Making your own beer is a
craft that even your friends and family can enjoy.
As a young lieutenant
stationed in Monterey, Calif., Cmdr. Joel King, USN-Ret., heard about a
nearby home brewing store and thought brewing his own batch of beer
sounded like a great idea. He visited the store and came home with a
simple home brewing kit.
King’s brewing got off to a rocky start in
the tiny kitchen that he shared with his wife, who immediately discovered
she could not stand the smell. The wort boiled over on the hottest
afternoon of the summer—King could not cool it enough—and then hops
clogged the siphon tube. But eventually he took the brew to the coolest
place in the house—the bedroom. The next morning he awoke to the glug-glug
of fermentation gas bubbles escaping the airlock, music to every home
brewer’s ears. He has been brewing ever since.
Today, King, 43,
brews in a self-designed 15-gallon brewery with a high-temperature
magnetic-drive pump and heat exchanger coils. “I may be a bit overboard on
the toys of the hobby—and I certainly know many other home brewers with
half the equipment and twice the product—but I have a great love for the
process, and an even greater understanding of those immortal words, ‘Give
a man a beer and he wastes an hour, but teach a man how to brew and he
wastes a lifetime.’”
King isn’t alone in his hobby—some 250,000
Americans make their own home brews, according to the American Homebrewers
Association (AHA) (www.beertown.org), which supports more than 700 homebrew
clubs. Paul Gatza, the director, learned about home brewing while shooting
pool with friends about 12 years ago.
“Within 10 hours I bought my
equipment kit and first two ingredient batches. After calling the shop a
few times with simple questions, I had a successful batch going,” he says
Brew’s for You” for recipes).
Before 1978, when the surge in
home brewing began, there were a handful of homebrew supply shops, mostly
catering to winemakers. After a boom in the early 1990s, however, home
brewing has exploded in popularity.
The real nectar of the gods
There’s nothing new about
brewing beer at home. Medieval monks drank home brewed beer as a
supplement to meals, and it especially was helpful during fasts. This
nutrient-laden brew was heavy and dark and had a lot more malt than
today’s beers, making it rich in B vitamins. Classified as a beverage, it
resembled oatmeal in consistency and gave a nice kick to periods of
But the fascination with home brewing has been around
longer than that. The oldest records of brewing date back as far as 6,000
years ago. Ancient Sumerians discovered the fermentation process by chance
and are reputed to be the first civilized culture to brew beer, offering
the divine beverage to their gods. Romans, Babylonians, and Egyptians
carried on the tradition, and amphora (clay jugs) found near present day
Kulmbach, Germany, date back to 800 B.C., the first evidence of beer
brewed in Germany.
Former U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr.
Eric Hanson, 34, of Portland, Ore., began brewing ales in 1988 as a
college student in Aberywstyth, Wales. “Ingredients were widely available
at local [drug stores] in the United Kingdom, and it was cheaper to make
your own than to buy it in a pub.” His beers improved through medical
school; years spent serving in the Navy in San Diego and Groton, Conn.;
and a residency at the University of North Carolina, where he perfected
his All-Grain Raspberry Ale recipe.
“A neighbor had several pints
of raspberry ale at one of my parties—tasty, hides its strength well. He
literally crawled home afterward,” says Hanson. “Luckily, he lived next
Former Air Force Capt. Reed Racette, 34, got into the act as
a result of tasting beers from all over the world. “I liked the idea of
brewing my own beer, but so many of my friends had tried brewing and
produced such awful beers that I had decided to be content with the
store-bought stuff.” A friend’s pumpkin ale, however, tripped Racette’s
trigger and he began making his own brews with a recipe from Maryland Home
Brew (MHB) (www.mdhb.com),
which gives military members a 10 percent discount.
Brewing on premises
Retired Air Force Col. Frank
Rohrbough, 64, had enjoyed the brews of Germany and England while serving
in Wiesbaden, Germany, in the mid-1960s. “I have had a yearning to brew my
own beer, but I did not want to go through the hassles of doing it at
And then came the answer: brewing on premises. In 1993 in
Alexandria, Va., the Shenandoah Brewing Company (www.shenandoahbrewing.com) opened its doors. The staff
made it easy for Rohrbough by providing the facilities, equipment, recipes
for ales and lagers, ingredients, bottles, and labels. Brewing on premises
is a good way to learn whether this hobby is right for you. Recipes are
tried and true, and the brewery’s staff is there to help you along and
A typical batch makes about 16 gallons, or about
five-and-a-half cases of beer. “The best part is that it is my beer—my
brew, with my labels,” Rohrbough says. The only worry he has is marking
his calendar to brew a new batch before the last one runs out.
Lee Lange II, USMC-Ret. Also enjoys brewing outside his house. “I became
interested in home brewing because I like beer and because I received a
one-time-use home brewing kit a few years ago as a gift,” says Lange. The
beer was good, “but I failed to close a valve on a brewing bag when I was
adding hot water to the ingredients and I had sticky stuff all over my
kitchen.” When Lange, 55, began looking for a system for his home, he was
still in the military and moving around. So two years ago he teamed up
with Rohrbough in brewing on premises. “No investment in equipment, no
smells in the home, and it’s fun to do since we can sample as we make the
beer,” Lange says.
