Lots of people who come to my classes (in particular my Bread and Beer class) ask about the beer that they taste at lunch. How do you do it? Is it easy?
I love the fact that people are becoming more discernible in their beer-drinking. Gone are the days of being forced to drink weak, tasteless fizzy lager. You can go into pretty much any pub now and get really good beer. Yes, you may have to pay a small fortune for a pint of small-batch craft beer (this is not a joke – I saw a photo from a mate with a pub specials board that had pints going for £7.50). Suddenly, brewing your own beer seems to make a bit of sense. It’s fun, and once you get past the jargon, you will be surprised to find how easy it is.
On my last brewday I took live photos to add to my Insta stories through my brewday; it was great for the followers who have asked me how it is done – here are my photos with a little bit of explanation – this is meant to be an overall guide. You can go into a LOT more detail, should you wish to venture down the rabbit hole…
First job – steralise EVERYTHING. Clean everything and then either boil it or tip boiling water over it. We don’t want that beer getting contaminated with wild yeasts and bacteria (unless we are making a Belgian-style sour beer. See what I mean when I say rabbit hole?).
Different grains have different characteristics – Maris Otter is a good clean pale malt.
We then add some hot water to make a porridge. This porridge is called the mash. The natural sugars in the malt get taken into the water, which we strain off and keep.
We strain off the porridge juice (this is called wort), into a boiler. After the grains have been strained, we spray hot water over them to get any last sugars out. This is called sparging. Don’t just chuck out the grain though – it is AMAZING in bread. Perfect livestock fodder too.
Hops add amazing aroma and bitterness, and there are hundreds of varieties. Given the combinations of hops and amounts of each, the possibilities are endless!
We get the wort up to boil, and drop the hops in. Adding the hops at different times will add different depths of flavour, bitterness and/or aroma. This is US-style IPA, so VERY hoppy.
Some people like hazy, cloudy beer. I’m not a fan. To get the haze (which is made up of proteins) out, we add Irish Moss, which is powdered carrageen. We do this at the end of the boil, and it latches on to the proteins which get heavy and drop to the bottom, just like magic. This sediment needs time to settle, and is why when you buy craft beer, you have to rest it for a day or so before drinking. Fun fact – Irish Moss is the vegan approach to getting sediment out of the brew. You can also use gelatine, and most beer finings are made out of fish guts. Yes, really.
Once the wort has boiled, we need to chill it as quickly as possible. I created a wort chiller by wrapping copper pipe into a coil, then attaching it to an outdoor tap to get cold water through it. It needs to get to room temperate quickly.
You can use bread yeast – in fact baker’s yeast was originally isolated from a brewer’s yeast. But it won’t taste great. Again, different yeasts have different flavours. The tropical, banana-like flavours you get from a wheat beer is mostly from the yeast rather than the grain.
Yes, that’s really it.
Simply wait a week and put it in another fermentation vessel with a bit of sugar for the yeast to have another round of fermenting, and you’re good to go in a few weeks.
Dry hopping simply means adding more hops to the beer once it’s cooled. It’s an optional extra, and I want this brew HOPPY.
And that’s it – cheers!