about half the ingredients, mixing them in two THREE litre batches.

Note the three litres - while you stir the malt into the hot water, a lot of foam is generated. If I had not left an extra two litres of space in the pot, and watched the foam carefully with my finger on the temperature control, I would have had a very smelly, sticky mess to clear up.

I poured the last two pots into the (now cool) fermentation pot through a (sterilised) nylon mesh bag in a (sterilised) colander, then boiled up another three litres to make up the volume, and poured that through the hops in the bag as well.

The lid went on, and I left it to cool to room temperature before adding yeast.

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A note on the smell:

I grew up in a town with a brewery. One of my lasting childhood memories is the wonderful smell of the hot wort being transferred to the fermentation vats.

Kitewife grew up in the same town. One of her lasting childhood memories is the hideous stench of the hot wort being transferred to the fermentation vats.

Consult any housemates you may have (if you live in an apartment block, then the whole building), and be prepared to do chores or sacrifice some bottles to the neighbours in compensation for the smell.

Step 5: A Note on the Hydrometer, and a warning.

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Beer drinkers used to quantify the strength of their beer by the "OG" (original gravity).

This is actually the density of the beer before fermentation began. The higher the number, the stronger the final beer, because more sugar had been converted into alcohol during fermentation. 

Brewers still use a hydrometer, but the scale also has a handy ready-reckoner to convert OG into alcoholic content by volume ("% abv").

There are also markings on the hydrometer to show when the beer is ready to be bottled, along with a handy warning;  Do not bottle (or keg) until hydrometer sinks below 1.006 or bottles will burst.

This means that you have to check the gravity of your brew before secondary fermentation, or you risk an almighty mess.

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Edit: it has been pointed out to me by a proper brewer that it is not the actual reading of the hydrometer that predicts explosions. If the gravity of your wort stays constant over three or four days, then fermentation has stopped. Personally, though, I would worry that opening the bucket too often might allow contaminants in, so I'm happy to rely on time.

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I forgot to check the OG of my brew, but I am expecting this recipe to end up at a strength of 4-6%abv

Step 6: Yeast - the first fermentation

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The yeast I used was Munton's Gold Premium Beer Yeast.

I chose this because it is supposed to be good at fermenting the complex sugars in malt, and is good at forming a gelatinous layer of sediment that is hard to disturb when pouring the finished beer.

This particular yeast is also easy to use - you just sprinkle the powder on the surface of the wort.  There is no need to hydrate or stir it in.

If you use a different yeast, make sure you use it correctly, or fermentation might not happen fully.

The fermenting mixture will produce CO2, which needs to escape.  You need to connect the bubbler airlock to the fermentation vessel (mine has a small grommet for the purpose). The airlock lets CO2 escape, but prevents air and bacteria getting back in - it needs to be part-filled with either boiled water or (cheap) vodka.

Leave your mix sitting at room temperature for two weeks. The location I used was standing on the floor next to our central heating boiler. It's reasonably warm and undisturbed.

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My brew took about a day to kick off - I added the yeast Saturday evening, but it didn't start giving off CO2 until Sunday afternoon, at which point it went crazy.  It made so much gas and foam that it didn't just bubble through the airlock, it spewed foam all over the lid of the vessel.  I ended up having to build a dam around the top of the lid with a towel overnight, just for Kitewife's peace of mind.

One good point, even after only a day, it already smells like beer!

Step 7: Secondary fermentation

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After the two weeks are up, you have a choice:

You can bottle the beer now, adding a couple of grammes of sugar to each bottle, and a little of the yeast mixture from the first vessel. Leave the bottles in a dark room for about 8-10 days for secondary fermentation and carbonation.  Make sure that the bottle stands vertical for several hours before pouring, and be careful not to pour out the sediment into your glass.

I chose to syphon the beer into a pressure vessel (a plastic barrel) large enough to take the whole batch, making sure some of the yeast went over as well, and added another 150g sugar to feed the yeast for the last few days of the fermentation.

