My Thanksgiving weekend didn’t include a turkey, tree, or even a single Mariah Carey song, but it did include an afternoon of brewing beer—which I’d argue is just as holiday appropriate.
On Sunday, after three days of baking pie, playing cards, and taking long, chilly walks, I coaxed my boyfriend away from a crossword puzzle to brew some beer with me. While it was already a little late to be starting the three-hour process—made even longer by an unexpectedly lengthy boil time, a leaky sanitizing solution, and a bodega-run for more ice—it ended up being one of the best things we did all weekend. Brewing beer filled our apartment with the smell of warm grains, gave us the excuse to chat for hours while working on a project together, and provided us with Christmas and Hanukkah gifts for 50 of our closest friends and family. Here are 10 reasons to brew beer with your family and friends this holiday season:
1. It’s an activity that gets you moving—without having to leave the house.
Once you've sledded your heart out and built a snowman that may have cost you a digit or two, the only thing you'll want to do is cozy up and watch the snow from the warm side of the window. After mastering the card house and watching It’s a Wonderful Life, brewing beer is the ideal indoors activity to get you up and moving (you'll be sloshing around buckets of all shapes and sizes)—no sled required.
2. It’s something the entire family can get involved in.
There are a lot of steps involved in brewing beer, which means a lot of jobs, so it’s something best undertaken with a buddy or five. Have your task-master uncle be the “Project Manager,” your niece read aloud the recipe, your mom be the time-keeper for each hop addition, and your cousin help you aerate the wort (also known as pre-beer).
3. It takes a set amount of time that’s easy to commit to.
Depending on the strength of your stove and how long it takes your wort to cool, brewing beer (before bottling) takes between two-and-a-half to three hours. That’s just long enough to make it an event worth inviting some neighbors over to, but short enough that your friends and family shouldn’t have any trouble committing fitting it in between meals. (Which is more than we can say for that 8-hour Monopoly game you started last year.)
4. It has a lot of time for breaks (for things like playing cards and setting up that Monopoly board).
While brewing beer can take up to 3 hours, there are a lot of breaks. It takes the grains about 30 minutes to steep, the wort generally boils for an hour as hops are added to it periodically, and the whole concotion can take 30 to 45 minutes to chill. These short breaks of time are the perfect opportunity to get started on other holiday activities:
- Challenge yourselves to a game of Pictionary—whoever has the most points by the time the wort has cooled wins!
- Make yourself a hot chocolate or a cocktail (just reserve some of the ice you were going to use for chilling the wort!).
- Gild the halls, make your own stockings from old t-shirts, press leaves and flowers.
5. A beer kit’s a great gift—and it can be used as soon as it’s unwrapped.
Remember when you unwrapped a toy and started playing with it immediately and didn’t stop until well into the evening? A beer kit is the grown-up version of that. A complete starter kit with fermenter buckets and everything else you need can cost around $90, and a recipe can cost as little as $30 if the person you're gifting already has the equipment. Best part? They can start brewing as soon as they open it!
6. And it self-generates even more gifts and party favors!
A five-gallon brew kit will yield roughly 48 bottles of beer—that’s plenty to give away to family and friends either as beer brewing party favors or as Christmas or New Year’s presents! Cheers to the New Year—have a beer!
Have Your Beer and Eat it Too:
7. It’s good luck to drink beer while you make beer
Beer brew lore has it that it’s good luck to drink beer while making beer, and sharing a dark stout together may be just the thing to inspire holiday cheer.
8. You can make cookies or bread straight from it.
9. It makes the entire house smell good.
After the grains are added to the wort to steep, the entire kitchen will begin to smell like like a loaf of bread is in the oven. And we don’t know about you, but to us, the smell of fresh-baked bread beats pine-scented candles any day.
10. Brewing beer creates another excuse to get together after the holidays!
Since it takes most beer roughly two weeks to ferment in the bucket before it gets bottled, you’ll have another excuse to get together with your loved ones for bottling day. And then be able to send them on their merry way with beer!
11. You have beer afterwards.
Because the best part of brewing bears repetition: Brewing beer means beer.
Will you be making beer this holiday season? Do you have plans for another untraditional project? Tell us in the comments below!