Copyright  © 1995


How are a person in a canoe, and light beer alike?
They're both very close to water.

Most beer is fairly light on flavor, and 97 percent of the beer-drinking population seems content with this yellow fizzy water. Not that there's anything wrong with that - it's just that there are much more flavorful brews available than what's available at the ballpark. Advertising helps keep people apathetic about flavor by implying that image is more important: they run television ads that show gorgeous young women and/or men prancing on a beach or laughing in a bar, interspersed with close-up shots of a foamy beer being poured into a glass, in order to make it seem as though if we were to drink this particular brand of beer, we would suddenly be surrounded by the beautiful people we're watching. Light beer is often served ice cold and highly carbonated in order to provide palate stimulation, whereas more flavorful brews can be served at cellar temperature and with less carbonation because their taste stands on its own.

Many of us demand more from our beer than thirst quenching and alcohol. Some of us are therefore willing to pay more for microbrew or imported beer. Others (like me) want to avoid this extra expense, so we make our own beer, and this Web page is dedicated to us beer-loving but cheap bastards.


Beer. Breakfast of champions.

First, go to a homebrew supply shop and buy a starter kit. It will cost less than $50 and contain all the specialized equipment you will need, until you become more involved in this hobby and want to step up. Then you'll have to stop being such a cheapskate. Your kit should contain at least: 2 buckets, 1 lid, an airlock, 2 racking tubes, a spring-loaded bottle filling tip, a siphon hose, and a bottle capper. If your starter kit does not contain bottle caps, buy some. Along with your starter kit, buy a can of hopped malt extract. The only other thing you'll need is two cases of beer bottles. They must be the pry-off type, or if they're the screw-on type, you must have the caps that they originally came with, because your kit's bottle capper cannot cap anything other than the pry-off type. Homebrew shops usually sell bottles, but they charge much more than they're worth, and since you're cheap, just dig through trash, ask friends to save theirs, or, if you live in a state that charges deposits for bottles, go into a liquor store and offer to pay the deposit price for returned bottles. The clerk will usually sell them because he doesn't care who pays him. Then leave with a smug, holier-than-thou attitude, knowing that you'll be making great brew while he spends the rest of his life selling longnecks to rednecks.

When you get home, put gallon marks on both of your buckets. Repeatedly fill a one-gallon plastic milk bottle, dump into each bucket, and mark the outside at the water line. (Note: stop when bucket overflows.)

Heat 3 or 4 quarts of water in a large cooking pot (one that holds at least a gallon and a half). Take the label off the malt can and scrape the glue off. Ignore the directions on the label; if we wanna screw this up, then that's our decision. Open the can. Taste some. Sweet yet bitter, huh? Like my ex-wife. Pour the syrup in the heating water, then drop the can and lid in and scrape out the rest of it with a large spoon. Remove and discard the can and lid.

While the malt/water mixture, called "wort", heats, clean your fermentation bucket (the one without the spigot) and lid with a mild bleach solution, and rinse several times with clean tap water. Note: wear rubber gloves when using bleach, otherwise your hands will become so dry and scaly that the mere sight of them will cause lizards to become sexually aroused. Put a gallon and a half of cold tap water in there and cover.

Stir the wort occasionally. Heat it long enough to thoroughly dissolve the malt syrup. No need to boil it, but get it hot enough to kill bacteria. Then turn off the heat and pour the wort into the clean, partially water-filled bucket. You should have roughly 3 gallons at this point. Taste. If it's too sweet or bitter, add more cold water until it tastes good. Do not thin too much - you can thin it more later if necessary. (Remember I told you to ignore the label's directions? Here's one reason why: Most labels say something like "To make 3 gallons of beer, mix contents with enough water to make 3 gallons. To make 5 gallons of beer, mix contents with 3 pounds of sugar and enough water to make 5 gallons." What's up with that?) This is the time when your brew is most susceptible to bacterial contamination, so always rinse your spoon before dipping, and for God's sake, don't sneeze in there! Feel the outside of the bucket; if it's warm, put the lid on and wait until it cools down. Once it feels cool, remove the lid and pour in the contents of the yeast packet that came with your can of malt (dropping the yeast in is called "pitching"). If it did not come with yeast, then you're sh*t out of luck. No, really, bread yeast will do, either in granulated or cake form. Clean the spoon and stir well, making bubbles so as to aerate the wort. Tightly cover with the lid. Clean and rinse the airlock and stick it in the grommet (the rubber ring in the lid's hole). Put the bucket in a 65°-70°F area where it can sit undisturbed for a week. Partially fill the airlock with water. If you're not sure how to do this, then you're too stupid to be brewing beer, and you should quit now before you hurt yourself. No, really, ask your supplier.

Now you have to wait a week. What're you gonna do? Well, one thing you should do is clean your bottles. Look inside them. If there's any dried-up crud, then soak them, scrub them with a bottle brush, shake soapy water in them - do whatever is necessary to get them sparkling clean. If you don't clean this crap out, it will dissolve into your finished brew and make it taste like Billy Beer. Another way to pass the time is brag to your friends that you're making beer. Really be an asshole about it, too. Share your joy and enthusiasm with others, even if they couldn't care less.

Within a few days you will see bubbles coming out of your airlock, indicating a healthy fermentation. Eventually they will stop, probably just a few days later. Even if bubbling ends in half a week, let the bucket sit for at least an entire week: bubbling stops before fermentation is completely over, and time is needed for certain chemical reactions to occur and for yeast to settle out. Also, the air coming out of the airlock will probably smell good, but it may not. It might smell like rotten eggs, and if it does, it doesn't necessarily mean you screwed up. This smell is caused by hydrogen sulfide production, and it will eventually pass (that's right, it will pass gas).

Okay, a week has passed and you can't wait any longer. You've alienated your friends with "I'm making bee-eer, nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!", and your family by threatening painful death to anyone who goes near that bucket. It's the weekend, and you're up early with anticipation. Carefully carry the precious cargo into the kitchen. Put it on the counter, and don't agitate it. You could have done this the night before, giving any yeast you accidentally kicked up time to settle back down, unless you have roommates or children or a dysfunctional spouse who would have opened it up while you were sleeping, or carelessly moved it aside and disturbed its contents. If that were to happen you would understand the term "justifiable homicide".

Screw the bottling bucket's spigot in place (remember the spigot goes on the OUTSIDE) and put about 2 gallons of water and a few capfuls of bleach in there. Wash the siphon hose, racking tubes, spring-loaded bottle filler, spoon, and anything else that will touch the brew in there. Rinse everything with tap water. Insert each racking tube into the siphon hose, and affix the bottle filler to one tube. Put the now-clean materials on a very clean surface (perhaps counter space cleaned with bleach). Now wash the bottles by dipping them into the solution, shaking and emptying them, and rinsing with tap water. (Bottle washing is boring and tedious. It is to homebrewing what marriage is to sex.) Wash the entire inside of the bucket and spigot (open it and let some solution run through) and empty it, saving some solution in a large cup or bowl for later use. Rinse the bucket and spigot, making sure the spigot is closed when you're done.

Remove the airlock and lid from the fermentation bucket. Take a whiff. Nose burn? That's the carbon dioxide. Just like when you belch while you're drinking beer or soda. If there's a foamy head on top, called "krauesen" (pronounced kroi' zen), you might want to skim it off. Put the open-ended racking tube in there, making sure it does not go near the bottom. Put the other tube's end in your mouth and push on the spring-loaded tip with your teeth while sucking the wort through the hose (I could make a few jokes here, but I'm sure you already thought of a few). Take about a mouthful of wort. Hopefully it tastes decent. Put the bottling bucket on the floor, remove the bottle filler and put the tube tip on the bottom of this bucket. This way the germs in your mouth touch only the bottle filler, not the wort. (The human mouth is very septic - there are more germs in our mouths than in our asses. Think about THAT the next time you're making out with someone.) Don't let the wort splash as it's siphoning - keep the tube tip below the fluid surface. Look in the fermenter as the contents empty. Keep the tube tip below the surface so air does not get sucked into it. Eventually the mostly-clear liquid will drain off and you will see a sickly brown sludge that looks like diarrhea. Remove the tube to stop siphoning at this point. The only reason we perform this siphoning process (called "racking") is to get rid of this slurry.

