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Guide to Beer for Beer Newbies

Guide to Beer for Beer Newbies

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The co-hosts of new Esquire show 'Brew Dogs' school a non-beer fan on what five (or really, four) beers she should be drinking

Jessica Chou

Martin Dickie and James Watt, the co-hosts of Esquire's new beer-centric show.

The boys behind Esquire’s new show Brew Dogs have been on the media circus for hours; they’ve been doing interviews, schmoozing for cameras, answering mundane questions about really liking beer since 9:30 a.m., and by 5 p.m. they’re bored. By 5 p.m., James Watt and Martin Dickie are stationed at Cannibal, drinking a couple of beers, and judging me on my reporting gear. Audio recorder? Minus two points. Ripped steno page? Minus one. Frazzled juggling of camera, steno, recorder, pen — minus five.

Click here to see the Guide to Beer for Beer Newbies Slideshow.

Watt and Dickie, the owners behind brewery BrewDog, are guys who use the term DMS (dimethyl sulfide) regularly, guys who name their dogs after hops (i.e. Simcoe), and guys who expect you to know what they’re talking about when they say things like Belgian Quad. (Not going to lie, I had to look that up). They’re also guys who will steal things from the bar (your regular bar, at that), and give them to you as a "gift," just to trip you up, guys who crack jokes with dead serious faces so it’s hard to tell if they’re really joking. This is what I, a novice beer drinker with low alcohol tolerance, had to walk into.

I’m here to get schooled by the pros. Let’s be clear: I’m someone who knows next to nothing about beers (other than the fact that IPAs are pretty damn bitter), someone who orders Stella at bars because that’s what I’ve started with. I watch as they browse the bar’s well-stocked fridge, pulling out a Rolling Rock (that I understand), another can of a black IPA, and three bottles of impressive and intimidating-looking beers. "One of these is not like the others," a bartender notes. Click through to see what they had me try — and why.

Brew Dogs premieres Sept. 24 at 10/9 p.m. CT on the new Esquire network.

Beginner’s Guide to Homebrewing

Most people hesitate to brew beer at home because they think it is complicated and needs expensive equipment.

The art of brewing might be confusing for an inexperienced hobbyist, but like all the good things, it gets better with practice.

Brewing is a meticulous process which takes weeks to complete but it is also rewarding and therapeutic.

Homebrewing is especially popular currently with the agitation for homemade products instead of the mass-manufactured customer goods.

Here is a comprehensive beginner’s guide to homebrewing:

Storing beer properly is important because it&aposs perishable. Keep bottled beer in a dark, cool place, out of direct sunlight. Canned beer also needs cool surroundings, but is unaffected by light. Keg beer must be kept constantly at about 45 degrees so the yeast won&apost start working again.

  • Most beers are a good companion to just about any food except dessert they&aposre especially good with spicy foods. Dark lager beer, however, should be limited to strong-flavored, hearty foods.
  • Beer is best served at about 45 degrees for the lighter varieties and about 50 degrees for the heavier varieties.
  • For quick chilling, place the beer containers in a deep tub of ice.

Crash Course: A Beginner's Guide to Beer

If you’re new to the beer scene, I have some bad news: There are a lot of different kinds of beer. Telling a bartender you’d like a beer, please isn’t going to get you very far. They will have questions.

If you’ve ever had a slight panic attack in a liquor store trying to figure out what to bring to a cookout or party when your friends say, “Hey, can you grab some beer?” then you know what I mean.

Here, then, is a primer for all your basic beer selection needs so you can fearlessly conquer the next tap list or tailgate party that comes your way.

While there are dozens of styles of beer, there are truly only two types of beer: lager and ale. Everything else splits off from there — kind of like how the grouping system used to classify living things starts with kingdom, the broadest specification, and narrows down all the way to species, like so:

Ale → Pale Ale → India Pale Ale → Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA

Lager → Pilsner → Idle Hands Edgeworth Pilsner

The main differences between lagers and ales are the type of yeast and the brewing temperature. Ales are made with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the yeast used in baking bread, and fermented between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Lagers are fermented between 45 and 55 degrees and made with Saccharomyces pastorianus.