Remember to sterilise the equipment before you syphon, and then rinse out the tube with boiled water.

The pressure vessel's lid needed lubricating with petroleum jelly (commonly known as "Vaseline" in the UK), with a smear around the gasket, and a little on the threads.

Since I forgot to check the OG, I checked the gravity at this point, and it was 1004 - still plenty of fermentation to go.

I left the barrel in a cool corner of the house for just over a week before bottling the beer.

Step 8: Bottling

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During the last fermentation, pressure could build up in the barrel.

If you just open the tap, the first beer might jet out at quite a messy speed.  So, crack the lid a little to let any excess CO2 vent off harmlessly.

Pour the beer into your sterilised bottles, and seal them how you choose (I used crown caps and a small capping machine purchased at the same time).

I have no idea how long the beer will last - some sources say as much as a year in cool storage, but we'll see...

Step 9: Naming and Labelling

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The hardest part of brewing a new beer is naming it.

Whatever name you come up with, make sure you google for it before you announce the name to the world, just in case the name is already "taken" by another brew (for instance, there's already a kind of cider called "Special K"), or has an unwelcome connotation.

Since I have been trying to keep things simple all along, I decided to call this brew Simple Beer #1.

You can design and print professional-looking labels for your bottles, but I kept with the "simple" theme, and hand-wrote the beer details on a strip of masking tape.

Step 10: Drinking!

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But, to the whole point of this project - after weeks of work, and nine long steps, does it taste any good??

Actually, yes!

As I said, I forgot to check the gravity before fermentation, so I don't know exactly how strong this beer is. By taste alone, I would judge it to be about 5%abv 6% abv.There was no carbonation from the second fermentation, so no head.

It's not very hoppy, and not very bitter, so I would class the type somewhere between a "mild" and a "ruby" ale. It proved quite quaffable, and went well with a spicy pizza, although the cloudiness threatens a wicked hangover, should one over-indulge.

I am definitely going to make this again, though I might add 70g hops next time, instead of this batch's 50g, but that's just my personal taste. I also might use a soft brown sugar in the second fermentation,  to add a caramel toffee overtone to the flavour. 

One last warning - brewing beer is a very satisfying activity, but please remember to take care in the consumption of any alcohol, but especially when drinking home-brew. Be careful with machinery, don't drunk-dial, and if you drink and drive you are a thoughtless idiot,  and ought to be disenfranchised from the entire human species.

Step 11: Final Thoughts

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A collection of points, in no particular order:
  • I am definitely going to make this again, probably near Christmas, when I naturally consume more beer than usual. I might add cinnamon to that batch.
  • My bottles are all recycled,  so I had to soak and scrub them in very hot water to get their labels off. Because we have hard water, that left a grey hazy deposit on the glass. I wiped it off with a rough cloth soaked in lemon juice. Vinegar would also work,  but I didn't want traces of the smell of vinegar around my beer.
  • Clean as you go. Beer, and its ingredients, dry sticky. Clean up spills straight away. It also stops your home smelling like a back street pub. Splash very hot water on spills,  and mop up immediately with a cloth.
  • If you use colourless bottles, store them in the dark to stop the beer degeading in the light.
  • Lightweight bottles are easier to fill without spilling. The glass is thinner, so the opening in the neck is wider.
  • Be aware of the law. You're perfectly fine brewing your own beer in the UK, but check the laws of your nation or state to check you are allowed. You also run into difficulties if you want to sell your beer. In the UK, both the person selling the beer and the premises from which it is sold must be licenced by local authorities. I have heard of brewers getting around this by giving away beer free to anybody who buys a beer mat, or charging for entry to an event,  which includes a free drink with each entry, but such games often rely on the local police being in a good mood.
  • Brewing is a friendly pastime - I doubt I could drink all 40 pints before they go off, so I'll be giving quite a bit away. About a third is already earmarked for individual friends or events. If you give yours away, ask folk to save and return the empties for your next batch.
  • Lastly, and again, drink responsibly. You don't know for certain how strong homebrew is, and you should always avoid driving or operating dangerous machinery after partaking.

