Beer brewing has been practiced for thousands of years. It is the leading ingredient in many great books of fiction and tall tales, and without beer many of us would not be here today. There’s a good reason why 133 billion litres of beer are sold each year. From multinational companies in Canada to brewpubs in Maboneng, beer is everywhere and varies in taste from brewery to brewery.
So what stops you from brewing your very own suds at home? The answer is much simpler than you’d think: nothing. There is not a thing that stops you from crafting your own beer, buddy. If I can do it, you can do it better. Herein is a crash course for those who need that final push – let’s call it How to Brew Beer in 700 words or less…
First we need to understand what brewing is. Brewing is the art of converting the starch in cereal grain (barley) into simple sugars and then having the yeast convert those sugars into alcohol by way of yeast fermentation. Easy? Of course it is.
To that we add hops to flavour and preserve the beer, but we’ll get to that in a bit. So, where do we buy the ingredients from? That’s the easiest part of brewing, my dear. National Food Products in Emmarentia. NFP is the oldest home brew shop in the country. It was started by a guy from Eastern Europe who moved to Johannesburg in the 1950s. He painted the shop’s windows completely white because he wasn’t sure if it was legal to sell the items necessary to make beer with; thus the name National Food Products, because all the ingredients could be used as a source of food. The address is 93 Komatie Street, Emmarentia. Today, Dave Wood is the go-to guy when it comes to the best ingredients for beer brewing.
Let’s start, shall we? There are three ways to home brew. The cup-ah-soup method, and the half and full grain methods. Each method has its benefits and downfalls. The cup-ah-soup way would be to buy a Coopers premade tin, add the water and yeast and then stir the mixture all together, wait and bottle. The prepacked kits usually lack flavour and fall short in overall body and originality.
The half grain way would be to buy the grains as well as malt extract, yeast and hops. This is the method which most home brewers prefer because in this method, a lot of fine tuning possible.
An all grain method means that all the starches and sugars that go into the beer are all extracted from grains without the use of malt extracts or other sugars such as dextrose or lactose sugars – this is the most scientific and hardcore way to brew… but we only have time for the half grain today.
The only specialised equipment needed would be a 25L fermentation bucket, which is a food grade plastic bucket with a tap at the bottom and an airlock in the lid, a thermometer that goes well above 100 degrees Celsius, and then a hydrometer to measure the sugar content of your brew. All of this can be purchased at the above-mentioned NFP.
This is a brief overview of how to brew and not a step-by-step recipe – what we want to do is wet your pallet and get you brewing in no time.
The barley is soaked in hot water at around 63 degrees Celsius to extract the sugars, and then the barley is removed and hops are added to flavour the sugar solution. Once this is done the solution, or wort as it is called, is cooled down to around 20 degrees Celsius and brewer’s yeast is added. The yeast ferments the sugars, releasing Carbon Dioxide and ethyl alcohol. When the yeast has done its job we bottle the beer with a little bit of sugar to provide the carbonation – this is called priming the brew.
Do yourself a favour and do an internet search for How To Brew by John Palmer – you’ll feel like a scientist after reading that book. So what are you waiting for? Go brew already!
by Shawn Greyling