When it comes to drinking them, ales are typically full-bodied and sweeter-smelling, like New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale, while lagers, like the beers of Budweiser and Miller, are crisp and clean, the kind of drinks you reach for when it’s hot out.

“IPA” stands for “India pale ale.” These beers are characterized by a bitter (in a good way) wallop of hops and a higher-than-average alcohol by volume (ABV), usually around 7 percent.

When the British were out colonizing India in the 1800s, soldiers were desperate for something cold and boozy to come home to after long days of imperialism in the tropical heat. But it’s a long boat ride from England to India, and most of the beer onboard the ships arrived spoiled.

Desperate to make a beer that would last the journey, brewers beefed up the alcohol content (for preservation) and added hops to the barrels before sealing them (for a fresher taste).

Brewers of American IPAs today follow a similar method called dry-hopping, adding hops to already-fermented beer for extra flavor instead of introducing them into the mash.

There’s a ton of variety among IPAs, but most fall into one of two camps, a West Coast IPA or a New England IPA. While each style originated on its respective coast, breweries across the country can and do produce either one and often brew both.

West Coast IPAs

West Coast styles, like Sierra Nevada and Firestone Walker’s Union Jack, are bright, highly carbonated, and very, very hoppy.

New England IPAs

New England IPAs, like Lord Hobo’s 617 and Maine Beer Company’s cult classic Lunch, are less bitter, often more fruit-forward, and unfiltered. They often look like orange juice coming out the tap.

Homemade Beer from Malt Extract – Guide for Beginners

Making beer from malt extract sounds pretty appealing to newbies because it allows making real homemade beer without any malt (grains) and special brewing equipment. All you need is a cooking pot and fermentation vessel. Doing everything in accordance with this method will let you produce a beer that’s much better than most store-bought brands.

Is there any sense in using this method? Putting it bluntly, using a beer malt extract is a simplified classic brewing technology which lets you try your hand at this, gain experience, and understand if brewing beer is for you. You’ll be able to understand whether it is necessary for you to spend money (large enough sums) on malt, hops, yeast, various tools, and mini-breweries.

Most people prefer buying bottled beer in a store instead of brewing their own batch. In fact, brewing is quite a difficult craft, which takes a lot of time. Unfortunately, you only realize that after buying expensive equipment.

Theory. Beer concentrate (extract) is a dark-colored hopped or not hopped beer wort with a thick consistency (like gel or condensed milk). It’s prepared at factories in accordance with classic brewing technology. During the preparation process, as much liquid is evaporated from the wort as possible to increase shelf life and simplify transportation.

The real concentrate is made from barley and wheat malt (or a mixture) by cooking and saccharifying grain, following all standards and maintaining temperature pause. If hops are added during the preparation process the extract is considered hopped.

All extracts look almost identical

Usually, manufacturers deliver the brewing set required along with the concentrate, which includes: hops (for not hopped wort), brewer’s yeast, and instructions for proper cooking, which explain the method, correct temperature ranges, and amounts of water. This is very convenient for beginners as you don’t have to choose the specific yeast (top or bottom fermentation), alpha acidity, hops, and there’s no need to calculate the proportions.

Universal Recipe of Beer from Malt Extract

  • Beer concentrate – 1.7-1.8 kilos
  • Water – 22 liters
  • Sugar (dextrose or fructose) – 1 kilo
  • Hops and yeast – (Check if it’s included in Malt extract)

The necessary equipment includes the following: a fermentation vessel for 32 liters, two cooking pots for at least 3 and 5 liters, an airlock, a 1-liter jar with metallic lid, a tube for decanting and bottles (plastic or glass).

