Class: How to Brew Beer
I lived in Prague for a short spell after I finished college. At the time a pint of Czech pilsner cost about a quarter at one of the beer halls in Staré Město. Four beers later, and those beverages turned into the original dollar meal.
These days I prefer to enjoy an occasional beer in a small glass, but my appreciation for different beer styles has grown as fast as the craft-brewed beer market has. At the risk of sounding indiscriminate, I will admit that I like all beer styles except for one. I also like the fact that you can get complex flavor from a few basic ingredients like malted grain and hops, and some try-it-at-home chemistry. Lifelong Learning’s How to Brew Beer class made me ask myself the question: do I make the leap from occasional beer appreciator to home brewer?
If you know many home brewers, you know that it’s possible to get REALLY into brewing. First of all, there’s the allure of beer gear — equipment and systems for cooking, cooling, fermenting, carbonating, and storing beer. Second, there are so many variations of the basic ingredients that make a beer distinctive. I counted at least thirty bins of malted grain to choose from at Salt City Brew Supply and that doesn’t even take into consideration hops and other flavors that contribute to a successful beer recipe. Third, there is some precise chemistry and math that determines a beer brewing triumph. Fourth, it is a hobby that requires space and time commitment (and patience).
A bit intimidating, eh? THAT’S what makes me want to try it! I know I will have to recruit a team for the consumption part, but I think I can handle the brewing part. Cody, our instructor for the How to Brew Beer class, made me believe this. I am determined to produce a really tasty beer.
Never give up on a beer. –Cody
As he talked about the history, styles, and science of beer making, Cody was also creating a brew from extract, which is a much quicker and convenient method of brewing. (He could probably brew with his eyes closed, but for me, that means I may be able to sneak in some Italian practice — or maybe yoga? — while I brew.) His demonstration included the most basic equipment: a large pot, a thermometer, a large bottle with a special cap for fermentation. We also discussed carbonation and storage, but those activities are a few weeks away in the process.
For basic brewing, there are simple “gateway” kits to get started. These affordable options allow you to experiment with beer science and different recipes. Once you’ve decided you enjoy brewing, you could get into much more elaborate set-ups. I’ve seen a few automation systems that were mechanical and shiny and drool-worthy. While those systems may be too much for a beginner like me, a keg system is probably in my future since the bottling process and storing the bottles would test my patience too much. Also, I drink beer by the six-ounce glass — with a keg I don’t have to worry about saving half a stale beer for later.
For those of you wanting to be on the consumption team, I’m starting a list. Keep in mind that I will be timing my Benderbrau or Botweiser beer launch for the hottest day of summer when your beer standards are at their most vulnerable. This may just be the best beer you’ve ever had.