When I picture a Local Home Brew Store I picture a location with like minded people who are there to learn from an old guy who has been involved in craft brewing from yesteryear when there was only one or two distributors of quality products. The owner is a nice guy who probably curses a lot and has that weathered look of someone drinking beer for 4 decades. He is willing to answer questions, talk about problems and generally is interested in what you are brewing, why you are brewing it, and how you are doing it.
Currently, I don’t have that relationship with my local home brew store. The resident guru clearly knows what he is talking about, but he is not at all interested in the what, why or how. So I figured I would start my own little corner of the web discussing what I am brewing, why I am brewing it and how I am doing it. Hopefully, over time, people will share their what, why and how as well!
My History With Brewing Beer
My first experience with brewing beer if you could even call it that was creating “Evanweiser.” It was horrible. It came from one of those Mr. Beer Kits where your primary fermenter looked like a barrel.
The reviews on Amazon actually indicate that a lot of people have had some good results from the kit. I am going to chalk it up to 100% my fault. It would be a fun experiment to try out one of these kits again now that I have a few years of experience.
Despite my less than stellar results (read: it was terrible) a few years later The Wife, undeterred by my first attempt, bought me another kit, a fantastic beginner brewer kit from Northern Brewer for Christmas. It came with everything needed to brew:
- A Malt Extract Kit
- A couple of fermenters
- A bottler
- Few siphons, etc. etc.
I opened up the kit, saw that the brew time was 3 to 4 hours and the kit subsequently sat in my garage for an entire year. Lucky for me, and all those that I drank my beer in the past 2 years, Little Boy Brew received a kit from his wife the following year. Both beers we made that day, a Nut Brown Ale and Maple Porter, turned out fantastic!
Tinkering with Beer Extract Kit Recipes
Over the course of the past 2 years I can’t even begin to guess how many gallons of beer we have made. Some were amazing, and some were awful (worry not, nothing went to waste). We have made a lot of beer paying close attention to the recipes provided, but one of my favorite things is altering the recipe a bit.
One of my favorite beers I have made to date is when I took a kolsche beer which is a light German beer and put 5 gallons of it on top of about 20 pounds of pureed peaches! The result was unbelievable. We have had also had some good luck with altering coffee stouts, using everything from small batch roasters to Greek coffee (we named this brew Kostaki Greek Coffee Stout after my father who ironically does not drink coffee or beer).
My Future with Brewing Beer
The next natural progress from extract brewing is all grain brewing. Home Brew Supply compares the difference,
Beer is made from grain, water, yeast, and hops. The difference between all grain and extract brewing lies in how the the sugars are acquired in the brewing process. All grain brewing is the traditional method of making beer and used by just about all professional breweries. The brewer takes crushed malted grains and mashes them to convert starches into fermentable sugar. In the extract process, this work has already been done and the sugars concentrated into a syrup or dry powder format. Malting companies produce the extract that allows homebrewers to skip the conversion process when brewing beer at home. This removes the need for a mash or handling of 10-12 lbs of malted grain. The extract format essentially allows the brewer to start a step ahead of the all grain format.
To date, the reason we haven’t made the jump is two fold. The first reason is cost. There are a few items that need to be purchased, and the prices aren’t that much of a deterrent, but it is still an extra step of research and spending a few hundred dollars. The second and more prevalent reason is the additional time it takes to brew an all grain batch. It seems from the preliminary research Little Boy Brew and I have done is that we are adding another hour or two of brew time. Currently, we brew either at night after work or weekend day – both times would be limited if the brew went from 3 to 4 hours to 5 to 6 hours (with clean up). It is an inevitable step to take, but I am just not sure when we’ll do it.
After some time with all grain recipe based brewing I would like to start making my own concoctions! This step will take a lot of research to understand a lot more of the ingredients at their very base level. I’ll worry about this after I am fully comfortable with all grain recipe based brewing.
My Hope for Your Local Home Brew Store
I often get frustrated with myself for not starting this site earlier, when I try to remember what, how, or why I created a particular beer! We have made so many different types of beer over the past few years that, at this point, are lost to time. I can’t even recreate them if I wanted because I don’t even have the name of the extract kit written down, nevertheless the way I may have altered the recipe. My main goal is to chronicle my adventures in brewing beer at home.
A secondary goal is to interact with other home brewers. I haven’t had great luck conversing on other message boards or reddit, so instead I’ll just share with whoever may be out there (knowing it will be zero for a while) about what I am up to.