Tips from the “pros”
Our beer “experts” agree that
three things make the difference between success and failure: Use
high-quality ingredients, keep everything clean, and follow a good
“The key to being a great brewer from day one is to brew in
a sanitary fashion,” says Gatza. All equipment that comes in contact with
the beer after the brew kettle should be sanitized, and contact with air
should be minimized. For clean up, Gatza suggests a bleach solution or
Once you’re used to brewing, you might want to use
a program such as ProMash (www.promash.com). It calculates how much fermentable
sugar will be available out of your malt, how bitter the beer will be, and
what color your beverage will be.
Another important tip is to have
fun while brewing. Even if your friends aren’t interested in home brewing,
they might want to taste your product. There are even groups such as the
Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP) that host great meetings and
beer-related events. Racette, a BURP member, says that getting to know new
people is just one more benefit of brewing your own beers. “It’s really
cool to serve your own beer at parties,” says Racette, “but the best part
to me is the people you meet.”
|This Brew’s for
The basic ingredients— malted barley, hops,
water, and yeast—are all you need, though you can add other
fermentables. Hanson suggests such sumptuous additions as
fruits, honey, molasses, vegetables and other grains. One of
the great things about brewing your own beer is the ability to
try new and different things, but if you would rather follow a
recipe, here are a few tasty beverages to try
All-Grain Raspberry Ale
8 lbs. American II Row pale
_ lb. 60 L crystal malt
_ lb. Carapils
_ lb. flaked wheat
2 tsp. gypsum
1 tsp. Irish
½ oz. Willamette hops
1 oz. Fuggles hops
Kent Goldings hops
1 vial White Labs California liquid ale
Mash at 147-150 degrees for 1
Raise temperature (while stirring) to
Sparge with 6 _ gallons water at 180
Bring wort to boil; start timer.
10 minutes into the boil, add ½ oz. each of Willamette and
After 65 minutes, add ½ oz. of
After 79 minutes (last minute), add Kent
Place beverage in 5-gallon fermenter and
allow to ferment until almost completed (about a week). Then
pasteurize 5 lbs. red raspberries (heat on stove at 140
degrees for ½ hour). Then add raspberries and beer together
into a secondary, larger (6-gallon) fermenter. Allow to
ferment another week, then siphon the beer off the fruit and
into a third fermenter and allow to settle out prior to
kegging or bottling.
Paul Gatza’s Downhill
3.3 lb. John Bull English Ale
Hopped Malt Extract
4 lb. Munton’s light dried malt
½ oz. U.K. East Kent Goldings Hops
1 pack (11.5 grams) Edme Dried Ale Yeast
corn sugar (at bottling)
1 ¼ cup water (at
Bring 1 ½ gallons water to
boil, turn off kettle, and stir in malt extract until
dissolved, then return to boil.
Boil for 10 minutes,
then add hops.
Turn off the kettle, cool in snow bank
or ice to approximately 75 degrees.
fermenter, add remaining water then yeast.
Siphon to second fermenter for seven more
Boil corn sugar and water for about 5 minutes,
place in bottom of bottling vessel.
Siphon beer onto
corn sugar mixture, then bottle.
Try beer at five days
to test carbonation. Continue testing at leisure until batch
Maryland Home Brew’s
(Courtesy www.mdhb.com, or
call 1-888-BREW NOW)
2 cans (3.3 lb.
each) light malt extract
1 lb. Belgian aromatic malt
½ lb. crystal 80
1 oz. Styrian Goldings hop
1 oz. Willamette hop pellets
1 oz. Willamette
One vial White Labs British Ale yeast
Steep grains in hop bag in
1.5 gallons water at 155 degrees for 30 minutes.
grains, add malt extract, and bring to a boil.
oz. Styrian Goldings; boil 30 minutes.
Add 1 oz.
Willamette hop pellets; boil 20 minutes.
Add 1 oz.
Willamette leaf hops; boil 3 minutes.
Turn off and let
steep 10 minutes.
Combine wort with water to make 5
gallons. Remove leaf hops.
Pitch yeast when wort
temperature is between 70-80.
fermentation, allow to sit in fermenter at 65-70 for about 7
days, then use a sanitized hydrometer to ensure beer has
reached its final gravity.
For TWO-STEP fermentation,
rack to a secondary fermenter (glass carboy) after 5 days and
allow to sit another 10-14 days before bottling.
bottle. To prime, dissolve corn sugar or dry malt extract in
two pints boiling water for 15 minutes. Pour mixture into
empty bottling bucket and siphon beer from fermenter over it.
This ensures priming sugar will disperse evenly through your
beer. For proper carbonation, store beer at 75 degrees for at
least first week after bottling. This allows yeast to feed on
priming sugar and produces the carbon dioxide for carbonation.
It’s ready to drink, but will improve with