Warning! The following guide is exemplary. Its only purpose is to specify some points that are poorly explained by most concentrate manufacturers. Much depends on the particular extract and style of the beer of your choice. Use the proportions of the ingredients and recommendations given by the manufacturer.

Only use clean water (filtered or at least settled) as the taste of beer depends on it. The best option is bottled water.

Experienced brewers don’t use beet sugar because it gives nasty kvass flavor. It’s best to add dextrose—glucose in powder form. The second option is to add fructose. Regardless of the sweetener used, the optimum density of beer wort is 15% (you can measure it with a densimeter).

Beer Recipe

  1. Disinfection. Prevents beer from getting infected with pathogenic microorganisms which may spoil the taste and cause the beer to go sour. You can use iodine solutions (10 ml of iodine per 25 liters of water) or specialized cleaning and sanitizing additives. Pour the solution into a fermentation tank and shake it every 2-3 minutes to moisten all of its walls and lid. During their first cooking of beer from a concentrate beginners usually use detergents. It’s essential to thoroughly rinse the container with running water to get rid of the foam residues.
  1. Preparation (rehydration) of yeast. During this stage, dry beer yeast is converted into a liquid active state. This allows the fermentation process to start 8-24 hours faster than if you just sprinkle dry yeast on the surface of the wort. The cooking method: boil 300-500 ml of water (in addition to the total volume signified in the recipe), lower the metal lid of the 1-liter jar into boiling water. Disinfect the jar itself with steam for 5-10 minutes. Cover the hot jar with the boiled lid and let it cool down for 5-6 minutes. Then open it and pour 200 ml of unboiled water of room temperature. Now sprinkle beer yeast over its surface and cover the jar with the lid again. Leave it for 10 minutes, no stirring required.
  2. Wort cooking. Now bring 3 liters of water to a boil in a large cooking pot (at least for 5 liters). In another small cooking pot for at least 3 liters bring 2 liters of water to a boil. Add the malt extract to the large cooking pot. Stir till it becomes homogenous. Add hops if necessary. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. To soften the substances you can put the closed jar with the malt extract in hot water. This will simplify pouring the concentrate into boiling water.

Put sugar (fructose or dextrose) in the small cooking pot and stir. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5-6 minutes. Skim off any white foam with a sterilized and disinfected skimmer.

Warning! Some extract manufacturers recommend adding yeast right away and set the wort for fermentation without boiling it. But in this case there’s a great risk of infecting the beer with bacteria (especially if poorly purified water is used), so it’s better to at least bring it to a boil and then cool to the manufacturer’s recommended temperature.

  1. Preparations before fermentation. The correct way of adding brewer’s yeast to the wort. Trickle 5 liters of water into a fermentation tank from approximately 1 meter above it. In this way you’ll saturate the water with oxygen (aerate it). And this, in turn, will make fermentation go faster. Add the diluted beer extract (preferably also from a height) and sweet syrup from the small pot and stir. Shake the yeast jar well for 2-3 minutes to speed up rehydration. Pour 12 liters of cold water into the fermentation vessel from a height of 1 meter. If possible, check the density with a densimeter(aerometer), the optimum value is about 15%. Cool the wort to the temperature required for adding yeast addition (it’s specified in the instructions, but it shouldn’t exceed 30°C). Shake the yeast jar again and evenly trickle yeast over the entire surface of the wort. Now install an airlock.
  1. Fermentation. Yeast converts sugar into alcohol. Place the beer wort in a dark room for fermentation and leave it at the temperature recommended by the manufacturer of malt concentrate. If you do everything right the fermentation process should start in 4-12 hours.

On average, the fermentation of beer from the concentrate lasts 10-12 days, and after that, the airlock ceases to emit gas, and it becomes much less sweet.

  1. Carbonization and conditioning. At this step, the beer is saturated with carbon dioxide (gets aerated) and left for conditioning to improve the taste. Sterilize with steam or disinfect well-washed bottles. Add 1 heaping teaspoon of dextrose (fructose or sugar). This will cause quick re-fermentation, which will result in carbon dioxide. Or use carbonation drops.