Cover the bottling bucket and put it on the counter. See how much wort you have, using the gallon marks you made. Now it's time to add sugar for the remaining yeast (most of it was in the diarrhea we threw out, but there's still plenty left in suspension) to ferment into just enough carbon dioxide to carbonate our brew, but not so much that the bottles will gush when we uncap them or, worse, explode (yes, explode). This process is called "priming". The standard priming rate is just over 3/4 cup for 5 gallons of brew. For example, if there are 3 gallons of wort in the bottling bucket, use about 1/2 cup of sugar. Rather than add it directly you should boil it in a cup of water in order to kill the bacteria. Then pour this sugar water into the bucket and stir thoroughly but do not splash. Mixing air into your wort at this point will cause oxidation (more on this subject in a later chapter).

Now it's time to bottle. Soak the caps in weak bleach solution and place all the clean bottles on the floor (preferably upright). You'll need about 11 bottles for each gallon of wort. At this point all children and pets should be safely locked out of the house. Wash and rinse the siphon hose, one tube, and bottle filler. Attach the bottle filler to one end of the tube and the hose to the other. Force the free hose end onto the spigot and turn the spigot on. Hold the bottle filler up, press the tip, and slowly lower until wort reaches the end. Then put the tube into each bottle and push, causing the tip to be pressed. Remove when wort reaches the very top. This level will drop as the tube is removed, leaving a few inches of "head space", which provides a buffer area for a bit of carbon dioxide pressure from the beer to escape into.

There. Now rinse your caps and cap each bottle. I like this part. There's something about working with tools. Once you're done, clean each bottle off and put them in a 60°-75°F place, preferably in a box or covered with towels in case of explosion (this is a rare occurrence, really). Now just clean the kitcken (or make your wife do it) and equipment. You're done! Of course, you still have to wait (aw, nuts!) for the brew to condition (carbonate). In a week or two put it in the fridge, and it will be ready to drink the next day. And it will be even better another week or two after that.

Not too difficult. We didn't have to do much: a little cleaning, a little waiting, a little sucking ... just like sex. Now you know everything you need to know about making beer. Your own beer. Oh sure, there's a lot more you COULD learn, if you want to get more involved, and this stuff is covered in later chapters, but for now, relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew.


Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder.

Okay, time to drink! Now hold on there. Don't just rip the cap off and quaff it down. You're not at a frat house. First of all, it is to be savored. And secondly, there will be a little sediment (yeast and proteins) on the bottom, and every time the bottle is tilted some of it will get kicked up into the brew, causing off flavors. So pour it gently - in one motion - into a 12-ounce glass, stopping when the light-colored sediment approaches the neck. Keep the glass tilted to minimize foaming. If you like head (in your brew, that is), you can position the glass upright during the last few ounces of the pour. I can't count the number of inconsiderate bartenders and waitresses who have carelessly dumped entire beers - that didn't taste great to begin with - into the center of glasses and mugs, creating more foam than liquid and making them go flat. It's like they purposely try - and succeed - to piss me off.

The carbonation might not be perfect. It may foam a lot. In fact, it might gush out of the bottle before you get a chance to pour. Sh*t happens. Perhaps you used too much priming sugar, or maybe it hadn't completely fermented before you primed. In this case, chill these bottles in the freezer for a while before serving, because colder liquids can hold more gas (unlike some people), so super-chilled brews foam less. Or it may me somewhat flat, in which case you might have used too little priming sugar, but all hope is not lost, because some brews take several weeks to fully carbonate, depending on temperature and how much live yeast there is. Whatever the case, glass is preferable to plastic or styrofoam because the former is smooth, whereas the latter two have slightly rough surfaces which agitate the liquid as it runs down the side, causing all brews to go flat more quickly.

Relax and take a sip, breathing the aromatics through your nose. If it tastes good, don't even think about it or try to identify flavors and aromas. Just enjoy it. Nothing will kill enjoyment like thinking about it will. If it doesn't taste good, then you need to determine what's wrong. Is the flavor too strong? Dilute it more next time. Too weak? Dilute it less. Is it very sour or bad-smelling? Serve it to your annoying relatives when they visit. Whatever is wrong can be corrected. Do not get discouraged and vow never to try this nonsense again. Learn from your mistakes.


Reason #1 why homebrew is better than women:
You don't have to wine and dine homebrew.

You've made your first few batches of homebrew. What's that you say? It's too easy? You want to learn what else you can do in the brewing process? You want to spend more time, more effort, more money? What are you, nuts?? Get a LIFE, for crying out loud!

Okay, but before you go full steam ahead, let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time there lived an elf. Let's call him "Den". He was as happy as could be. He drank with his friends, played sports, and made his own brew at home, which he and his friends very much enjoyed.

Then he met a female elf. Let's call her "Denise". She was cute and lovable and he was even happier with her than he was before. They spent a lot of time together. Soon they got married. Denise moved in with Den. She did take up a lot of space with her things, but he didn't mind because he loved her so much.

Den still made brew, and although Denise didn't drink it, she let him make it. Den also continued to drink with his friends and play sports, but not as often as he used to, because of the extra time he spent with Denise and her family.

One day Den decided to make even better brew. He bought a lot of extra equipment and ingredients, and spent twice as much time making it. It came out even better than the brew he used to make, and everyone was happy.

Everyone except Denise, that is. She didn't like the fact that Den spent so much time on his hobby. She was annoyed that Den cluttered up their house with more things (even though most of the existing clutter was hers). She told him not to spend so much time in the kitchen. She complained that she wanted more attention.

Well, Den was in a quandary. What should he do? He loved making brew, but he loved Denise too. So he started brewing less often in order to please her. But she still wasn't satisfied. She told him to get rid of his brewing equipment, that the whole process was just silly. She wouldn't talk to him sometimes when she was upset. She made it so Den was very uncomfortable in the house that he had worked so hard for. After a few more months it became apparent to Den that he was married to the antichrist, and shortly thereafter they got divorced. Denise hired a lawyer elf who made sure that she got half of all of Den's things, except his new ulcer - he got to keep all of that.

The moral of the story is: don't marry a bitch. No, I mean, if you're planning on spending more time and taking up more space brewing, and you're married, talk it over with your spouse first.


Beer. It's not just for breakfast anymore.

Yeast is a single-celled fungus that can grow anywhere there's moisture: on rotting logs, in your bathtub, between your toes, etc. There are more kinds of yeast than there are disgruntled postal employees. And they're more productive. It's because of yeast that we have bread (the carbon dioxide it gives off puffs up the dough). Bread yeast is not recommended for making fermented beverages, but it certainly CAN be used: the first 11 years I made wine I used Fleischmann's bread yeast. And the wine came out good. But then again, I used to put peanut butter on my eggs, so that tells you what kind of palate I had.

There are 2 major classifications of beer: ale and lager. Therefore there are ale yeasts and lager yeasts. The former are made for fermenting at 64°-72°F, and the latter are for 35°-50°F fermentations. Lagering requires a fridge or a very cool basement, and much more time (months, versus weeks for ales). Plus wort must be cooled below 50°F before pitching lager yeast. This is why I make nothing but ales - I'm impatient! There are many kinds of ales and many kinds of lagers, and so there are many strains of ale yeast and many strains of lager yeast.

