We decided to start homebrewing beer!
Updated: May 13
Me and D have decided to start brewing beer at home!! I am excited and looking forward to the journey that is ahead of us. I love beer and have wanted to give brewing a go for a while.
My love affair with beer has been long, resilient and revolutionary. All starting in Sixth Form with what I now consider terrible beer but at the time was honestly amazing. Ice cold Carling and the not so bad Kronenbourg. Back then me and beer had one goal - drink as much tasty beer as you can before you fall over.
At some point in 2012 I discovered the wonder of craft beer and this is when I truly fell head over heels for the stuff, the beautiful malty stuff. I remember trying Meantime's chocolate porter and thinking 'Is this beer? How can beer taste like this?'. I tried multiple styles -IPAs, pale ales, porters, stouts, schwarzbier (a personal fave) before even getting into sours and saisons. Trying new beers from new breweries that were popping up all across the UK become a major hobby. I became that person who could not visit the same pub and try the same beer - I had to keep trying new beers all the time. Visiting a new taproom became one my favourite ways to hang out with people, in particular my partner D.
I have wanted to have a go at brewing beer for such a long time. Towards the end of my PhD when I was hating my life while writing my thesis I remember dreaming of switching careers and becoming a professional brewer. I remember looking into brewery work experiences, and how to switch careers, then I discovered it required more study and at that point I was so so done with education. I remember looking for lab based jobs in brewing and decided that beer quality control was not for me. What I am trying to say here is that I have been into beer for a long time and wanted to brew it for such a long time.
So now it is present day and my boyfriend and I are finally attempting to brew beer. This weekend we are heading into Brew 4 so let me tell you about Brew #1!
Beer has 4 major ingredients - Malted barley, water, hops and yeast.
For ease, on our first brew we decided to go for a kit to make it easy. This provides the malt and hops element, and all you need to add is the water and yeast. After much discussion and online reviewing we decided to go with the Wilko IPA kit. It cost £12 and seemed easy enough to try out.
1) Buying the essentials
It all started with a plan and a trip to Wilko to pick up supplies. I was impressed by what they had available for brewing at home. We picked up:
- A Wilko IPA kit
- A fermentation vessel
- A siphon tube
- A hydrometer
- A brewing spoon
- Dark malt sugar
- Dried yeast
I was pretty excited to get started.
BREW DAY - 17/02/20
2) Warm the can
The kit is basically a jar of malt extract that provides the sugar that will be used by the yeast to make alcohol. However, malt extract is super viscous and apparently really hard to get out of the can so the internet said to warm it up to loosen everything up.
3) Chuck everything into the fermentation vessel
First chuck in the malt extract
The kit then suggested adding either 1 kg of brewers sugar or malt sugar. We only bought 500 g of malt sugar so we added 500 g of granulated sugar in addition to the malt sugar.
Give it all a big ole stir.
3) Add the water
We then topped it up with water until we reached the 23 litre mark on the fermentation vessel and stirred vigorously to aerate the mixture so it is ready for the yeast.
4) Add the yeast
The general advice on the internet was to avoid using the yeast that came with the kit. This is because you have no idea how long the kit has been sitting on the shelf so the viability of yeast might be too low. We listened, bought a new pack of yeast and sprinkled it in.
5) Hydrometer reading
The hydrometer reading is critical for estimating the ABV of your beer. It works by measuring the sugar level in your beer before and after fermentation. Sadly the hydrometer we bought was broken so we have no idea what our starting gravity but the kit predicts the final beer to be around 4% ABV.
This is when the yeast takes centre stage and turns all those lovely sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Got to love Science! According to the kit, this should only take 4-7 days which is a joke because it took almost 2 weeks. Fairly consistent with the what forums were saying.
BOTTLING DAY - 01/03/20
After 2 weeks of fermentation the beer was ready for bottling, which meant transferring the beer from the fermentation vessel to separate bottles and carbonating the beer. Bottling day meant more kit:
- Empty beer bottles (500 ml)
- Crown caps
- Bottle capper
- Carbonation drops
I learnt bottling day means sanitise, sanitise some more and if in doubt sanitise some more. So much sanitising is required!
Eventually we got round to adding 1.5 carbonation drops to each bottle, topping it up with beer via the siphon and capping it using our trusty bottle capper. Exciting times. So many bottles of beer - 40 bottles to be exact. Ready for two weeks of carbonation. Almost time for beer!
WE FINALLY HAVE BEER! - 15/03/20
It look 2 weeks of bottle conditioning but we have beer! It smells and tastes like beer. Maybe not my favourite ever beer but I am so so proud! Would I pay money have it? - heck no but we made beer!!!