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Puma681 year ago

I'm back again...lol

I won't write an essay this time. I had a friend at work ask about brewing beer. I told him, "I know of a great Instructable I can email you, once you've read it, give it a shot. If you want me there, let me know what day and we'll knock it out."

Yes, I liked your Instructable so much I remembered it a year later.

Kiteman (author)  Puma681 year ago

Sweet, thanks!

Brewing beer isn't new to me but i still enjoyed reading your instructible.
And it read realy well.
Kiteman (author)  mvan leeuwen1 year ago

Thank you!

for caramel flavor try crystal malt somewhere around 45 levibond or a little darker. Keep it up!
Go Repairs1 year ago
Good instructable Kiteman. Did you use regular tap water or was this distilled water?
Kiteman (author)  Go Repairs1 year ago
Just regular tap water.
RaptorWing2 years ago
Always enjoy reading your projects, Kiteman.
I just started brewing in January 2013 myself, and haven't done a 'beer' yet. Due to the size limitations of my stock pots (even for homebrew, I find it hard to afford 12 hours at a pop for the process) and stove BTU capacity, I have chosen no-cook varieties. I've done Mead and sparkling mead. Hard Cider and Hard Lemonade.

I'm sure there's potential for other microbial contamination from these routes, but I just have to trust that the mix is more "yeast friendly" than it is hospitable to the other organisms. Also making sure to add plenty of yeast gives it a chance to get established faster than any other little critter that may have accidentally slipped in on the back of the spoon. I also trust one of the axioms I see frequently at http://www.homebrewtalk.com "the yeast knows what it's doing."

about half of my brews have been hydrometer tested... I broke mine yesterday in the process of bottling my 9% (planned) honey beer, and I started without one. After my cousin started winemaking last year, I just had to break down and start regardless of insufficient equipment and experience. I've taken notes on every recipe I've made, and even though no two have been identical, I'm learning how different yeasts and sugars react with each other.

As far as drinking 40 pints before they 'go off' I doubt it will happen. I've heard they only get better with age, and because I tailor my recipes to about 3 gallons instead of 5, I have to CONSCIOUSLY and physically mark a bottle of each batch for age testing, otherwise it would be gone before carbonation had fully developed/matured. I won't buy an Anheuser Busch product ever again, even their "specialty brews."

I like the flip/top bottles, and bought 24 of them years ago when I tried Kombucha brewing. They cost about $2.50 USD apiece from the local brewshop. I hadn't had Grolsch since college, and was wondering if the flip top bottles were even still around. Now I can collect flip-top bottles (FULL of decent beer) for $7.50 USD for a 4 pack... it doesn't take long to do the math.

I hope you've convinced Kitewife that it is a worthwhile endeavor despite the wonderfully horrendous aromas on wort day. Keep brewing, keep experimenting, (I've added rosemary, ginger, and even espresso to various meads. I think next will be Anise and/or cloves), and keep it simple.... the yeast knows what it's doing.

beautiful color, by the way on your simple brew.
Kiteman (author)  RaptorWing2 years ago
Thanks.

I think my first improvements to this recipe will simply be timing, adding part of the hops later in the cooking, mad crickleymal suggested, and maybe adding extra yeast for the secondary fermentation, although I need to check that idea with more experienced brewers.
Depending upon how healthy the yeast is, there should be no need to pitch more for a secondary fermentation, unless you are also adding more malt or other sugars.

You might also try adding a little nutrient. I use 1 each 100 mg B-1 and B-6 vitamin and 1 Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc mineral tablet, crushed, per gallon.
Here is my 2 cents, ignore if it doesn't matter...
Regarding the size:

If you buy a 5 gallon beer kit (which is sort of what he did, but he picked the sugars) and then buy a pouch of "bottling sugar" to kick up the alcohol, you can make two 3 gallon baches from the kit.