Decant the fermented beer and pour it through a tube into bottles. Leave 2-3 cm of space near the neck free. Seal the bottles with corks.

Leave the filled bottles in a dark place with the recommended temperature specified in the instruction (usually it’s 20-24°C). Leave them for 7-60 days for gas saturation and conditioning (this term depends on the type of beer wheat beers condition faster than other types). Manufacturers of beer concentrates indicate the conditioning time.

Beer from wheat malt extract

Now, the last step is to cool the beer in s refrigerator. Its shelf life is 6-8 months. 4.5-5% ABV.

Customer reviews

Top reviews from the United States

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I was intrigued by the title of this book because I always thought brewing your own beer was a complicated time-consuming process. Well this book proved that’s just a myth! This book is a helpful, step-by-step guide that is great for people who are starting to take an interest in brewing. It teaches you just the right amount of terminology, takes you through the whole process, and even provides trouble-shooting advice!

This book is easy to understand, contains lots of useful content including how missteps can affect the taste of the final product. It’s an easy read and it does a great job of allowing the reader to get into home brewing. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in home brewing.

I love beer. I would marry it, but apparently beer has to give its consent in order for something like that to happen, so our love will have to stay forbidden for the time being.

Brewing it, on the other hand, seemed like a mystical skill that I would never achieve. Not unless I was a fat man in Milwaukee standing proudly next to a titanic, brass silo that's been polished to a mirrored finish.

So, this book is welcome news to me and my BMI. Its instructions are bulleted and easily followed. Even better, it gives good suggestions for obtaining an affordable kit, probably saving me a lot of money both online and at the local specialty shop. You know what's even better than that? It helps you through odd spots during the brewing process when you start to ask yourself questions like, "will I ruin my brew if I did (or did not do) X, Y, or Z?" I swear, it happens every single time I try to follow any recipe that I haven't done before.

Finally, this guide is only a buck! Seriously, for less than a Natty Light, you can't go wrong even if you go wrong.

A word to the wise on the first brew.
Don't be cheap. Use filtered water.
Don't be lazy. Watch that temperature carefully.
And. it's worth repeating. DON'T BE LAZY. Sanitize that working area! I'm telling you, the only waste product that you're going to want out of this experiment is from the yeast.

Easy beginner's guide to home brewing from a beer kit

Well done you on deciding to brew some home brew.

This guide will help guide through making your first batch of beer using a kit, step by step. It's a 'how to' for using beer kits and not beer from 'scratch'.

There is no boiling of the wort wizardry here, just some brewing 101 tips as if they came from a brewing book!

That fancy 'brewing day' in a pot stuff will come later, probably when you've got a couple of brews under your belt and you're ready to go up a grade.

If you are genuinely interested in learning how to brew beer, then a beer kit is a great way to start as you can quickly learn the fundamentals of beer making in the comfort of your own kitchen or man shed.

The brewing of beer is actually an act of scientific exploration.

Now get to it!

Getting ready, at which point I assume you are ready to make beer

I'm going to assume you have a brand new beer kit for making beer.

Your loving partner may have given it to you for Christmas (mine did!) or maybe you got there yourself out of curiosity. Either way good on your for giving beer making a go.

You have all the ingredients and supplies:

  • A can of malt extract
  • Some brewing sugar, dextrose or a brew enhancer (we really recommend the use of an enhancer).
  • Yeast - it may have come with the kit, look under the lid.
  • You might even have bought some beer hops to add to your wort.

You'll have a fermenter - possibly a 30 litre drum or 5 gallon glass carboy.

You have access to boiling water and also to cold water.

You'll have a clean working space such as a kitchen bench and you'll have enough time to not be interrupted.

When I brew from home brew kits I do it after dinner when the kids are in bed and the dishes are done. It's just easier that way.

I might even have a couple of beers while I do the job, because it seems a natural enough thing to do right?

