So cold, it hurts my teeth. I do not care. Nothing says summer like an ice cold beer. Beer is simple. You don’t drag him. You don’t hold it up to the light. There is no need to talk about it. You drink it, and if you feel like it, you drink another. I like beer.
I enjoy a good home brew, which is why I was excited to read about the Home Brewing Contest being held this summer across Pennsylvania. It’s expected to be the biggest ever in Pennsylvania, with the top three winners of each event vying for the title of top homebrewer in the state. If you’ve been told you make the best beer, now is the time to show off your talent.
If you’ve always wanted to brew your own beer, but don’t know where to start, there’s “Homebrewing for Dummies” by Marty Nachel. Marty is an award-winning home brewer, certified beer judge, and has been a beer assessor at the Beverage Testing Institute and the Great American Beer Festival. He knows and loves beer, and can guide you from a simple first batch to more advanced procedures.
Having the right equipment to brew your beer is essential, but the items needed at the beginner level are relatively inexpensive. You really only need three tools: a brewer, a vessel in which you ferment the beer (the fermenter), and bottles to package your beer.
It sounds simple, but it can quickly get complicated. The fermenter should be airtight, but able to vent carbon dioxide. Bottles require a bottle cap, which is going to require a bottle capping device, and the list of needs is starting to grow, but don’t panic.
You can set your own level of engagement and pace. Some equipment is only needed to produce the most advanced styles of beer. Some equipment saves time and effort in the process. You’ll probably need it if you keep brewing beer, but you might not need it when you start.
There are four basic elements that make beer: barley, hops, yeast and water. There is a chapter devoted to each of these primary ingredients. There is also a chapter to discuss various additives and flavorings that are not the main ingredients of beer, such as herbs and spices.
Now you can start brewing your first batch with step-by-step procedures, from filling your brew pot to illustrating the options you have for packaging your brew once fermentation is complete. Bottling beer before fermentation is complete can cause bottles to explode. Be sure to read Chapter 13 carefully to avoid this nasty mishap.
There’s information on kegging your beer if you want to avoid cleaning, storing, sanitizing and capping the bottles, and of course the fun part of the book – the recipes. There are over a hundred, chosen for their popularity, friendliness and good taste. There is even information on specialty beers, cider and mead. Experiment and enjoy.
Home brewing is a lot like growing your own vegetables or baking your own bread. There are few things as rewarding as sipping on a cold drink you made yourself and sharing with friends and family. Beer has been bringing people together since the dawn of civilization, and nothing says brotherhood like an ice-cold beer, except maybe two…
Back-to-work tip: When I was working in the afternoon, I liked going to the bar after work, but time flies faster at a bar. Keep an eye on the time if you have to go to work the next day or if your partner is waiting for you to come home.