Yeast in dried form is good, but liquid yeast is supposedly better (of course, it's the companies that sell this stuff that tell us this). This is because the drying process can weaken yeast and increase the chance of foreign yeasts infecting the culture. Liquid yeast is sold in vials or airtight packages at around $4 apiece, but this cost is minimized by virtue of the fact that yeast slurry can be saved from the fermenter and used in future batches.

Different strains of yeast produce different flavor characteristics. If all yeast did was eat sugar and give off alcohol and carbon dioxide, it wouldn't matter what kind of yeast we used. Yeasts produce compounds such as esters, which taste and smell fruity, and diacetyl, which tastes and smells like butterscotch. These are just two compounds of many. Then there's "attenuation", which is yeast's ability to ferment sugars. Higher-attenuative yeasts ferment more sugars, making drier brew, and lower-attenuative yeasts have less fermenting power, producing maltier, sweeter brew. Attenuation and the amounts of compounds produced vary between yeast strains, and this makes one strain purportedly best for, say, pale ales, while another is deemed great for stouts. Who makes these proclamations? Just regular Joes like you and me who have tasted brew after brew, done lots of comparing (not to mention urinating), and drawn their own conclusions.

Here's a simple way to see whether yeast strain makes any difference to you. For the next batch, have 2 yeasts ready: a packet of dry, and a liquid yeast which is supposedly good for the style you'll be brewing. You'll also need another lid and airlock. Clean both buckets. After pouring the finished wort into one and diluting it to your taste, pour EXACTLY half into the other. Pitch one yeast into one and the other into the other. Remember to let the wort cool before pitching, or else the heat will kill the yeast. Aerate both worts (I'll explain why in the next paragraph). Seal both buckets and insert the airlocks. Now we have identical worts whose only difference is the yeast. Tape a note onto each bucket showing which has which. Most likely the airlocks won't start bubbling at the same time. Don't worry - this doesn't mean squat. Just let both batches ferment out. You'll have to bottle from the boiling pot, as the bottling bucket has become a fermenter. You'll have to siphon into bottles, as there'll be no spigot to attach the hose to (be sure to clean the bottle filler after you've had it in your mouth). Then, a few weeks later, pour one cold brew from each batch into glasses and taste them. If there's no appreciable difference, then you need not bother with the expense and inconvenience of liquid yeast.

Oxygen is important at pitching time in order for yeast to reproduce, so by sheer numbers it can overtake any bacteria. This is why we aerate our wort. During the reproduction stage the yeast eat and reproduce; no alcohol is produced. It is only when the oxygen is used up that yeast stops multiplying and alcohol is produced. Theoretically, then, if you aerate the wort every few hours, you will make a low-alcohol brew. However, the drawback is that more diacetyl would be produced this way. Furthermore, during the later stages of fermentation, yeast reduces much of the diacetyl that it had produced earlier, and we don't want to prevent this reduction.

As I mentioned before, you can save slurry from the fermenter and reuse it. Clean some mason or mayonnaise jars and their lids, pour the slurry into them after racking, and cover lightly. Do not seal until it stops foaming, otherwise the jars may explode. Note that the slurry is not all yeast - much of it is trub (pronounced "troob"), which is proteins and other gook that have settled out. About 12 ounces is a good amount of slurry to pitch into a 5 gallon batch. Keep the slurry refrigerated (but not frozen) and use within two weeks, because after that the yeast starts to autolyze: it feeds off its once-vital relatives, much like Yoko Ono, and as a result it starts to stink, again like Yoko Ono. However, a microbiologist told me that there is a way to store yeast slurry for long periods of time: pour some slurry into some sterile water. Slurry has trace amounts of nutrients which keep the yeast awake enough to autolyze, but dilution with water makes a virtually nutrient-free environment which causes the yeast to go so dormant that it will not autolyze. She said that the yeast will keep for up to 2 years this way, even at room temperature!

Pitching and fermentation temperatures are important. Make sure the wort is at a temperature that the yeast prefers. Too high a temperature can cause more flavor-producing chemicals to be produced (this can be good or bad depending your taste preference), and if it's too cold fermentation will be sluggish.

It's possible to culture yeast from small colonies on agar slants. I will not describe the process here, as it involves precise work and sterilization, and we're homebrewers, not surgeons. Actually I'm just too lazy to explain it. So there.


Sign #1 that you're a beer geek:
More than half the stuff in your fridge is brews, hops and yeast.

The most important process in homebrewing is sanitation. There are billions of bacteria and wild yeast that live in our buckets, our utensils, and the air, that can and will infect our brew if given the chance. They're like lawyers without the suits. In hindsight I'm surprised that the wine I used to make at the fraternity house in college never tasted contaminated. Of course, I liked Blatz, so I probably wouldn't have known the difference. No one could taste much in my wine other than the alcohol anyway. But homebrew is different. We're talking malt here, a foodstuff which is positively ideal for just about any microorganism. Anything that lands in there will reproduce faster than Catholics.

A few ounces of household bleach in a few gallons of water and a clean dish rag make an effective cleaning system. The only drawback is that the solution must be rinsed off or else it will cause bad flavors in the brew. Rinsing not only adds extra work, it counters some of the effects of cleaning, since the water used for rinsing re-introduces bacteria onto our stuff. An alternative is an iodine-based cleaner such as Iodophor. Dilute a little in water, clean everything with it, and drain, do not rinse; the solution is virtually odorless and tasteless, so the little bit left behind will not affect the flavor.

We will never rid the air in our brewing space of microorganisms, unless we brew in NASA's Clean Room. To minimize airborne microbes, keep all windows shut, turn off fans, and sell your kids. No, really, just have them hold their breath. Also shower beforehand, and wear clean clothes (or none at all!) and a hairnet or bandana.

Bottles can be cleaned in the dishwasher by putting them through the drying cycle. The heat just about sterilizes them, so no need to do the washing cycle. Just let them cool before bottling so the sudden temperature change caused by adding wort doesn't crack them. I don't have a dishwasher, so I get to enjoy the ecstatic pleasure of washing each bottle, one by one. Lucky me. A handy gadget for holding clean bottles is a bottle tree, which holds all our bottles upside down and in one small area, so they can totally drain and we don't have to set them all on the floor before we fill them.

The good news about contamination is that while it can make brew taste and smell bad, it cannot make us sick. Think about it. With all the hundreds of thousands of people - some of them no smarter than the average tree stump - making all sorts of beverages at home, some paying little or no attention to sanitation (like me in my frat days), there are a lot of microorganisms being consumed. Surely someone would have become severely ill or died by now, and homebrewing would have been outlawed, if these microbes were dangerous. Lucky for us the kinds of things that make us sick can't live in that environment. Maybe we should put politicians in there.


Homebrew, it's good for your heart.
The more you drink, the more you fart.
The more you fart, the better you feel,
so drink homebrew at every meal.

Primary fermentation is the several days of fervent action that causes our airlock to bubble and gives us hours of entertainment (actually, if you find yourself staring at the airlock for that long, you really should seek professional help). When the airlock stops bubbling most of the yeast and trub have settled out. Some people like to do a "secondary fermentation" which involves racking the wort into another bucket, sealing, inserting the airlock, and allowing several more days or even a few weeks for fermentation to completely finish and for the wort to clear. "Why do a secondary - why not just let it sit in the primary for a few weeks?" you query. How can you ask such a stupid question? What are you, an idiot? We don't just let it sit in the primary for all that time because the settled yeast would autolyze (autolysis is explained in chapter 4). By racking into secondary, most of this dormant yeast is eliminated, minimizing autolysis and any resulting off-flavors. Plus we will eventually get less yeast in our bottles, minimizing in-bottle autolysis. The drawbacks to secondary fermentation are increased work and more chance for oxidation and contamination. (Oxidation is the process whereby oxygen in the air that mixes with wort eventually causes the finished product to go stale.)

If secondary fermentation is too long (over a month for ales; over a year for lagers), it is possible for so much yeast to drop out that the little remaining will be unable to properly condition the bottled brew. At the very least, it will lengthen conditioning time.