Lowe's sells a 3 gallon plastic water bottle (complete w/ filtered water!), which is perfect for the 5 gallon kit split in half.

Then you make "hops tea", filter it, and FREEZE it. (takes 30 minutes to do this, then you wait over night to freeze)
Then you make "grain tea", filter it, and refridgerate it. (takes 30 minutes to do this)

Then you boil 1 gallon of water. Add the sugar. Add the grain tea (which cools it down) and then the frozen hops tea, which drops the temp to below 100 degrees.

You mix up some sugar, yeast, and water in a cup until it foams, and mix everything together, and dump it back in the 3 gallon water bottle. (this takes about an hour).
The jug will be bubbling within 8 hours. If not, redo the yeast step.
It is "done" fermenting at 18 hours.
Transfer it at the 2 or 3 day mark, to get the gunk out of the bottom.
After a week, transfer again, add a pinch more yeast and some bottling sugar, and then bottle.
Bottle within 1 week! The gunk in the bottom will make it spoil by the 2 week mark and it will smell like skunk.

Most of the time is spent bottling, so if you get 1 quart bottles, you will get to the beer much quicker.

You can get 1 quart cap bottles by buying mexican beer at the grocery store. The glass is good and thick. You can get brown or clear. It is abt $3.50 per bottle, mexican beer included.

I have had the beer go "bad" from age - it gets sort of blah and excessivly mellow. It loses the "crisp" character. It still tastes ok, but probably not to a super pro.
Meadman832 years ago
I have been home brewing since 1974, your first batch looks to have been done much more professionally than mine. My wife has been brewing with me since 1983. We prefer to brew English style Pale and Brown Ales.

I definitely like that you mention that this is the process that works for you and the encouragement you give to find out more.

I also like that you emphasize sanitation at every step.

Nicely done.
jwhyman2 years ago
I explored home brewing once. The need for sanitation and equipment expense was more that I cared to handle. I wondered how our ancestors did it when sanitation was not a thought.
The need for sanitation now is to control the final product. According to Wiki, fermented beverages have been consumed for over 7000 years and considering Pasteur in the mid 1800's is the one that really brought to light what "spoils" milk and fermented beverages, I think our ancestors consumed lots of things that we wouldn't find appealing. Although, now there are cultured forms of what i'm sure some would consider bad tastes in beer. Namely lactobacillus, brettanomyces and pediococcus which produce everything from sours to horse blanket tastes in beer but are making a surge in the craft beer market in the US. Once again using cultured versions and sanitation to control the final outcome.
You can easily improvise a lot of the equipment. I use a plastic 2 gallon water container bought from the store for about $8, I already had a 2 gallon pot for boiling and a large spatula to mix it with. The thermometer and hydrometer really aren't needed and a bubbler airlock can be improvised by drilling a hole in the top of the fermenter and sticking a hose in it then having the hose sticking inside a bottle or jar or similar vessel filled with some vodka.

As far as the sanitation, well, I didn't go through nearly as many steps for my beer. I made sure the water was boiled and I kept exposure to air to a minimum, and while I probably was a bit lucky, as long as you clean things off reasonably well with soap and hot water you probably should have a moderate success.

This was a pretty long brew where I added ingredients to the fermentor halfway through its fermentation too.

I'm not saying sanitation isn't important here, but don't let it discourage you, either.
Puma68 jwhyman2 years ago
As for cleaning, just use a bit of bleach and wash your stuff in your shower.
That's what I've done for years and haven't had a skunky brew yet.
I've spent maybe $300 on brewing equipment over the past 30 years. Brewing shouldn't be expensive. It should be fun!
Please give it another try.
Kiteman (author)  Puma682 years ago
I find the taint of bleach lingers in plastic containers, which is why I used the sterilising compound I chose. Smaller pieces of kit can be boiled, so no need for chemicals at all.
Kiteman (author)  jwhyman2 years ago
Early brewers did not brew for so long, days instead of weeks, so there wasn't so much time for dodgy microbes to grow.

