Sunday, February 05, 2006


Over the past year or so, I've begun brewing beer at home again, a skill I learned from Phil Shipman, who you don't know.

It's a pretty simple process really, at least when you do extract brewing like I do: heat about 5 gallons of water to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, steep about a pound or so of cracked barley in the hot water for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour; mix in 6 pounds or so of malt extract, bring to a rolling boil and cook for an hour adding hops as necessary. Cool to 60 degrees F as quickly as possible when it comes off the heat, and pour the liquid into a sanitized 5-gallon bucket with a bunch of brewer's yeast. After a week, siphon to a 5-gallon glass bottle (a/k/a a carboy), leaving the yeast sediment behind in the bucket. Bottle or keg the finished brew after 2 weeks. A single batch (5 gallons, or about 2.5 cases) costs about $40.00.

I learned a trick recently, that saves about $10.00 per batch: you can reuse the yeast at the bottom of the bucket about 3 or 4 times. Thus, when I brew, I decide on what broad style I will make, and then do 3 or 4 varieties of that style.

As I type, my kitchen is littered with brown ales in various stages of production. What I suspect is a very mild, low-alcohol brown ale is waiting to be bottled. The dregs from that brown were used to make a stronger one which still needs another week in the carboy; and some fresh brown ale was transferred from plastic to carboy last night. This afternoon, we begin brewing the first batch of pale ales, which will probably include an ESB, an IPA, and a strong ale (perhaps a Scotch ale). Tonight, we'll be making a plain old bitter.

I always tell myself I'll put away a 12-pack of each brew so I can have a party at the end of summer. Sure, and monkeys may fly out of my butt.


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