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Homebrew chronicles, Day 1: The hardware

homebrewI never would have discovered my love for cooking had I not first fallen in love with food itself. It was a natural progression. Some of you may not know this about me, but I also love beer. Therefore, I am optimistic for my first crack at home brewing.

Home brewing is a practice as old as beer itself, but fermenting your own bottle of suds at home was illegal in the United States from the beginning of Prohibition in 1920 through 1978, when President Jimmy Carter lifted the Federal ban and left it to the states to decide. Since then, American has gone from being home to six mega-breweries to thousands of craft breweries, and twenty times as many home brewers.

Thankfully, I have a family member that is into it, and the dude makes himself some tasty beer, so he got me on board. I have heard that if you can boil water, you can make beer, so I’m feeling encouraged at this point. My plan is to document the journey along the way, for better or for worse.

Before you do anything, you have to make sure that you have the right gear, and there are some great local homebrew shops where you can get some face time with the staff and field recommendations. No matter what neighborhood you are in, there should be one relatively nearby. Hop City in West Midtown, Ale Yeah! in Decatur, Barley & Vine in Stockbridge, Brew Depot in Alpharetta, and Brewmasters Warehouse in Marietta all come to mind. I got all of my hardware online from Austin Homebrew Supply, and went to a local shop to pick out my malt extract, yeast, and hops.

Here is a breakdown of the basic hardware that I have gone with, though there are simpler kits out there that you can purchase:

1x 4+ gallon stockpot

1x 7.9 gallon plastic fermenter (or a 6.5 gallon glass carboy) with airlock

1x 5-10 gallon plastic bucket or trash pail

1x 6 ft. plastic siphon hose

1x auto-siphon (3/8”)

1x hydrometer

1x 21” stainless steel spoon

1x bottle capper

Many bottle caps, new and unused

48-60x 12oz beer bottles (non-screw top bottles, preferably dark glass)

Sanitizing solution

This is a quick list of essentials that you will need to get your homebrew on, though there is plenty of accessorizing that can be done depending on the amount of work and the style of beer you want to brew. However, this should give any beginner – such as myself – what they need to put together their first batch with relative ease.

I’d love to hear from other home brewers out there. For my first batch, I’m going with a dark ale, single stage brew. I’m sure I’m going to learn a few lessons the hard way during this process, and no step in the process has a higher probability of teaching that to me than:

Step 2: Clean and sanitize EVERYTHING….

(To be continued)

- Jon Watson, Food & More blog

14 comments Add your comment

reds

February 24th, 2012
8:14 am

I can remember in the early 90’s my dad did a home brew. I was fascinated by the process, and loved helping. I just wish I liked beer, because it would be a fun project. Can’t wait to continue reading!

ffffffffffff

February 24th, 2012
8:50 am

Solution: learn to like beer.

Hungry Gringo

February 24th, 2012
8:55 am

Way to go! I’d say homebrewing gets easier every time you do it, except that it’s so easy that you end up always trying something a little more involved and difficult!

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reds

February 24th, 2012
11:54 am

@ffffffffffff LOL i keep trying. Thanks for the…. advice. :-p

Lorenzo

February 24th, 2012
1:49 pm

Good going, Jon. Hope you enjoy the hobby. I remember the thrill of tasting my first batch. I’ve been homebrewing on and off for 20+ years, and got into it mostly because it was more difficult back then to find commercial beers that I really liked. Now that there seem to be more beers on my local store’s shelves than I can sample in a lifetime, I don’t brew much. For a few years in the early ‘2000s I thought the hobby was losing popularity, but it seems to be as strong as ever. Have fun.

B. Thenet

February 24th, 2012
2:36 pm

Just caught the bug this summer, never thought I would get into a hobby that has so much cleaning and sanitizing involved. Just bottled a Cream Ale, and I am hoping my stout that is fermenting will be ready by St. Patty’s Day.

I would recommend you get the book Radical Brewing. It is part introductory(get Learn to Brew or Complete Joy of Homebrewing for a complete intro to brewing), part brewing history, and part recipe book. A very enjoyable read.

I have nothing but good things to say about the folks at Brewmasters Warehouse and Beer & Wine Craft Atlanta in Sandy Springs when it comes to getting what I need for brewing.

Covert Hops Society

February 24th, 2012
4:24 pm

Great job John!

This may come up in future blog entries on this subject, but what helps a lot of new brewers get better is hanging out with other and more experienced brewers. Joining a home brew club can do that. the American Home Brewers Association has a listing of home brew cubs in Atlanta, Georgia and north America.

Covert Hops is the oldest home brew club in Atlanta. You can look us up in the web at http://www.coverthops.com, or go to the AHA web site to locate a club near you.

Cheers!

Covert Hops Society

February 24th, 2012
4:38 pm

And pardon me, I meant to say Jon!

George P. Burdell

February 24th, 2012
4:54 pm

Good luck and I look forward to seeing how you enjoy the process. The bad part of homebrewing is that when you make a good batch, you have plenty of takers. When it goes poorly, you have to either drink it yourself or poor it down the drain. It can be very rewarding and best of luck.

lazlodawg

February 24th, 2012
6:09 pm

Best book of all time on home brewing is called “The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing” by Charlie Papazian. I cannot recommend this book enough! Oh and you will boil over your beer. It’s some kind of law or something.

David

February 24th, 2012
7:59 pm

If you’re in your 90’s and your father did home brew: Do you remember on a hot summer day when the bottles stored under the house started to blow the tops off, hitting the floor of the living room?

bowman

February 25th, 2012
12:19 pm

Homebrewing is a great hobby. Allows for creativity and social interaction. Look forward to following installments of this piece. Agree that “The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing” by Charlie Papazian is a wonderful resource, as are owners of most homebrew retail stores.

Got a German Dunkel in second stage fermentation (lager yeast and cold-brewing have slowed down the process). Transferring a Pale Ale to second stage fermentation today. Life is good…

House

February 28th, 2012
2:30 pm

Make it easier on yourself and use big bottles. If you have a favorite sushi bar, ask them for their big beer bottles. That way you only have to wash and fill half as many bottles. They usually throw them away and will give them to for free. I got 6 cases of bottles in a week! Tell them you will give one back all filled up again!