Secondary fermentation is not an absolute must, but it is recommended, especially if you're kegging (see chapter 16) - you don't want trub in your keg's dip tube.


Reason #2 why homebrew is better than women:
A homebrew doesn't want an hour of foreplay before it satisfies you.

Brewing with hopped malt extract is fine for simpletons (e.g. government employees), but some of us would like to have more control over what goes into the fermented beverages we make and drink. Perhaps the first step toward mastering the art of brewing and basically letting it take over our lives is to add our own hops.

For your next batch buy unhopped malt extract, some hop pellets and 2 straining bags. You could use nylon stockings instead of the bags, but if you're a single male or militant feminist you probably don't have any (unless you're a transvestite). Hops - here's a horticultural lesson you didn't ask for (no, horticulture has nothing to do with the lifestyles of prostitutes) - are vines whose flowers, when boiled, release bitter resins. These balance the sweetness of the malt. Hopped extract has some of these bittering compounds in it; unhopped does not. By adding our own hops we can control the amount of bitterness (I wish we could do this with people) as well as the flavor.

Hops are sold in 3 forms: leaf (which is a misnomer since we use the flowers, not the leaves), plug and pellet. The latter is the most convenient and keeps fresh the longest, so I highly recommend it (of course, I also highly recommend staying single, but nobody listens to me).

How much hops should you use? It depends on a lot of things, not the least of which is alpha acid percentage, which should be written on the packages you buy (alpha acid is the main bittering component in hops). Different species of hops have different concentrations of bitterness, e.g. Fuggles might be 4%, while Nugget might be 15% (Nugget is the Roseanne Arnold of hops). A standard bitterness measurement is the "alpha acid unit", abbreviated AAU (another term is "home bittering unit", or HBU). One AAU = one ounce of hops with 1% of alpha acid, so, for example, 2 ounces of 4% Fuggles has 8 AAUs. Most homebrews have anywhere from 5-30 AAUs in a 5 gallon batch.

There's also a measurement of bitterness per unit of wort, called "international bittering unit", or IBU. But the calculations are so ridiculously complicated that you might as well try to figure out pi.

As hops are boiled, the alpha acid is isomerized into a chemical that tastes bitter. A minimum of 30 minutes is necessary for a significant amount of the alpha acid to start isomerizing, and maximum utilization is reached at around 90-120 minutes. The higher the wort gravity, the longer isomerization takes.

Then there's aromatics. Hops, if boiled only briefly, give aroma but very little bitterness, as opposed to a long boil in which bitterness is extracted but the aromatics are lost into the air. Aromatics, found in the hop oils rather than the resins, are not measured in AAUs.

Hops can also add flavor. A 15 to 20 minute boil will drive off the aromatic oils, and only a little bitterness will be extracted, and what will be left is flavor. Longer boils tend to kill the flavor, which is why a special hop addition is needed for hop flavor.

Different hop species give different aromas and flavors, so which species you use will determine much of what the brew will taste and smell like. At this point our choice of hops is not important, because we're not connoisseurs.

For this batch do everything the same as before, plus the following: put some bittering hops (you determine how much by alpha percentage and how bitter you like your brew) in one straining bag, (optionally) some flavoring hops in another, and some aroma hops in another, and tie them shut. Once the malt can is completely emptied, throw the bittering hops in there and boil for at least an hour. Our high-gravity wort (i.e. thicker than the finished brew will be) necessitates a long boil. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom to keep the malt from sticking (I'm familiar with scraping the bottom, for example, when I look for women). You might want to add water occasionally as it evaporates. Keep a good strong boil going - the rolling action helps to extract bitterness. About 15 minutes before you plan to stop boiling, add the flavor hops if you're using them. At the end of the boil, remove the bag(s) and squeeze the remaining liquid into the boil (wear rubber gloves!). Turn off the heat, throw the aroma hops in, and stir well. Finish the process as in the last chapter. You don't even have to remove the aroma hop bag - keeping it in the fermentation bucket will extract more aromatics. Just remember to remove (and squeeze!) at bottling time.

Much of the aromatics are lost in the carbon dioxide that goes out the airlock during fermentation. To prevent this you can do the following: briefly boil some water at bottling time, turn off the heat, add the aroma hops, stir for a minute, remove (don't forget to squeeze), dissolve the priming sugar in this "hop tea", and add to your bottling bucket. Or you can try what's called "dry hopping" (I like how that sounds like dry humping. Okay, so I'm sick). This involves throwing the aroma hops into the secondary fermenter without even boiling them. The aromatics will dissolve in the next week or so. Dry hopping might introduce some bacteria into the wort, as the hops are not boiled, but since there is some alcohol in the wort at this point, most of the bacteria will die.

As you can see, adding your own hops involves a considerable amount of extra work, but if you want to work hard at this craft, the payoff will be brews that not only taste better, but are unique, since no one will use exactly the same amounts and types of hops you use.


My wife told me if I don't stop brewing she'll leave me.
I'm gonna miss her.

A lot of people like to see crisp, clear brew in their glass. Then there are people like me who couldn't give less of a sh*t about clarity. All that matters is that it tastes good. I like thick brews, and suspended particles only enhance a brew's thickness. Plus, if you're drinking a very dark one, you can't see through it anyway, no matter how much gunk has settled out. But for you anal-retentive types whose brew has to be clear, or else you'll be too grossed out to drink it, I grudgingly offer the following deliberately incomplete information. S'matta, you got a problem with that?

Carrageenan, better known as Irish moss, is a seaweed product that is used in many things, including ice cream. If you add it during the last 15 minutes of the boil, protein molecules will be electrostatically attracted to it, causing them to stick to the bits of carrageenan and eventually settle to the bottom of the fermenter in clumps.

Other clarifiers (also called finings), such as polyclar, are added to the secondary fermenter or bottling bucket. Do not boil finings unless the instructions explicitly say to, otherwise they will be rendered ineffective. All finings assist flocculation (that could be a dirty word with just a little help), which is the tendency of proteins and yeast to clump and settle. Adding finings may cause an evolution of CO2, which helps expel any oxygen that might get into the wort during racking.

Sometimes brew looks clear at room temperature, but after refrigeration it appears cloudy. What has happened? The lower temperature has caused previously-scattered proteins to clump together into groups that are large enough to reflect light but not heavy enough to settle. This light blockage is called "chill haze". Finings help settle these proteins, but they don't always get 'em all. Unfortunately you can't smack these proteins around and make them settle, the way you can with kids.

Time is a good clarifier. What looks like swamp water one month might appear to have been filtered the next. Of course, some brews never clear.


Sign #2 that you're a beer geek: "Head" no longer refers to sex.

One of the great things about homebrewing is that there are literally millions of ways to brew. You can do this your whole life and never make the same brew twice! In addition to the countless combinations of types and amounts of malt, hops and yeast, there are many other things that can be added. Of course, you can't add just anything. Use the following guidelines of what's good and what's bad:

If you like fruit brews (no, this is not beers for queers), you can either crush your own fruit or use frozen or canned fruit, or even preserves. Be careful, though - read the label and make sure that what you're adding is all or mostly fruit. Anything which is mostly corn syrup, sugar, etc will ferment directly into alcohol and not impart much fruit flavor. Add fresh fruit at the end of the boil (to sterilize); frozen, canned or jarred fruit is already sterile, so it can be added directly to the primary or secondary. Always rack into another fermenter - this means, for example, that if fruit was added to the secondary, eventually rack into a tertiary fermenter. This is necessary because 1) there will be more particles to settle, and 2) fruit sugars take longer to ferment, and we want fermentation to completely finish before we prime and bottle. Popular fruits include raspberry, blackberry, blueberry and cherry. Lesser used are peach and strawberry.

