For many adventurous beer lovers, sampling the world’s weirdest brews and white whales (translation: very rare beers) isn’t enough. Sure, that coffee porter was drinkable, but wouldn’t it have been even better if it had butterscotch notes? Brewing beer at home is easier than you might think and sure to excite both your palate and that of your friends. Here’s how beer lovers can get started brewing their own experimental beers at home.
Assemble the right equipment
You have two choices: buy a beginner’s brewing kit or source your own gear. A ready-to-go option can save you some money and time, though they have their drawbacks. Choose the wrong kit and you might end up with cheap equipment that doesn’t last, even worse—you sacrifice the art that is traditional brewing in favour of convenience and speed. Do a quick google search to scour recommendations from beer lovers around the globe.
If you’d rather create your own set-up, you’ll need to pay a visit to a home brewing supply store or find an online retailer. The list of must-have items will differ depending on who you ask, but generally speaking, you’ll need the following:
- Stainless steel brew kettle (five or 10 gallons in capacity, depending on how much beer you want to brew).
- Propane brew burner.
- Fermenter and airlock.
- Stir spoon.
- Food-grade sanitizer.
- Kit of ingredients.
Hit the books…
...or YouTube, to study up on the fundamentals of brewing beer at home. Get familiarized with your equipment and how to use each piece. Take the time to learn each step of the process, including how to clean and sanitize your equipment, monitor temperature, and properly bottle and store your final product. Do this before you crack open your ingredients; studying in advance will help you nail your first brewing attempt—or at least come close.
Get a few basic brews under your belt
When you’re just starting out, think of your home as your own microbrewery—go slow and stay small. Brew small quantities at a time (too large a batch can be overwhelming), stick to basic recipes, follow instructions to a T, and get a feel for your equipment before rushing out to buy new gadgets. Focus on perfecting your process before you start dreaming up funky sours and new-school session ales.
Let the beer brainstorming begin
Once you’re an old hand at brewing simple standards, you can start plotting the adventurous concoctions you’d like to be sipping. To start thinking like a true brew master, attend a local beer festival or cask event, where craft operations serve up their latest handiwork. Seek out the weird and obscure, look for trends and take note of what you like, don’t like, and how you’d improve upon some of the beers you’re sampling. Take your research home and start sketching out your own recipes. Need more inspiration? Thinking of seasonality and food pairings can help you land on promising flavour profiles and ingredients.
Treat each new brew like an experiment
When you’re ready to craft your first home brew that isn’t a basic ale or lager, prepare like a laboratory researcher would. Document your equipment, ingredients, goals, process, and outcome. Take detailed notes about what works and what doesn’t. For example, you measured your coriander by volume, not weight, and now your beer tastes like cleaning solution. Or the sour cherries you added near the end of the boil added a perfect hit of fruit flavour. Later, try the same recipes again but with tweaks, noting whether it improved the final product.
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