Home Brew (Microbrew)

Home brew (aka microbrewing in USA) is easier than most people realise, much like bread making. You can, overcomplicate it but I take the easy path. I enjoy the entire process except for the cleaning. The basic kit will set you back about $100-$150. Not much of an investment at all and you will be guaranteed the quality of it will be better than your mass produced tinnies. You do get the occasional hiccup like too gassy – probably too much sugar in the bottling stage, too much head (quite a few batches had heads going for 2 minutes and still wouldn’t stop), exploding bottles (wayyy too much gas), way too alcoholic (once again a little too much sugar) and other mishaps. But don;t let this scare you away.  When it turns out right, it is a great satisfaction. And economical at the same time.

The process is probably a 4 stage process if you get the materials from a specialty shop or even your supermarket. The first stage is the actually “cooking” and this takes a relaxing afternoon. The second stage is the fermentation, which just requires some time in a cool place and you talking to your beer daily. The 3rd stage is the bottling, which takes about 2 hours. The 4th stage is simply to let the bottle mature for another 4-6 weeks. And then there is the cleaning, which is the most laborious and not so enticing part.

I went to my brew shop and said I want a Czech Pilsner. They said “Take this can”:

Normally you get a 2kg can of malt and another kg bag of special brewing sugar. This product is all integrated. The brewing container is essentially a 25 lt vacuum with a tap. You can whack on a brewing temperature strip. It tells you how warm the liquid is before you pop in the brewing yeast, the packet of which forms part of the brewing malt. The malt itself is like a thick fragrant molass or very dark honey. It smells of toffee and almost edible – much like molten lollies before it sets. This particular can in not pretty looking and I hope it does the trick:

Instructions are quire simple:

Mix with some hot water and wait for it to cool down.

This is where the temperature strip comes in. The more fanatical have been known to wrap their container with blankets during winter to keep their brew warm.

After reading some magazines until the water to cool down to the right temperature, you simply pop in the brewing yeast.

You then pop on the lid and an airlock. The yeast will then ferment and pass gas through the airlock.

Within 24 hours, the yeast will eat up the molass and happily let off gas. You will then know it is alive!

Every day thereafter, I would take a quick sample. And it tastes like flat beer but you can tell the beer is taking shape. It is almost drinkable. Guess this is how the monks did it in the middle ages.

After about 7-10 days, the bottling begins. The bottles are recycled from a previous batch. If you run out or have breakages, just replenish by buying some long necks (750ml bottles) from your local bottleoe, drink it and clean it.

With the bottling, you add 2 drops of bottling sugar blocks. This gives it further fermentation within the bottle. The yeast will produce gas and this makes the beer cheery with carbonation. The more professional and hardcore will keep container without bottling into  a special fridge with the nitrogen tank next to it to give instant  carbonation when you pour the beer.  And by special, I don’t mean buying a German built temperature/humidity controlled expensive piece of purposely built fridge.  Most people use an older smaller, sometimes discarded fridge and drill some holes in the door for a tap/tube and also for the nitrogen.

The kit also comes with an alcohol gauge. It is simply a floatation device and measures the relative alcohol content. You are meant to have a control measure at the beginning of the brew and float the measure for the final alcohol content after going through a simple calculation. This part I don’t do and just left the ingredients do their magic.

At the end of the tap, you insert a tube with a spring-loaded valve at the end to fill up the bottle.

Pop in the bottle and listen to it gurgle to the top.

And then you pop on the cap with a simple hand operated machine.  This, I bought as an extra and well worth the money.  You can see a spring operated bolt on the square stem.  This will adjust for the height for different bottles.  Easy to maintain (what maintenance), operate and let the lever do the heavy work.

Et voila. The final product. Wait 6 more weeks, put in fridge and hope for a hot sunny afternoon.

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