Orange peels are used in some Belgian brews, and are popular in Christmas brews. You can use the entire peel, or just the outer, orange part (the "zest"). The best time to add them is during the last few minutes of the boil.

Spices can be powdered or fresh. Just mix in at the end of the boil, or briefly boil and add to the secondary fermenter to preserve the aroma. Do NOT wait til bottling time, as pieces can float as well as sink, and we don't want stuff floating in our bottles.

Oak wood chips add a flavor and aroma to brew that's, well, oaky. It's hard to describe - it's sort of like whiskey. Steep in hot wort or water for 30 minutes, but do not boil, as that could cause bitter tannins to leech out. Other types of wood can be used too.

Syrupy additives like honey and molasses can impart some flavor but are mostly fermentable and tend to raise alcohol content significantly. Honey is more cumbersome to use because it ferments very slowly and lengthens fermentation, sometimes by months.

I've had a few brews containing chili peppers, which were not to my liking but were enjoyed by some people. It's just a matter of personal preference.

Pumpkin can be used but I've found that it does nothing more than add a lot of trub. I've never had a pumpkin ale where I could taste pumpkin.

I've tried other additives: cocoa, raisins, licorice root, potatoes, apple juice, grape juice and Liquid Smoke. None of these brews turned out bad. Go ahead, experiment!


Nonalcoholic beer is a great invention for people who don't want to get drunk, but love to urinate.

We all have wimpy friends who don't drink, and we want them to be able to enjoy our homebrew. All we need to do in order to de-alcohol a batch of brew is to rack the fermented wort into a pot or two and heat it to just below boiling temperature. It doesn't have to boil, as alcohol vaporizes at a temperature lower than water does, but you should stir frequently in order to keep bringing alcohol to the top where it can evaporate. For close to an hour your sinuses and lungs will be pleasantly stimulated by a medicinal mist. You might feel lightheaded, and your house might smell like a distillery - so much the better! Aroma hops can be added at the end. Add a little water if the taste is too strong (heating vaporizes some water, causing the wort to be more concentrated). Now we must bottle, because if we leave it in a bucket to settle for a few days, there will be no yeast (since heating killed it) to overpower the bacteria. Cool the wort, and if the pot doesn't have measuring marks, rack into the bottling bucket in order to get an accurate measurement. Add the right amount of priming sugar and a few ounces of yeast slurry or a packet of dry yeast (remember the old yeast is now dead), and bottle. Yes, a small amount of alcohol will be produced during conditioning, but it will be as insignificant as the surgeon general.

Heating probably does not remove all of the alcohol, but it does remove most of it. To find out how much is removed from your brew, drink a case and see whether you live to tell about it.

Another de-alcoholization method - and I have not tried this so I don't know how well it works - is to freeze the wort. Since alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than water does, it should remain liquid while the rest freezes. Then you can pour off (or drink!) the alcohol, thaw the wort, add priming sugar and yeast (freezing might have killed the old yeast), and bottle.


Social reformer Lady Astor ended a lengthy temperance speech with,
"I would rather commit adultery than drink a glass of beer."
A voice from the crowd bellowed back: "Who wouldn't?"

The time between when the wort is cool enough for microbes to infect it (below 120°F) and when the yeast really gets going is called "lag time". There's plenty of sugar in there, and the more time and resources you give bacteria, the more they will multiply. Just like a lot of welfare recipients. It would be nice if we could cool the wort quickly instead of waiting an hour or two for it to cool to pitching temperature. Pouring hot concentrated wort into cold water will drop the temperature only so much - usually we will still have to wait for complete cooling. Putting the pot of wort in an ice water bath helps some, but still leaves considerable lag time.

Quick chilling is also a very good idea because of the oxidation factor. As I mentioned earlier, it is important to aerate wort before pitching. However, aerating will cause oxidation, a process which causes metals to rust, fats to go rancid, and beverages to go bad in the bottle. Active yeast breathe and therefore use up oxygen in the wort, so aerating at pitching time won't do much harm, but aerating while it's hot causes oxidation to occur before it has been cooled and yeast has been pitched, so even though yeast will eventually use up the oxygen, the damage has already been done. Plus the higher temperature speeds oxidation. Remember our first batch, when we poured hot wort into cold water? The pouring process caused aeration and some oxidation. It should have been cooled before pouring. So sue me. But it kept the process simple for a first-time brewer. And anyway, ignorance is bliss. If we had used a wort chiller, we would have avoided oxidation.

Another benefit of quick chilling is an improved "cold break", which is when proteins coagulate into big chunks as the result of a rapid temperature drop. These chunks settle easily, thus clarification is enhanced.

So every serious homebrewer needs a wort chiller. You can buy one at a homebrew shop, or you can save a few bucks by buying the parts at a hardware store and building one.

There are two kinds of wort chillers (that I know of, anyway). They both work on the same principle: thermal exchange (no, this does not mean trading underwear). The two kinds are:

1) Immersion. The simpler of the two, this involves a connector to a faucet or spigot, connected to a flexible hose, connected to coiled hollow piping (almost always copper, due to its excellent thermal conductivity), connected to more flexible hose. Cold water is run through the piping, which is immersed in the hot wort inside the boiling pot. The wort's heat conducts through the piping to the continuously running water, and the water's coolness conducts to the wort, which thereby cools quickly while the warmed water flows down the drain.

2) Counterflow. Copper piping is run lengthwise through a garden hose, then both are coiled. The hot wort is siphoned INSIDE the piping from the boiling pot to the fermenter, while cold water is run the other way inside the hose but outside the piping. By the time the wort reaches the fermenter it has cooled.

The immersion type is less expensive and easier to assemble, but the counterflow type cools each unit of wort faster: the immersion type cools all the wort at the same time, which takes roughly 10-20 minutes, while the counterflow type cools only the wort that is inside the chiller, while the wort that hasn't yet reached the chiller remains hot. Thus cooling time per unit of wort is the time it takes to siphon from the boiling pot into the fermenter, which is usually less than a minute, so there is less chance for contamination and a better cold break results. The higher the gravity, the longer it takes to flow. Worts with very high gravities often will not flow through counterflow wort chillers, most of which use 3/8 inch inner diameter piping, so an immersion type must be used.

The biggest assembly problem is bending the piping into a coil. Bend it around something cylindrical: a small wastebasket, a child's head, your pecker - whatever's handy. If you free-form bend it you could accidentally fold it over, which closes the lumen; unfolding it could cause it to break, and if you Bobbitt your pipe you'll have to buy another one.

Copper is the best piping material to use, for 3 reasons:

  1. it exchanges temperature rapidly
  2. it's relatively soft so it's easy to manipulate
  3. copper is an essential mineral for yeast (when hot wort touches it, trace amounts of copper leech into it).


Sign #3 that you're a beer geek:
You can't watch a beer commercial without telling others how much better your homebrew is.

Homebrew weighs about one-sixth as much on the Moon as it does on Earth, and on Jupiter it weighs about a hundred times as much as it does here. I once tried to calculate how much my mother-in-law would weigh on Jupiter, and my computer laughed. What does all this have to do with brewing? Nothing.

Two of the most-used catch-phrases in homebrewing are "original gravity" and "final gravity", abbreviated O.G. and F.G. These refer to the specific gravity (i.e. heaviness in relation to water) of the wort before and after fermentation, respectively. The sugars, proteins, hops and yeast make the wort heavier than water. A hydrometer, which might have come with your kit, is used to measure this heaviness. It looks like a thermometer. It is dropped into the wort - the weighted bottom makes it remain upright - and the hydrometer mark at the liquid's surface displays the gravity. As the wort ferments, the sugars are converted into alcohol, and this lowers wort gravity in two ways: there is less sugar dissolved in solution, and alcohol itself is lighter than water. Final gravity is therefore always lower than original gravity, although it will always be higher than that of water because some sugars remain due to being unfermentable by yeast. Water has a gravity of 1.000; typically O.G. is between 1.030 and 1.110, and F.G. is between 1.003 and 1.050.

