I mean . . . why?
If you live in a city of any size these days, it’s hard to throw a shaker pint and not hit a craft brewery in the head (ask me how I know). Chances are, the beer at your local brewery is not half-bad and is only getting better. So when I tell you I spend five hours mashing and boiling a load of wort to then spend three weeks intermittently coddling yeast to then stare at cases of bottles for three weeks until they are ready to chill and enjoy, it’s understandable that my statement raises an eyebrow. It’s also understandable, if you know me, that you might call me out for force carbonating a new keg and skipping the three-week waiting period. But still. Why do we homebrewers go to such lengths to make our own beer when it is so readily available at the store or local taproom?
The easiest way to answer that is that either you get it or you don’t. While that may not sound fair, there’s a lot of truth to it. I could tell you about the abstract element of imagining a specific beer on the market and following a clone recipe to see how close you can get. Or the huge deal that is pulling a handle on a frothy draft and handing it to a friend who simply can’t fathom this was made at home. Or tasting a very pricey bottle and knocking out a close facsimile for half the price. Or the bottomless dorky joy that is yeast wrangling. Or the ridiculously fast return on investment (ROI) on equipment setup. Or the almost meditative respite from life that comes from standing around a burner in the backyard. Or the long-lasting friendships that develop around said burner.
But no, without you standing here in my garage, with a full and foamy pint of crystal-clear three-year-old barrel-soured group brew that cost me around $0.75 and lots of love and time, and hearing the full story of how we came up with the recipe and spent a crazy day getting the wort made, and how Larry down the street brought back a bottle-conditioned beer from Old Belgium that we used to propagate the yeast…you either get it or you don’t.
The saddest part is that you’re also not trying my dry Irish stout one tap over, which any good Irishman would be happy to order two of and which took me all of three weeks to bring to glass. Nope, all I can do is tell you there is a thing, a beautiful thing, about brewing your own beer. And maybe give you a starter recipe. If you think you can’t brew your own beer, I’m here to say that you can. Find your local homebrew shop and give it a go. You might get it.
“It” Irish Stout Recipe
Batch size: 1 gallon (3.8 liters)
Two 3-gallon (11-liter) stock pots with lids Large nylon straining bag 8 Grolsch-style flip-top bottles Small funnel Large spoon
1.5 lb (680 g) pale malt, crushed 6.4 oz (181 g) roasted barley, crushed 6.4 oz (181 g) flaked barley 1 oz (28 g) Goldings hops pellets Safale US-05 or another clean yeast strain 2 Tbs table sugar
- Heat 3 qt (2.8 l) of water up to 162−166°F (71−74°C), put the grains in the nylon bag, and add the bagged grains to the water, being sure to smoosh and stir to wet the grains. You should see the temperature drop to around 150° (66°C), give or take.
- Go watch a movie or throw a frisbee for an hour.
- In the second pot, bring 3 qt (2.8 l) of water to near simmering and dunk the grain bag in and smoosh to rinse. Drain the grain bag and toss. Add the contents of one pot to the other and bring to a boil. Be sure to clean that first pot very well; you’ll need it in a bit.
- Once boiling, add 0.5 oz (14 g) Goldings hops and boil for 55 minutes. After 55 minutes, add the other 0.5 oz (14 g) for another 5 minutes and then remove the pot from the heat.
- Place the pot in an ice bath and stir with a clean spoon until the wort is below 70°F (21°C). Let it stand for 10 minutes to settle before gently pouring the wort into the first very clean pot, and then add the yeast. Clean that second pot very well; you’ll need it in a bit. Put the lid on the first pot, place the covered pot in a cool spot, ideally between 64−68°F (18−10°C), and forget about it for a week. Put 2 Tbs of sugar in that second pot and very gently (!) pour the beer into the second pot, leaving behind as much of the yeast sediment as you can. Give the beer a gentle stir with a very clean spoon before funneling itminto flip-top bottles, and be sure fill only to the bottom of the neck. Close the bottles and forget about them for 2 weeks.
- Drop a couple bottles in the fridge on a Thursday evening to chill for a day before enjoying your first homebrew. Will it be tasty? I sure hope so! Will it be the best beer you ever brew? I sure hope not!!!
Photo by Jamie Bogner
From ingredients to equipment, process, and recipes—extract, partial-mash, and all-grain—The Illustrated Guide to Homebrewing is a vital resource for those new to homebrewing or those who simply want to brew better beer. Order your copy today.