It's time to clean and sanitize your equipment

In case you hadn't heard, your beer wort needs a warm and clean environment in which to ferment.

That means all that nasty bacteria that are on your stirring spoon and on the inside of your fermenter drum or bottle needs to be thoroughly cleaned and then sanitized.

Your homebrew starter kit should have provided you with a sachet of a cleanser and also a sanitizer (people often refer to this process as sterilization, just go with it).

Leave your drum to soak for as long as possible (even though it's new, it's likely had all the equipment stored inside it if it's a drum, so heaps of opportunity for nasties to find a home in there).

If you plan on continuing to brew beers, this is the start of your habit of cleaning and sanitizing all your equipment every single time you make beer.

So once you are sure everything has had a good soak, carry on my wayward son to making a top-rated beer.

The rest is easy.

There are plenty of beer making methods.

We can do it in four steps.

Step 1 - Malt Up

If you're smart, you may have already put your opened tin of extract malt into a pot of boiling water so that it's warmed up and can be easily poured into your fermenter.

Sometimes I leave it sitting on the top of my closed fireplace, this works well too.

At this point, I like to put on some fancy surgical gloves so as to avoid the mess that's probably about to happen all over your kitchen bench.

Add your extract malt and about 3 liters of boiling water to your fermenter.

Stir with a sterilized stirring device until it's all dissolved.

Your brew kit probably came with a beer enhancer, now is the time to add it and dissolve as well.

If your kit did not have an enhancer, you really should think about adding some and you will get a better mouth feel and enjoy your beer that much better.

Otherwise, you're probably going to add 1kg of dextrose or ordinary sugar (we do not recommend that as it will affect how your beer tastes).

Step 2 - Water is the essence of aqua.

It's time to add the water.

I like to use the garden hose so I carry the fermenter to the kitchen back door and go for gold.

The water in NZ where I'm from is pretty good. If the water is of poor quality where you come from, you may wish to find a better source of water, at the least boil it maybe.

I guess the basic rule is if you can handle drinking a glass of water from it, that's your source. Expert brewers like to test the pH level to ensure it will suit the beer.

Fill your fermenter to 5 gallons of water or to the 23 liter mark. Stick with that, your malt kit has been designed with exactly this amount of water in mind. If you add to much water, your wort will be diluted and your beer's 'mouthfeel' will be unappealing. If you add to little, you will actually raise the 'alcohol by volume' content of your beer.

Which is fine if you like things like that but remember, in doing so you are changing the profile of your beer.

Step 3 - Yeastie Boys

Seasoned pros will tell you to never use the yeast that comes in your starter kit or with your can of malt as it may be old or damaged or whatever.

I'm thinking you just want to make some bloody beer so throw what came with your kit into to your fermenter and worry about that kind of issue when it actually occurs.

Make sure the temperature of the water is close to in line with the instructions on the tin of malt - you want to give the yeast a chance to activate so don't put it in or 'pitch' it if you're out of whack. That said in my experience just pitch it in when you're ready.

There are plenty of good brewing thermometers out there but your fermenter may have a heat sensitive sticker on the side which tells the temperature.

But be warned, only pitch your yeast when you've added the extra water and chilled the wort - if you pitch your yeast into the boiled wort, you will kill the yeast which means you'll have no fermentation happening and you'll have a malty drink on your hands.

You're not making Panhead Supercharger here, you're making your first batch of home brew.

Protip - aerate your wort with a pump prior to pitching yeast to give the yeast a performance boost (but when bottling, try to avoid aeration as much as possible).

Step 4 - Hop to it

If your kit came with some hops or you were smart enough to procure some, chuck them in now, maybe half the packet. This is called dry hopping.

Some might recommend adding the hops 5 days into the fermentation process but we say just get on with it.

Close up the fermenter, make sure the drum or cap is on firmly.

Add your airlock with water inside. You'll use this to keep track of fermentation by observing the CO2 bubbles as they are released during fermentation.