Now that we know the specifics, here is the most important point: it doesn't matter. Who gives a rat's ass what the gravity is? As long as it tastes good, what are gravity readings but inane measurements that have absolutely no effect on the final outcome and give beer geeks something to drone on about? Let's say, for example, that we take an O.G. reading of 1.043. Now what? What will we do with this information? Nothing. We won't add anything to our wort. We'll just jot it down in our log book as though it had some significance.

The one semi-useful application for hydrometers is calculating alcohol percentage. Subtract the final gravity from the original gravity, multiply by 1000, divide by 7.2, do 5 somersalts, say 3 Hail Marys, and voila - alcohol percentage. Of course, this isn't 100% accurate, and we don't know if it's percentage of alcohol by weight or by volume, but hey, we paid 5 bucks for our hydrometer, and by golly we're gonna make use of it.


Life is too short to drink bad beer.

There is air in our bottles' headspace. Commercial breweries fill their headspace with pure carbon dioxide or nitrogen, but ours contains oxygen and some other gases. Combine this with the air that gets accidentally mixed into the brew during racking and bottling, and there is potential for oxidation to occur and shorten our brew's shelf life. You'll hear some people say that all homebrew should be drunk within six months, or a year, or whatever. But I've had people's 5-year-old homebrews that tasted great. So what's the deal? Well, basically, we've all got our heads up our asses. Some brews go bad, but often it's due to bacterial contamination, not oxidation. Furthermore, some people think that the oxygen gets used up by the yeast that eat the priming sugar, so very little oxidation happens in the bottle. The bottom line is that we just don't know what the hell is going on, and the only way to know the best time to drink a brew from any particular batch is to drink one every few weeks. Some brews taste best for a few weeks and then worsen; some brews improve for a few months before they worsen; and some brews don't taste very good at first, but get better and better for a year and stay good for many years. Why? Yeast and proteins are settling, hop bitterness is mellowing, and a bunch of other stuff (to put it technically) is going on. So if you brew a batch that you're not happy with, don't throw it away! Put it somewhere, preferably in your basement if you have one, and forget about it. Then one day many months later you'll stumble upon this box labeled "Sh*t beer", and you'll pop a few in the fridge. It might still taste like sh*t (and if it does it's not going to get any better, so go ahead and throw it all out), but you might be pleasantly surprised. Also keep in mind that thicker and more alcoholic brews take longer to age, because they have more stuff and there is more yet to happen.

How brew is stored has an effect on aging. Cold temperatures help particles settle out, and might retard oxidation, so try to store in a refrigerator or basement. Also keep out of solar and fluorescent light: these rays cause hop resins to give off a skunky taste and aroma, like that found in Molson, Heineken and Moosehead. In tasteless commercial beer, skunkiness might be a positive addition, but it can ruin a homebrew. Brown bottles filter out most light, whereas green bottles filter out only some, and clear bottles almost none. Time of exposure is also important, so even brown-bottled brew can skunkify if exposed long enough. Therefore, store in a dark place: a fridge (yes, the light goes off when you close the door), a closed box, or covered with a towel.


Reason #3 why homebrew is better than women:
A homebrew doesn't care when you come.

Food-grade plastic buckets are fine for brewing: they're sturdy, cheap, and easy to use (all right, I won't make any references to my ex-wife here). The only drawback is that over time, little scratches appear inside, leaving nooks and crannies for microbes to hide in, avoid our wash cloths, and leap into our wort later. Personally, I think that there are so few of these that they get beaten out by the yeast, but we're talking about an opportunity for a new gadget here, so let's not confuse ourselves with facts. There's also speculation that air can seep through the plastic bucket into the wort. I think that this is paranoid hysteria, but you never know. A lot of brewers use a large, thin-necked, glass container called a carboy. It's heavy, expensive, difficult to handle, and fragile (another passed opportunity for an ex-wife analogy). Glass is very smooth so carboys do not scratch with the kind of use we give them, and air definitely cannot seep through, but does the ostensibly cleaner environment merit the extra hassle? I've heard stories about smashed carboys that were funny because they did not happen to me, but would not have been so funny otherwise.

There's a product called a Fermentap that, in theory, can make carboys worthwhile. It enables fermentation in an upside-down carboy, so that our fermenter is now tapered on the bottom instead of the top. I won't explain the technical details, but the basic operation is that as the trub and yeast settle down, they can be drained off, so racking into a secondary container is not necessary in order to remove and/or store the slurry. At bottling time, the carboy can be uprighted, and the wort can be primed in and bottled from it. Thus opportunities for oxidation and contamination are minimized. Professional brewers use this principle. If you've ever toured a microbrewery, you've probably seen fermentation vessels where the top half is cylindrical and the bottom half is conical, so that it comes to a point on the bottom. This enables trub to slide all the way down. Unfortunately, carboys are not perfectly cylindroconical - they are mostly cylindrical; the angle of the tapering near the neck is not nearly steep enough to allow all the trub to slide into the neck when the carboy is inverted. Take it from one who knows - I have a Fermentap, and the only way to make proper use of it is to alternately swirl the carboy and drain off the little trub in the neck several times, which is tedious. The fault lies not in the Fermentap, but in the shape of the carboy. (There are affordable cylindroconical plastic fermenters on the market now.)

If you decide to get a carboy, you'll need a carboy brush for scrubbing the inside, as you can't fit your hand through the neck. If you plan on using the carboy the normal way (i.e. not with a Fermentap), you'll also need a cover or rubber stopper with a hole for inserting an airlock. A blowoff hose might be desirable, as foam can be pushed out during high krauesen (when fermentation is at its most vigorous and there are a lot of bubbles). You might also want a carboy handle, which is attached to the neck and makes carrying the carboy easier and safer.

Being glass, carboys allow you to watch your beer ferment. This can be fun. The downside to this is that sunlight, which causes hop resins to give off a skunky flavor and aroma, can get in, so keep the fermenting wort in a dark place, or wrap a blanket around it.


Sign #4 that you're a beer geek:
You spend so much time brewing, your wife would rather you had an affair.

Okay, here's where you go off the deep end. If you start mashing your own grains, you have conceded that you have no life, nothing better to do, and a serious time management problem.

You know those nice cans of malt we use? Aren't they convenient? Just open and pour. No fuss, no muss. In order to gain a greater appreciation for our friends who make the syrup, let's look at the malting process.

Barley is a grain. It grows in grassy stalks just like wheat, rye, oats and other grains. Barley is the only one that contains certain enzymes which are necessary for converting starch to sugar, and this is why it is used; any beverage which does not contain barley cannot rightfully be called "beer". (By the way, I use the word "brew" for what we make at home, and "beer" for what's sold in stores.) The other grains listed above may be used, but a significant portion must be barley. Wheat beer, for instance, is made from about 50% wheat and 50% barley. (Big breweries often use cheaper adjuncts such as corn and rice, which is why their flavor is so light.) Anyway, the barley grains are brought to huge "malt houses" where they are soaked in water for a few days in order to make them start to germinate and release enzymes. If allowed to continue beyond a few days, a little sprout would pop out, but the barley is quickly dried in order to stop this process before anything pops out (my ex-wife was good at that). At this point we have malted barley, or "malt" for short. Drying at higher-than-normal temperatures creates "specialty malts" which are used to impart body, color, or roasted flavors to beer.

The malt is cracked (but not powdered) in a mill (this step is necessary in order to expose the starch) and the cracked malt is steeped in hot water. At this time the enzymes convert the starch to sugars, and the sugars dissolve into the water. This process is called "mashing" (so I guess a huge mash done in an industrial vat could be called a "monster mash"! Oh, I kill me!) The husks are then strained out and the sweet water is boiled down to a syrup, called "malt extract", or further boiled and dried into a powder, called "dry malt extract", or DME for short. These two extract products are used by homebrewers who don't mash.

