I can't remember exactly what was going through my head when I called Bitter and Esters, a home brew shop in Brooklyn, asking about their starter beer-making kit, but it went something along the lines of this: "I like beer, so it should be a breeze to make it—right?" Not exactly.
As I learned in one of their classes, through the guidance of many, many brewing friends who checked my work, and after making my own home brew: The act of brewing isn't all that complicated, but it's a very precise process that doesn't allow for much error. And going from being a non-brewer to being a brewer under the guidance of brewers is like learning a foreign language in total immersion. Words they considered to be basic vocabulary (mash, malt, wort) were completely alien to me at first—which only goes to show that if I can brew beer, anyone can. Before you get started, here are some basic things to keep in mind:
Now that you're ready (you're ready, right?), here is a complete, 101, beer-for-non-brewers guide to brewing beer at home:
Don't get scared off by this ingredient list! Most of the equipment is available in home brew starter sets, and recipes are available through the same purveyors.
Basic equipment for brewing:
Basic equipment for bottling:
Making Your Wort
Making Beer (!) and Preparing it for Fermentation
Allowing Your Beer to Ferment in the Fermenter
Bottling Your Beer (Hooray for Bottling Day!)
The most important thing you need to know about bottling day is that it's bad luck to bottle beer without drinking one at the same time. The second most important things are listed below.
Bitters and Esters Disaster IPA
Below is the recipe we used in this recipe, for Disaster IPA (by Bitter and Esters). Just use the ingredients below (available online and at most brew shops) and follow the instructions above for five glorious, hoppy gallons.
Grains and Extracts
2 ounces Breiss Caramel 20L
1 pound Briess Caramel 60L
3 pounds Briess Golden light dry malt extract
3.3 pounds Briess Golden light liquid malt extract
.5 ounces Kent Goldings (first wort hop)
1 ounce Galena (60 minutes)
1 ounce Cascade (45 minutes)
1 ounce Cascade (15 minutes)
.5 ounce Kent Goldings (final hop addition)
1 packages (11.5 grams) Safale US-05 Dry Ale Yeast
4 ounces corn sugar for priming
Color: 12 SRM
Bitterness: 65 IBU
Alcohol: 6.0% ABV
Was that the longest article you've ever read? Do you feel ready to brew beer? Have you used this guide to brew beer?? Tell us in the comments below!
Photos of miscellaneous equipment by James Ransom; all others by Bobbi Lin. Recipe for Rye Porter provided by the incredibly friendly people at Bitter and Esters (Hi John, Dave, and Doug!). An enormous thank you to Regan Stephens, Mike Simons, and Harry Whalen for their help, patience, and fact-checking.