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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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mayej6 months 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)  mayej6 months ago

Sweet, thanks!

mvan leeuwen7 months ago
Brewing beer isn't new to me but i still enjoyed reading your instructible.
And it read realy well.
Kiteman (author)  mvan leeuwen7 months ago

Thank you!

kakashibatosi12 months ago
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.
RaptorWing1 year 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)  RaptorWing1 year 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.
Meadman831 year 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.
jwhyman1 year 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.
mayej jwhyman1 year 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)  mayej1 year 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)  jwhyman1 year 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...
trevormac1 year ago
In the beginning God made Man.Then he made Woman.Then he felt sorry and gave him Beer.
Kiteman (author)  trevormac1 year ago
Haha!
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)  richard19411 year ago
Wow, you ought recreate that and post your own brewing instructable!
loafers1 year 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)  loafers1 year 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-Ent1 year 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-Ent1 year 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...)
tjesse1 year 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 tjesse1 year ago
mayej1 year 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)  mayej1 year 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!
mayej Kiteman1 year 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
robbied1 year 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.
Niksko1 year 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.
k5cqb1 year 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.
mgeier1 year 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)  mgeier1 year 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)  spiritwalker61531 year ago
Thank you!

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