"Why in the world would anyone want to mash at home?" you ask. "What kind of sick individual would spend valuable time and mess up his house doing something that should be left to professionals?" This is a hobby, remember, and the more steps in the process we can do ourselves, the better. Plus, by controlling the mash temperature we can control the flavor characteristics (yes, this means you have to buy a thermometer, you cheap bastard). The accepted temperature range ("accepted", of course, meaning "because we don't know any better") is 150°-158°F. At the high end we create more unfermentable sugars and therefore a sweeter, more full-bodied brew; at the low end we create more fermentable sugars and therefore a more alcoholic brew. It is really a waste of time to go into which sugars are fermentable, which are not, and why. Suffice it to say that yeast eat the fermentable sugars (by definition) while they think of unfermentable sugars what we think of broccoli.

What the hell, let's further complicate the process. 122°F is the temperature at which proteins break down best (this enhances clarification and also gives nutrients to the yeast). Some mashers steep their grains at this temperature for a while. This is called a "protein rest". Fortunately, this step is unnecessary for most malts, because they are highly-modified; only undermodified malts, which constitute just a small percentage of the malt market, need a protein rest. Don't ask me to explain the difference. A protein rest also adds time and work to the mashing process, because we want to jump from protein rest temperature to mash temperature as quickly as possible. Why? Well, a particular enzyme, which breaks complex sugars in half, into less complex sugars, is most active from 150°-158°F. This process is essential. But from 131°-149°F another enzyme is most active, and this one nibbles at the complex sugars from their ends, creating lots of simple, fermentable sugars, which will leave us with a poor-bodied finished product. This enzyme is rather wimpy, but it is an insufferable little bugger that just won't stop until you kill it, kind of like Richard Simmons. It becomes less active as the temperature goes over 150°F.

At 168 degrees, conversion enzymes are killed. For this reason we don't want to overheat our grains until conversion is complete. Raising the temperature after conversion is called "mash out".

Mashing can be done on a stove, or outside with a propane heater. Many people mash outdoors in the summer. That's intelligent: it's 95 degrees out, humid, and we're sweating - let's make a fire!

One more point before we employ our new knowledge. Malt grains can be bought whole or cracked. Most homebrew shops will crack them for you. However, they are best stored whole, especially in humid areas, so unless you plan to use them fairly soon, you might want to buy a grain mill (oh boy! Another gadget!) and crack them yourself as you need them. Just make sure to keep the mill at a setting that cracks but does not powder the grains, because powdered husks do not form a good filter bed and can cause your straining device to clog. This is called a "stuck mash", although the proper term would be "stuck strain".

Okay, let's mash! Ingredients for a 5-gallon mash (if different size mash, adjust amounts proportionately):

12 lbs cracked pale malt
2 lbs cracked crystal malt (adds body, color)
10 AAUs bittering hops
5 AAUs aroma hops
1 teaspoon gypsum
I threw in gypsum just to annoy you. No, really, it helps the mash process by lowering pH. Too long to explain. Just take my word for it. Now do the following:
1)  Drink a homebrew.
2)  Put gypsum and 3 gallons of water in pot.  Heat some water
    in another pot.
Steps 3a-5a are necessary only if doing a protein rest. If not doing one, go to step 3b.
3a) Heat to 133°F, turn off heat. Stir in grains, and temperature will drop to around 122°F. It's okay if it's not exact. Make sure all grains get soaked. Add a little water if mash is too thick, using hot water from the other pot, or cold tap water, to keep temperature near 122°F. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. 4a) Drink a homebrew. 5a) Bring to about 155°F as quickly as possible (so we can avoid Richard Simmons). Go to step 6. 3b) Heat to 170°F. Add grains and stir to make sure all grains get soaked. Remember that the temperature will drop immediately, so the initial temperature won't kill many enzymes. 4b) Add boiling water from the other pot, or cold tap water, to adjust the temperature to about 155°F, and/or to loosen mash if it's too thick. It should have the consistency of porridge. 5b) Drink a homebrew. 6) Allow to stand, covered, for an hour or so. Do not allow to go over 158°F. Stir occasionally. You can keep the stove or propane burner on low, or put the mash pot in the stove on low heat (150°F) to insulate it so you don't have to stir as often. 7) Drink a homebrew. 8) Raise mash temperature to 168°F and let stand for 10 minutes (mash out). Do not raise over 170°F, as this can cause bitter husk tannins to leech out. 9) Drink a homebrew. 10) Remove mash from heat and pour through a large strainer, colander, screen, or wicker chair seat into a clean bucket (doesn't have to be sterilized). "But wait!" you scream. "The hot wort that drains through will be oxidized!" Well, why do you think I had you drink all those homebrews? By now you're too plastered to give a damn about oxidation. 11) Step 11 was, of course, a joke. There are many types of equipment that your local homebrew supplier would love to sell you that facilitate the lautering process and minimize oxidation. I'll let him explain them to you. (Notice how I said "him", assuming that a homebrew supplier must be male. Just a little deliberate chauvinism designed to elicit angry letters from feminists.) 12) As the grains drain, use a bowl or large cup to scoop the 3-4 gallons of hot water and pour on top, to extract a little more sugar. This step is called "sparging". Pour the sparge water gently, and not all in the same place - make large and small circles, wetting the entire top of the grains. This ensures that most of the grains get rinsed and minimizes "channelling". Try to keep the water level above the grains, so the grain bed doesn't compact and slow or block drainage. Lauter about 6 gallons. 13) Bring the strained mash water (some call it "sweet liquor") to a boil. Add hops and proceed as normal. 14) Drink a homebrew.
From here on in you know what to do. The spent grains can be thrown onto your compost heap, or fed to your livestock, or mixed with soil as fertilizer, or eaten. What's that? You're throwing them away? Well, you're just an ecological disaster, aren't you?


A guy walking by a bordello sees a sign that reads, "BB&B $50".
He goes in and asks the madame, "What's BB&B?" She answers,
"Bed, beer, and a blonde." He thinks for a minute and asks,
"Is that beer on tap or in a bottle?"

By now you know that bottle washing is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Pouring a homebrew into a glass and washing the bottle before the yeast dries is also a hassle. Your house is getting cluttered with bottles, both empty and full. And worst of all, some bottles gush when you open them, or just the opposite happens: flat brew.

Well, we've already spent hundreds of dollars on this hobby, so what's a few hundred more? Let's put some of our brew in kegs and take up more space!

The first essential piece of new equipment is another refrigerator. A medium-sized one will do, but full-size is preferable because, well, it's bigger. Plus it has a freezer in which to store hops. Used fridges aren't expensive, and a friend with a truck would be glad to offer use of his vehicle in return for a case of homebrew.

We need a carbon dioxide (CO2) bottle. Some homebrew shops carry them, and compressed air companies usually have them. Just make sure the one you buy has a recent test date stamped on it. If it doesn't, there's a chance (albeit a small one) of one day having a high-pressure explosion, and if you're nearby at the time you could end up like Kurt Cobain. CO2 bottles come in several sizes. I recommend the 20-pound cylinder, because they can go years between fill-ups.

Our next new toy is a CO2 regulator. The bottle's CO2 is stored at 500-1000 pounds per square inch (psi), and since we'll never need more than 20 psi for carbonating our brew, we need a way to dispense it at low pressures. A regulator, also available at some homebrew shops and most compressed air companies, serves this purpose. I wish I had a regulator when I was married, to stem the flow of hot air from my wife.

We use soda kegs, not beer kegs, since they're smaller, easier to clean, and less expensive (wish my ex-wife were!) Also, 2 or 3 can fit in a fridge. Now that soda companies are switching to new balloon-in-a-box models, the old-style metal ones are in abundance. They can be found at some homebrew shops and soda companies, the latter of which just might give you some for free. You might have to replace the rubber O-rings, and they will need disconnects, which attach to the gas-in and liquid-out stems. The type needed depends on whether the kegs are pin-lock or ball-lock (ask your supplier).