Plus, the most usual consequence of contamination is to spoil the flavour, not to poison drinkers, and early beer drinkers were not beer snobs...
trevormac2 years ago
In the beginning God made Man.Then he made Woman.Then he felt sorry and gave him Beer.
Kiteman (author)  trevormac2 years ago
Haha!
richard19412 years ago
Here in southern California, the preferred beers are light yellow, bubbly, and served ice cold. Beer snobs ridicule me when I confess that I like it COLDER than ice: chilled in an ice bucket that is well salted. Reason: it gets HOT here except for a narrow strip within one mile of the ocean and high mountains above 7000 feet. There is a reason for everything. The following is from my college days around 1962 at the University of California, Riverside. When the authorities there see this posting, they will probably revoke my diploma! . . ...Obtain a 5 gallon glass water jug. These are no longer available in the U.S. because they have been repurposed into terrariums and amateur telescope mirrors. However, glass water containers are still common in nearby Mexico. ( I do not mean for any Australian to swim there.);   about 30 crown top beer or soda bottles, about 30 bottle caps; a ruined womans nylon stocking, a crown top bottle capping press; about 30 pinches of table sugar, three pints blackstrap molasses (my college friend had his own bee hives and substituted honey), one envelope dry baking yeast.                         .                              .                               .              Procedure: Fill the glass water jug about half full with hot water.   Leave plenty of room for foam, as you don't want a mess that the college authorities will investigate.  Cover the top of the jug with the stocking and let it cool to room temperature.   If your fine water is heavily chlorinated, let it sit and outgas another two days.   Mix the molasses and dry yeast into the water.   The water level will now be about 2/3 of the jug capacity.  Observe: watch for signs of activity like formation of bubbles and foaming.   This should be going after 24 hours.     The activity will increase, reach a peak, and then subside as the yeast suffer from sugar shortage, carbon dioxide, and alcohol.   You want to harvest the beer when there is no sugar left, but when there are still plenty of live yeast cells.  Harvest:   Prepare about 30 clean beer or soda bottles.   Place a half pinch of sugar in each.   * * * WARNING * * * Too much sugar, and the bottles will explode!    Fill the bottles through a funnel with a filter big enough to screen out dead scorpions, rat droppings, live toads, flies and mosquitos.  Storage:   Store the bottles in a secure warm location for six months.   At this time they will be ready to serve, so don't forget where you left them.   Try to pick a place that the college authorities and their student informants do not know about.   Serving:  Different people have different ways of enjoying beer.   I like it on a hot day in the summer chilled BELOW freezing in ice and salt.  It is best if enjoyed with the wench you ruined to get the ruined woman's stocking.   Modifications: more or less molasses, add or substitute honey, add or substitute table sugar.  Not everybody enjoys what the beer snobs tell them to enjoy.   * * * WARNING* * *    It is dangerous and it is probably a crime in California for minority teens other than football stars to drive naked while simultaneously drinking beer, texting, smoking dope, and serving the serving wench. But the heroic first responder police will love you for making their entire career.
Kiteman (author)  richard19412 years ago
Wow, you ought recreate that and post your own brewing instructable!
loafers2 years ago
Hey mate, I haven't had much exposure to that type of beer before, in Australia our beer (such as XXXX) appears to be similar to American beer, quite light in colour, fizzy, crisp, served chilled. Some people (like those nasty whatsits from NSW) like a good head on their beer, others (like us far more exceptional people up in QLD) don't want to waste our drink on some bubbles. The pubs in NSW serve beers with head because the people there seem to like it, in the pubs up in QLD you get ridiculed if you can't pour a headless beer. Oops, I appear to have rambled.. anyway, only one of them strange warm beers I've tried is Guiness, not sure if that's a good beer by your standings, but I didn't mind it, kinda like a weak vegemite flavoured beverage.. did yours turn out anything like Guiness. (What I mean is the flavour, I'm no expert, I'd like to know the rough flavour so I know what not to make a 20L brew of.
In Oz, by a strange coincidence, you have very hot dry weather sometimes, just like California. Ice cold beer is a refuge from the oppressive heat. Wine snobs go crazy when they see me chill their rot gut California red wine. But it is much better going past the tonsils cold, and you dont' experience the bad taste.
Kiteman (author)  loafers2 years ago
No, this was nothing like Guinness.