Take a hydrometer reading

Once you've got the basics down, you might want to think about boiling the malt extract.

Step 5 - Let fermenting beer lie

This has now become a waiting game.

Once you've put your beer in a suitable place where the temperature will be fairly consistently warm, leave her alone.

Well not quite - if you have a hydrometer, take a reading and write it down. You will need it to be able to work out when fermentation is complete and also the alcohol content of your beer.

A loose guide is when the bubbles are finished, fermentation is usually complete. Once you are sure this is the case, you can think about bottling your beer.

This is an occasion where you should consider completely ignoring the instructions on the can and leave your brew in the fermenter for about 2 weeks.

While at face value fermentation is complete, the yeast will still be interacting with everything and this extra time will greatly improve the quality of your beer.

So the short summary on how to make your home made beer:

1. Add your malt from the can to 3 litres of hot water
2. Add any brew enhancer or dextrose, as well as any hops. Stir it all up.
3. Fill fermenter to 23 litres or 6 gallons with cold.
4. Check the temperature is OK and then pitch in your yeast.
5. Add the airlock, firmly seal the drum and place in a cool position.
6. Ensure fermentation is complete. You may want to use a hydrometer during this stage.
7. Bottle when ready but it's best to let your brew sit for 2 to 3 weeks.

So that's the rough guide to brewing beer from a kit.

As you can read, it's a pretty straight forward exercise and you don't need a Bachelor of Food Technology to get it right.

The absolute key things to bear in mind are having properly sanitized equipment, follow this guide and it's hopefully helpful beer making instructions more or less and don't stress.

Below is a summary of some of the topics covered in the 13-page guide.

10 Tips for Beginning Homebrewers

My first homebrewing purchase was a book. Before I ever made a drop of beer, I read Charlie Papazian’s book, The Joy of Homebrewing, cover to cover. Looking back, I realize that only an infinitesimal amount of that valuable tome actually stuck in my brain that first time through. I’ve read it many times since and something new “clicks” every time—and Charlie’s passionate, encouraging style is a treat. If you’re looking for more book recommendations, I also strongly recommend Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing and John Palmer’s How to Brew—both outstanding books no matter how long you’ve been wielding your beer paddle.

But there are some things they don’t tell you in the books that I think could be really, really useful to the beginning homebrewer. Or, to be clear, they might tell you in the book but for some reason they didn’t sink through my thick skull. Here are ten of those pieces of advice.

Like many of my fellow homebrewers, my first significant purchase was a starter equipment kit. Once I had it, all I needed was a brew kettle and ingredients, and I was good to go. So, I bought a 5-gallon stainless steel kettle for $35. Stupid. It took only 2 weeks of brewing before I dropped another $70 on a 7.5-gallon kettle. If you ever plan to get into all-grain brewing or want to reduce the likelihood that your kettle will boil over, splurge for the big kettle right out of the gate. You’ll be saving money in the long run.

2. Wort chillers are worth it.

One of the best ways to reduce the likelihood of your beer getting contaminated is to chill the wort as fast as possible, dropping the temperature from that dangerous range that evil bacteria just love. Many beginning homebrewers accomplish this by submerging the brew kettle in an ice bath in either a large tub or the bathtub. Depending on how many bags of ice you purchased (additional expense), this can take anywhere from 40 minutes to well over an hour.

Selecting a Brew Kettle

Both extract and all-grain brewers need a good, sturdy kettle for conducting a 60-minute or longer boil. Although you can certainly start out by borrowing a stock pot from the kitchen cupboard, eventually you’ll want to upgrade to a dedicated kettle just for beer. Here are a few things to look for.

Make size your number one consideration because it directly affects what you can brew and how much. Certainly, beginner homebrewers can get away with a pot as small as 3 gallons, but making the best beer possible means boiling as much wort as possible. All-grain homebrewers will need to boil a full volume from the get-go. Plan for the future and buy a kettle that’s at least 1.5 times your batch size. For a 5-gallon batch, that means a kettle of at least 7.5 gallons. Going twice as large gives you even more insurance against a boil over.

