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One of the most enjoyable and pleasurable pursuits has been home brewing, not just from a personal standpoint, but from close friends and neighbours. Some of these got wise very quickly to my inherant talent for such and either gave me a wide berth or waited in quiet anticipation for the latest creation. I have always prided myself to brewing a good beer, the wine has been my sister's field - she knows how to produce a wine with fine strong flavour with a good nose, with seemingly common ingrediments.
The art of brewing As it says Campaign for Real Ale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without giving a history on this subject I shall only say that difference between an Ale and a Beer is one of hops. Hops were only recently introduced on a commercial scale during the early twentieth century, before which. was up to the discretion of the brewer. If a brew is made without any form of hops it becomes an ale which quite often has a head that quickly dies. With the addition of hops the beer will keep its' head a little longer and, depending on amounts of other ingrediments, will taste better.
Basic Ingrediments
Malt Extract
Sugar
Hops (optional)
Water

Yeast

 

Malt Extract
Since this commonly available in either 1Lb, 2Lb or 5Lb jars/tins I won't go into any details about the mashing process. You can now get a variety of types including flavoured and coloured depending on what you want to brew.
Sugar
You can change the flavour and colour of the beer/ale by using different types, these include - Granulated (white), Cane, Demerara (could never spell it), Candy or glucose - powdered or crystal. Whichever form or mix you choose - take care not to add too much as this can make your beer/ale too strong 13% alc/vol or more! If the sugar is burnt or caramalised it will strongly alter the colour of the finished brew.
Just a note here about all you slimming boozers out there, if you decide that sugar is too calorific and substitue it with a chemical sweetener, then don't expect too much. You will end up with a liquid which may look like a headless/sparkless beer but to taste such a brew.... urgh!
Hops
Hops (only the flowers of the plant are used) are a major factor on the flavour of brew (beer with, ale without) you end up with. Fuggles hops are the most common and they put the bitter in to bitter-beer. Usage of hops can also give a longer life to the finished brew as well as a decent head. Only one bit of advice on the usage of hops though - evacuate the house prior to use or take up pipe smoking for a day or so after. They stink and the wife'll never forgive you!
If you're still single... why do want to make beer?
Water
It usually comes out of a tap and is liquid in form, unless you co-habit with sad brass monkeys! Ok, hardness and softness. If the water in your area is 'Hard' ie a Ph value of above 7.5 then let the amount to be used stand for 24 hrs or so to soften it. If the water is 'Soft' ie a Ph value of 5.5 or below then add a small amount of Calcium Sulphate to increase its' Ph value. Normally water with a Ph value between 6 and 7 (neutral) is about right for most types of beer or ale. If you aren't sure of what I'm talking about - just ignore and skip this bit.
Yeast
Depending on what type of yeast you use will depend on speed of fermentation, the head and the flavour of the finished brew. Most people use 'Brewers Yeast' as this is made specially for brewing beers/ales. The direction of fermentation is also due to the type of yeast used, Brewers' = top down, Lager = bottom up. There are many different types of yeast on the market and each one can affect the fermentation process. Personally I use use Bakers Yeast (the stuff to make dough rise for bread) as it ensures that fermentation starts in the first place.
Preparation and Method
Prior to anything else you must be certain that your equipment is clean and sterile. The equipment you first need is :
A Brew bin (3-5 gal. capacity)
A Large 8pt (or larger) pan.
A thermometer
A hydrometer (optional)
Into the pan add 4 pts. cold (or freshly boiled) water, pour in the sugar (usually 1 Lb 8oz. min for a 5 gallon brew alcohol produced is around 4%, you can increase it to 2 Lbs if you like it strong, 2Lb 3 oz.= Lunatic Broth!) in to the boiling water and stir until fully disolved. To this soup add the malt extract - stir again until disolved. It is at this point that the soup gets to be named 'the wort' for reasons unknown by myself. Once disolved you can add the flavourings of your choice closely followed by the hops (2 - 3 oz. if used) - bring this to the boil and keep it there for between 3 and 10 minutes (dependant on what clarity of beer you require). Then leave to cool.
To the brew bin add 2 gallons of cold water then add the hot wort and stir so that a good mix is achieved - this is sufficient for a 3 gallon (24 pint) batch - if you want to have a greater capacity (5 gall.) add a further 12 pints of water; in doing this last act your finished brew will be weaker by around 3% alcohol/volume. At this point take a reading with your Hydrometer and make a note of the specific gravity (usually in the order of 1.030 or slightly above). Leave this too cool until the temperature is between 18 and 24 degrees Centigrade, when the brew has achieved this temperature you should add your favoured yeast. Cover and leave.
After the first 24 hours the brew should have started to ferment vigourously, if it hasn't - move it to a warmer spot. If that still doesn't do the job then take about a half pint of the wort, add two or three teaspoons-full of sugar and add some more yeast, cover and leave in a warm place (side of the cooker perhaps) for an hour - after which the small amount of brew should be fizzing, add this to the rest of the wort in the brew bin. Cover and leave for between 3 and 10 days.
When the fermentation has stopped, ie. no more bubbles rising or a reading of between 1.000 and 1.005 on your hydometer, then the beer/ale is ready to either be syphoned (syphon tube should also be clean and sterile) in to a clean and sterile barrel or into bottles (also clean and sterile).
If it is a barrel then add half an ounce of sugar per gallon of beer, upto a maximum of 2 ounces, stir well and secure (smear the srew thread with some petrolium jelly or vaseline - it makes it easier to remove when you clean it again) the top. Leave in a warm area for 3 - 4 days before moving to a cool place for 3 - 4 weeks or as long as you can wait to drink it.
On the other hand if it is bottles you are using then make sure they all are clean and sterile, add a teaspoon of sugar to each bottle (if they are pints, a half teaspoon if they are half-pints) and fill to within one inch of the rim, then cap or cork. Just a little advice here, if you over-prime (too much sugar) your lovely bottles will have a smashing time pretty soon (see note below or just read on). When capping it is best to get a proper capping tool rather than a hand capper and a mallet - if you ever saw the mess I got into - glass and flat beer everywhere - we needed a new carpet! Once again, like the barrel leave them covered (they need to be covered with a cloth or towel) this is purely a safety procedure to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you (see safety note below). After said time move them somewhere cool. The beer/ale should be ready for drinking after a week or so but is better to leave for several weeks (after testing of course :-)) for the brew to mature.
Now I hear you asking - why don't you just barrel - surely it is easier? The easy answer is 'yes' it is easier, but through all extra work with using bottles the beer does get to taste better and has a longer life expectancy than in a barrel or keg.

Cheers!

 

Safety Note
If you have over-primed (too much sugar in the bottles) then they can explode - showering anyone within close proximity with warm beer and broken glass. This probably wouldn't happen with a barrel in anycase as they usually have a safety pressure-valve built in, but have been known to explode.

While the bottled beer is maturing use the time wisely and make some labels for them. This especially useful when you have made two or more brews - or do you want to guess at the contents after a couple of months? Click here if you want to see some of the designs that I came up with.

Weights and measures
Please note that all weights and measures are in UK Imperial and not American or metric.

 

 

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Page updated: 28th November 2004

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