Proper Guinness, drunk in small rural pub in Eire, is a warm, peaty drink, quite strong.

If you come across a "red ale", like St Peter's "Ruby" or "Lancaster Red", then you're in the right ball-park, flavour-wise.
Vali-Ent2 years ago
"Here, we expect beer to have flavour."

I wish more of my American neighbors felt this way. But alas, people stray from Guinness because "OHEMGEE ITS TOO STRONG".
Kiteman (author)  Vali-Ent2 years ago
This brew of mine is probably around 5-6% abv, and the Guinness sold in the US is 5% abv, so I don't think you friends will like it...

(Many years ago, the mill I worked for was bought by Canadians. At the first staff "do", the new management encountered British beer for the first time, and the rate that Brits consume beer when there is a time limit on a free bar. The poor dears tried to keep up...)
tjesse2 years ago
For the dreaded foaming boil over, I use a clean spray bottle with distilled water in it to spray the foam. It works really well. I bought two new spray bottles at the dollar store, one for water and the other for One-Step sanitizer (no beach and fairly cheap). Label them well! I must credit Alton Brown (Good Eats, TV show) for the water sprayer idea. If you need another use for your capper check out http://www.instructables.com/id/Glass-Bottle-Tiki-Torch/
tjesse tjesse2 years ago
Puma682 years ago
My family came to America from Scotland in 1725, settling in Pennsylvania. When the Spirits Tax was passed in 1791, they started moving south to avoid taxation. You can only go so far south before you have to start heading west, hence why I live in Texas. Brewing became a 'pass down' thing from father to son in my family. We all know how to brew. Beer, whisky, wine and even make cheeses.
I am glad you put in there that "fizzy yellow beer" not really being beer from a brewers point of view. I tell people, "If you want flavor, brew an ale."
I also tell my American comrades if you have an ale, specifically a stout or porter in the icebox, take it out, pour it, then wait about 20 minutes before drinking it.
The colder it is, the less you taste. I also tell my first time brewing friends to brew a stout or porter until they hone their skills because those are much more forgiving since they are packed with flavor.
And as for "too much information" out there, you are spot on. It can be outright overwhelming for a first time brewer, ESPECIALLY if they ask a long time brewer at a brewing supply store. Those guys get on my nerves. It's not made from Alpaca tears, it's just friggin beer. It's supposed to be easy, not complicated.
I'd also like to add that I, like my father, my grandfather and everyone before them, have NEVER used a hydrometer. If you really care that much about how much alcohol is in your beer, fine. But for me, I like to brew, alcohol just 'happens', so why bother? I'm not competing for a trophy, I just brew beer I like to drink.
Great write up! I know there are some first timers out there that will appreciate this.
I only feel bad I didn't think to do this for them.
Good job.
Love the instructable, Kiteman! It gets the important points across without all the mystical mumbo jumbo that seems to swirl around the hobby that was admittedly quite discouraging to me at first, as you said, Mayej.

I'm still learning this myself, but my first successful batch involved me forgetting all the complicated junk I tried to understand from various guides and books and instead loosely following the instructions from an old homesteader's book that had about a paragraph describing the steps needed to make it.