Just Chill

Rapidly cooling wort from boiling down to room temperature or lower is no small task. But it’s a very important one. A fast temperature drop is critical for several reasons:

Risk of contamination: There are plenty of airborne yeasts and bacteria that would love to feast on your freshly boiled wort when it’s in the range of 80-160°F (27-71°C). You want to be in this zone as briefly as possible.
Protein coagulation: A rapid cool-down knocks proteins out of suspension and results in clearer beer in your glass.
More predictable hops utilization: Hops continue to contribute bitterness even at sub-boiling temperatures. Letting wort remain too hot for too long extracts additional bitterness you may not want.

How to Use an Auto-Siphon

“Racking” is the brewer’s term for transferring beer from one container to another. Each and every beer we make has to be racked at least once during its lifespan. While professional brewers typically rely on pumps to move beer between stainless steel vessels, homebrewers usually employ a siphon.

How to Make a Yeast Starter

Brewing the best beer possible means using enough yeast to get the job done. Unfortunately, a single vial or pack of liquid yeast contains only enough cells for very low gravity ales, up to about 1.030. Although you could simply use multiple packages, this can get expensive if you make lagers or high-gravity ales.

But yeasts are living organisms, and given nutrients and a food source, they’ll happily reproduce. Homebrewers can use this to their advantage by making a yeast starter. A properly made starter lets you build up the number of yeast cells you need from just one package and can save you money.

A starter is simply a small volume of wort that’s used for the sole purpose of growing yeast cells. It takes only about half an hour, but plan to make it at least 24 hours before you need the yeast. This will give the yeast cells time to reproduce.

Air on the Side of Yeast Health

It’s often said that brewers make wort, and yeast makes beer: if you want a healthy fermentation, you’ve got to have healthy yeast. One of the best things you can do to promote yeast health is to provide plenty of oxygen at the start of fermentation. Oxygen is vital for yeast growth and development. But how much do you need, and how do you get there?

The sixth tip in our list of Ten Tips for Beginning Homebrewers recommends investing in a carboy handle. A good handle prevents your hand from slipping on a slippery carboy neck and offers your aching back a reprieve from awkward lifting.
Here are a few more things to know about these handy devices.

When to Use a Blow-Off Tube

Most of the time, I do just fine with the standard-issue airlocks you find at homebrew stores nationwide. I prefer the 3-piece airlock for primary fermentation and the S-shaped model for secondary and bulk aging. But sometimes, an airlock just doesn’t cut it. And that’s when I bust out the heavy artillery. I’m talking about the blow-off tube.

A blow-off tube is nothing more than a generous length of wide-diameter tubing. One end plugs into your fermentor in lieu of an airlock, and the other end is submerged in an adjacent container of sanitizer (I use a spare growler jug). This setup effectively relieves pressure within the fermentor and allows Kräusen (foam) to safely escape rather than clog the airlock, thereby saving you from a beer eruption and the embarrassment of having to mop the ceiling.

So, how do you know you need a blow-off tube before you actually need a blow-off tube? Here are a few criteria I consider when deciding to reach for the blow-off tube instead of a regulation airlock.

Because the fermentation process produces heat, homebrewers are far more likely to need to cool down a vessel of homebrew than warm it up. There are certain circumstances, however, in which you may want to raise the fermentation temperature.

  • If you ferment your beer in a basement or garage, you may find that the ambient temperature is too cold.
  • Some fermentation profiles incorporate a gradual temperature rise, for example, from 65 to 75°F (18 to 24°C) over the course of seven days.
  • Certain yeast strains and bacterial cultures benefit from elevated temperatures. Classic saison strains, for example, may require temperatures as high as 95°F (35°C) to achieve full attenuation.

If you find that your fermentation could benefit from a little extra warmth, here are a few ways to bring the heat.

