Monday, November 8, 2010

Learn to Brew Day - 2010

This past Saturday was Learn to Brew Day - started by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA)
I enjoy bringing people into my homebrewing hobby. It is always funny to have people ask you about homebrewing and give you their impression. A majority of the time it is not a good impression. It is usually a story about an uncle who used make beer with bread yeast or a friend in college that tried to make alcohol before he was 21. It is always nice to hand them one of your beers and see their face light up with surprise. I have a difficult time with this because it is usually at a party and I only have a one or maybe two varieties. And usually one variety was an experimental batch I had fun with and the other is probably a style they don't know or don't like. As I am typing I realize that I need to create the universal beer (probably a super balanced beer, Amber Ale?). Then I always bring this type when I go to a party where I know there may be converts.
Well, my beers have had at least a small impact. I have had several friends want to learn. Home brewing is a tough thing to jump into because it does have a bit of an initial investment in money and space. This seems to be the place that many get stopped. So here is a summary of what I tell them:
You can buy online and probably the best place and is MoreBeer (In the So Cal Region)
Go into a homebrew store, the prices are a bit more but you can ask all the questions you want (but you can also call me). A few of these places even put on free classes on the weekend.
Look on Craigslist for once used starter kits. This is a great way to get stuff at half price but you do need to make sure that everything is in good shape and well cleaned.

The next big decision is how serious you want to get when starting out. Here are the basics you are going to need:
  • 1 - pot big enough to boil at least 4 gals, the bigger the better (7 gal is ideal). (You may have this already)
  • 1 - fermentation vessel - either a plastic bucket (cheap, only lasts about 5-6 batches), plastic "carboy" (medium price, harder to clean) or a glass "carboy" (expensive,breakable, but will last for ever)
  • Stopper and Airlock (allows CO2 out, prevents air in during fermentation)
  • Sanitizer
  • Hydrometer (measures amount of sugar before and after to figure out alcohol strength)
  • Racking tube (gets beer out of fermenter and into Bottling Bucket)
  • Bottling Bucket w Spigot
  • Bottle Filler
  • Capper
  • Bottle Caps
  • Brown bottles - 48 - 12 oz or 24 - 22 oz (I don't buy bottles new, they cost the same with beer in them, you just have to soak the bottles for a week and remove labels or you can start fresh with new bottles. Bigger bottles less time filling but more you have to drink in one sitting)
  • Beer Ingredients
 This year I brewed with some good friends of mine. This was to be their second batch and I was there just to observe and answer questions if need be. I also packed up my brew equipment and brewed a batch of all grain beer on the front patio. We had a couple others come over that were interested in the brewing process and drinking some homebrew. I think the plant is seeded with them.
It is always helpful to brew with others around because they ask questions and make you think through your process more. I think I will try to do this event annually. And remember the more people who learn the better chance for good beer.

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