Before getting into this guide let's take a moment to commend you for selecting one of the most rewarding and enjoyable hobbies out there. Great choice!
From the 1870s up until prohibition in 1920-1933, American craft brewers were doing fairly well. After prohibition was repealed it took nearly 60 years for the industry to grow again! And grow it has - in 1986 there were about 100 craft breweries in America, and today there are over 3,000.
With a history dating back over 7,000 years, the styles, ingredients, approaches, and methods of brewing beer range from simplistic to advanced. For the sake of this beginner guide, we'll cover the basics of homebrewing and briefly touch on some of the different tangents you can take.
The Basic Brewing Process
Many commercial breweries follow a very similar process to homebrewers, just on a much larger scale. We create a wort, add hops, and throw in some yeast to stimulate fermentation. Let's take a closer look at each of these steps:
Cleansing & Sanitizing: Before doing anything, we have to perform the least fun part of brewing. Popular no-rinse cleansers like OneStep make this process easier.
Mashing: This process is how we get sugars from the grains we're using. If we're using malt extract we don't have to worry about this step which is what most new brewers use, known as extract brewing. The more advanced we get, the more likely we're to perform all-grain brewing where we create a mash from crushing our grains and hot water in a vessel known as a mash tun.
Wort: After creating our mash from the extract or all-grain process, we then boil and add hops throughout the boil to create our wort. Hops added at the beginning of the boil help form a desired bitterness profile, hops added in the last thirty minutes work towards a specific flavor profile.
Fermentation: Fermenting buckets are used for transferring our cooled wort for storage. Once we have moved our wart into our first (primary) fermenting bucket, we pitch a specific yeast on top. The yeast will then begin to chow down on all the fermentable sugars, while carbon dioxide and ethanol are produced. Sediment known as trub will form at the bottom of the fermenter (trub contains inactive yeast, proteins, and heavy fats). Secondary fermenters are used to leave trub behind and form a clearer beer.
Carbonation: Most new brewers will boil priming sugar and add this in before bottling their beer. A slightly more advanced method is called force-carbonation, where we use a keg and special bottling equipment to achieve an accurate carbonation level.
Recipes & Logs
One morning you might have a great idea for a beer. Maybe you want to go crazy and make a chili-chocolate stout or a raspberry lime wheat. Whatever crazy concoction you come up with you can actually make. Chances are that someone has attempted something similar and you can use their recipe as blueprint.
A few helpful sites/links for recipes and communities are:
When brewing any beer it's important to keep a log for measuring ABV & potential yield, as well as custom notes about smell and taste to help you refine your own recipe. A good hydrometer is necessary for taking these readings.
There are many additional nuances to homebrewing that will be added to this beginner guide in the near future