Brewing Beer: The Basics

Bottle your own beer by using four ingredients and following just four steps.

| October/November 2017

  • The beer renaissance in the United States has been driven in part by homebrewers -- and you, too, can brew beer at home.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/volffe
  • For your first time brewing beer at home, it's a good idea to follow a recipe.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • Combine malt extract with water to reconstitute the wort.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • After the boil begins, start adding hops at the intervals specified in your recipe.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • Sanitize your carboy or fermenter before adding the wort.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • You can siphon wort to measure specific gravity, in this case while making a barley wine-style beer.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • Pitch the yeast to your brew, and allow it to ferment according to your recipe.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • Beer aisles in the United States are overflowing with styles of beer from all different types of brewing traditions.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Dusk

There’s something about a cold brew that helps close out a hard day’s work. Beer in the United States has come a long way in the last 40 years. When I was a young man in the 1970s, I remember seeing generic beer on the shelf. At that point, it was just a commodity — a pale, fizzy beverage indistinguishable from others like it except for the labels.

These days, the beer aisle is overflowing with styles of beer from all different types of brewing traditions: British ales, German lagers, strong Belgian beers, and more. Brewers in the United States are giving their own twist to classic styles from around the world. American-style IPAs (all the rage right now) are descended from the English India pale ales, for example. This beer renaissance has been driven in part by homebrewers — and you, too, can brew beer at home that has the qualities you desire.

Assemble a Starter Kit

The most common batch size for homebrewers is 5 gallons, which makes just over 48 standard 12-ounce bottles. You can easily brew beer at this scale in your kitchen with a minimal amount of equipment. Homebrew shops sell kits that include everything you’ll need to get started, except for a large brew pot and empty beer bottles. The price of starter kits is generally between 70 dollars and 200 dollars, depending on what the kit includes. Starter kits that include kegging equipment are typically more expensive.

The main items in a brewing starter kit include a food-grade plastic bucket or glass carboy in which to ferment the beer; a second bucket to hold the beer before bottling; tubing to move the liquid from vessel to vessel; and a bottle capper.

For beginning brewers, a 5-gallon stainless steel pot will work well as a brew kettle. At a minimum, you’ll need a pot that will hold 3 gallons of boiling liquid with at least 1 gallon of extra space for foaming.

Just 4 Ingredients

Beer is comprised of four basic components: malt, hops, yeast, and water.

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