Without even remotely following the recipe I ended up with a successful (maybe not the best, but hey, takes practice) brew that didn't even use hops. The one thing I really got out of my attempts at brewing is if you can get powdered or liquid malt extract, go for it. Just too much of a hassle trying to mash it yourself as a beginner and it's hardly cheating.

One thing I'd like to add that you suggested, is don't be afraid to use various flavorings like cinnamon or lime zest to your beers, an easy way to give it a unique flavor without having to stray from a favorite recipe.
Kiteman (author)  Puma682 years ago
Thanks for the kind words.

I was lucky enough to spend a month in San Francisco last summer, and I was pleasantly surprised to find several of my favourite British ales on sale in grocery stores, but they were all stored in fridges!
Puma68 Kiteman2 years ago
One of the great things about Texas heat. You buy some cold stout at the store, then by the time you get home it's at the right temp....lol
robbied2 years ago
The 'Bottle' reading on the hydrometer is a bit misleading. Depending on your OG and your yeast strain, your hydrometer may never read that low.
When doing a secondary ferment, you should let the first one complete (hydrometer readings constant over 2 days) then transfer to secondary fermenter as you did, then add a fresh yeast. It is the best way to reduce the sediment.

With your hops, try a couple of varieties, the longer they are in, the more they will change the flavour aspect.
1st in are the bittering hops, depending on your style you can chose low or mid alpha acid content (higher will make it more bitter). Add these as soon as you reach the boil.

2nd in are the flavouring hops, this is where most of your hop flavour will come from. Add these 15 mins before end of boil.
3rd is the aroma hops, where the beer aroma is created. These can be quite high in Alpha acid as they are only added 5 minutes before the end of the boil.
Niksko2 years ago
Just so you don't have a poor opinion of Australian beer culture, we have some great craft breweries, and 'not wanting to waste room on head' is not a common sentiment. To the fellow Aussie above, you can find St Peters Ruby Red ale at Dan Murphy's. But I'd just go ahead and make a smaller eg. 5L batch and see if you like it. As a final thing, the reason your beer wasn't that hoppy is because hop utilisation is dependant on the boil volume. I'm still not sure as to why, but for some reason 50g of hops boiled in 5L and diluted to 20L does not give the same bitterness as 50g of hops boiled in 20L.
k5cqb2 years ago
Great instructable, it's always fun to see someones maiden voyage into a new hobby.

Just a few tips from my expieriences.
If your not doing full boils, boiling your wort then boiling water to fill the fermenter. Boil the "fill" water several hours earlier and let it cool but keep it covered. When your trying to cool your wort down adding the fill water that is already cooled will help and reduce the cooling time.
There are online calculators that will allow you to input your ingredient info and give you approximate bitterness ratings and alcohol content based upon your recipe. My experience is that they are fairly accurate.
The beer cloudiness has nothing to do with a hangover. Hangovers are the body's response to too much alcohol.
The calculators mentioned above will also help you with the times in the boil to introduce the hops. Hops introduced at different stages produces different effects, bitterness, flavor and aroma.
Your off to a much better start than I was, good luck and happy brewing.
mgeier2 years ago
If you buy a good extract kit from a local brew shop, they advise staged hopping and with excellent results. I've made 5 batches now and with the possible exception of the first one they were all quite good and significantly simpler than what you have detailed here and completed in well under 12 hours including steeping grains. Still, I appreciate your spirit of adventure and admire your innovation.
Kiteman (author)  mgeier2 years ago
Thanks.

I considered kits when I first decided to try brewing, but then I thought, "what's the point of brewing somebody else's beer?". If it didn't taste exactly right, I'd have felt like a failure, and if it did taste exactly right, the five minute walk to the store for a bottle full would have been a damn site easier and more convenient...
This is a very good instructable and it is simple enough for even me to understand. I am fairly certain that at some point I am going to try this.
Kiteman (author)  spiritwalker61532 years ago
Thank you!

Don't forget to monitor the comments from more experienced brewers as well.
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