Ask homebrewers about the number one consumer appliance on their wish lists, and you’re likely to get some variation on a refrigerator or freezer (assuming professional brewhouses don’t count). But there’s another appliance you probably already have in your kitchen that’s sometimes overlooked. Dishwashers make bottling easy and painless. If you aren’t using yours, you’re probably working too hard.

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1-Gallon Fifty-Fifty New England IPA

By Joseph Lavoie | Last Updated: January 2, 2019

The first NEIPA I brewed and shared on BeerCraftr is admittedly complicated. As I have experimented with this beer style, I have sought to make it easier to brew. Here I cut out the whirlpool step altogether and simplified the dry hop schedule. And to make things even simpler, I cut down the mash and boil times in half (50/50!), inspired by the short and shoddy methods of the brülosophy team. It worked well. In the end, the beer tasted as good—if not better—than my original recipe, with half the hassle.

1-Gallon American Pale Ale II

By Joseph Lavoie | Last Updated: January 2, 2019

In the vein of simplifying an already tasty recipe, I tweaked my original APA recipe by reducing the grain bill to two grains, swapping out Amarillo for Perle, adjusting the hop schedule, and trying a different yeast strain. The changes were worth it—this version is superior to the original. It has become my new go-to APA recipe, so I thought I’d offer it here for your consideration. As a fun experiment, brew the two APA recipes back-to-back and compare. One can never have too many APAs in the house!

1-Gallon San Diego Lager

By Joseph Lavoie | Last Updated: January 2, 2019

If you take a second look at the Uncommon Lager recipe, you’ll notice it shares the same grain bill as this recipe. It also shares an identical fermentation profile, having fermented warm (for a lager) at 18ºC for two weeks. Here I’ve simplified the hops to a simple boil addition, and have swapped in a different yeast. The changes are subtle, but noticeable if you have the two beers side-by-side.

Homebrewing Book Guides

Homebrew novices will benefit from more guidance while advanced brewers may want to improve their existing beer recipes. These books by brew gurus are great reference points for any level.

Methods of Modern Homebrewing: The Comprehensive Guide to Contemporary Craft Beer Brewing – Chris Colby

Chris Colby presents this organised tutorial to help new brewers transition from basic to advanced techniques. Organised and easy to read, the book includes several recipes for 50 beer styles. Its pages are filled with colour photographs and illustrations, which easily draws in the reader. Overall, the book uses a practical approach to simplify the homebrewing process.

Mastering Homebrew: The Complete Guide to Brewing Delicious Beer – Randy Mosher

Written from the perspective of an artist, Randy Mosher attaches flavour to building and designing beer. This comprehensive guide to beer brewing is packed with graphics and photos. Aside from basic and advanced methods, the book also includes new techniques that are relevant in the field today. It’s a great walkthrough for both beginners and veterans.

How to Brew: Everything You Need to Know to Brew Great Beer Every Time – John Palmer

Many consider John Palmer’s book as the Bible of homebrewing. It provides step-by-step instructions on how to brew beer at home, as well as formal and technical equations on improving beer. Comprehensive and well-constructed, this is the perfect reference for those who are new to the idea of home brewing and would like to make a hobby out of it.

The Joy of Brewing Cider, Mead, and Herbal Wine: How to Craft Seasonal Fast-Brew Favorites at Home – Nancy Koziol

In her book, Koziol focuses on sustainability by homebrewing smaller batches. The book is divided into three parts (mead, cider and herbal wine), all of which detail the basic equipment and ingredients in homebrewing. Complete with fun facts on the history of ancient brews, sustainable agriculture and ethical sourcing, this is a fun book to read.

Session Beers: Brewing for Flavor and Balance – Jennifer Talley

The focus of Talley’s book is the art of making session beer, the most challenging type of beer to brew. The book explores recipes that make both low-alcohol beer and stronger classic beer ‘sessionable.’ It includes a history behind world-renowned session beers and tips from brew masters. It also brings attention to session beers as a fun-filled activity.