Now our taps. The metal pull type, like you see in bars, are expensive - around $40 for the tap and the shank that goes through the fridge. The plastic hand-held "party taps" are about $5 apiece.

Go to a hardware store and get about 15 feet of 1/4" inner diameter (I.D.) vinyl hose, 20 feet of 3/16" I.D. vinyl hose, 10 small hose clamps, and, if you plan on having 2 kegs, a 1/4" T connector.
Keg setup (assuming 2 kegs):

1)  Drill one large hole through the side of the fridge for each
    tap, plus one smaller hole that's just big enough for the
    1/4" hose to slide through.  Then clean the fridge and/or
    freezer compartment.
2)  Do NOT drink a homebrew (yet).  We're working with tools and
    heavy equipment here.
3)  Attach the regulator to the CO2 bottle with a large adjustable
    wrench.  Make sure the regulator's flow handle is in the off
    (horizontal to the hose barb) position.  Slowly turn the CO2
    bottle's round knob about half a turn.  This allows gas to
    the regulator, but it will not yet flow because the regulator
    valve is shut.
4)  Set the pressure on the gauge to 0.  Then open the valve (turn
    handle so it's in line with the hose barb) and adjust the
    gauge to 5 psi.  The hiss means gas is flowing out (duh!).
    Close the valve.
5)  Wash all hoses, taps and disconnects, inside and out.
6)  Cut a 5-foot piece of 1/4" hose.  Put one end over the
    regulator's hose barb.  Feed the other end through one clamp,
    then the small drilled hole from the outside to the inside of
    the fridge, then another clamp, and put this end over the
    T connector.  Then cut two 5-foot pieces and put one end of each
    over the other T connector ends.  Clamp all 4 connections.
7)  Clamp the other ends of the 5-foot pieces to the gas-in
    disconnects' barbs.
8)  Cut two 10-foot pieces of 3/16" hose.  Clamp one end of each
    over the taps' barbs, then feed each of the other ends through
    a big drilled hole (from the outside), and clamp these ends over
    the liquid-out disconnects' barbs.  If using the expensive
    pull-type taps, additional work will be required to affix the
    shanks snugly in the holes.
9)  Push the kegs' gas-in stems to release any pressure (pushing the
    liquid-out stems could give you a soda shower).  Lift the cover
    handles, push down (this may be difficult at first), turn, and
    remove.  Wash the covers, O-rings, and kegs themselves, both inside
    and out.  Do not use a chlorine- based cleaner, as it can corrode
    the metal.  After washing, sanitize and leave a half gallon of
    water with a little Iodophor in each.  Replace the covers.
10) Connect the gas-in disconnects (from the regulator) to the kegs'
    gas-in stems, and the liquid-out disconnects to the liquid-out
    stems.  Turn the pressure up to 20 psi and open the valve.  If
    air escapes through the keg covers, pull up firmly on them.
    Eventually they should seal, and the pressure should keep them
    sealed.  Check all connections for leaks.
11) Turn on the taps and let the water shoot into a bucket.  This
    cleans the tubes that run down the lengths of the kegs (dip tubes),
    and also rinses out the hoses and taps.  Shut off the taps and let
    the liquid sit inside the beer lines for several minutes so the
    Iodophor can sanitize them.  Then turn on the taps again and let
    all the liquid run out.  Let air come out for about 15 seconds,
    so it all gets replaced with pure CO2.
12) Turn off the regulator and taps, and remove all 4 disconnects.
    Your clean kegs can be stored like this until you're ready to
    use them.
13) Drink a homebrew.
Now we're ready to keg brew. After the next batch is done fermenting, release the pressure from one keg, remove the cover, and rack right in there, keeping the tube on the bottom to avoid splashing as usual (although splashing at this point isn't so bad because there's mostly pure CO2 in there). Cover the keg, attach CO2 to the gas-in stem, and pump 20 psi in there, allowing air to escape through the cover for about 10 seconds before pulling it up to seal it, so there is CO2 and not air in the keg's head space. Once the keg is sealed, you will hear CO2 continue to flow for a minute or so, until 20 psi inside the keg is reached. Then disconnect the gas line, put the keg on its side, and roll it back and forth for a minute. This makes CO2 dissolve into the wort much faster. Upright the keg, connect the gas, and repeat the process a few more times. It is possible to roll the keg with the gas line connected, but this could cause wort to back up into the gas line, which, if it reaches the regulator, could ruin it.

Let the pressure out of the keg, put it in the fridge, turn the regulator pressure down to 12 psi, and connect the gas and tap. We shook in 20 psi because cold liquid can hold more gas than warm liquid can, so we needed more of a boost at room temperature. Let the keg sit for at least 5 days, let a few ounces run from the tap into the dump bucket (they will probably be flat or foamy), and pour yourself a homebrew! It might be too foamy or flat at first. Don't worry. It will take weeks of trial and error, releasing pressure and setting the regulator to different pressures, to determine how many psi will condition your brew to the right carbonation. Also, if it's carbonated okay but flows too slowly from the tap, it's because the 3/16" I.D. hose diminishes the pressure between the keg and the tap: we carbonate at 10-15 psi, but we only want 3-6 psi of serving pressure, so we need the narrow diameter to keep brew from shooting out too forcefully. The longer the hose, the more the pressure will drop, too, and if it drops too much you can shorten the 10-foot hose a foot at a time until the brew flows fast enough.


Reason #4 why homebrew is better than women:
A frigid homebrew is a good homebrew.

Many people think that corn sugar MUST be used for priming instead of ordinary table sugar, because cane sugar can give brew a cidery taste. This might be true for large quantities, but we use so little for priming that is doesn't make much difference. However, a given volume of one might have more fermentable sugar than the other, and since the priming rate (3/4 cup for 5 gallons) refers to corn sugar, we don't necessarily know exactly how much cane sugar to use. However, some people use cane sugar as though it were corn sugar with no problems.

Dry malt can be used instead of sugar. The priming rate is one and a quarter cups for 5 gallons. Dry malt takes much longer to dissolve, so stir well on the stove and make sure there are no lumps before adding to the wort.

After mixing the priming sugar in the bottling bucket, give it an occasional stir while bottling, to make sure it stays evenly distributed.

Contrary to popular belief, a little splashing when racking at bottling time won't cause appreciable oxidation, as the yeast will breathe this oxygen now that it is getting a fresh supply of food (priming sugar). However, it is still good practice to avoid splashing so that you don't develop any bad habits, e.g. splashing when racking into secondary CAN cause oxidation, as no new food is introduced, and since the yeast are not eating, they are not breathing.

There should be 1-2 inches of headspace in each bottle. No book has told me the technical reason. I assume it leaves a cushion for excess pressure, i.e. if the beer overcarbonates a bit, some can escape and compress the air in the headspace. This way we have some margin for error. Don't worry about oxygen in the headspace. Carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen, so as the former comes out of solution, it pushes the latter up, so oxygen does not come in contact with the beer for very long.

Oxygen-absorbing caps are available for oxygenphobes. The undersides are coated with a chemical that "eats" oxygen. I'm not sure if they work or if they're even necessary, but you can use them for peace of mind. The chemical is moisture activated, so do not sterilize these caps by boiling or soaking, for this will remove the chemical. Rinse each one quickly in an Iodophor solution just before using.

Sometimes brew overcarbonates. If it happens within a few weeks, perhaps too much priming sugar was added, or maybe it hadn't completely fermented before being primed. Other times the carbonation is fine for several months, then all of a sudden the bottles become gushers. This might be caused by contaminatiing microbes that took a long time to eat some of the sugars that our yeast couldn't eat. Overcarbonated brew should have its pressure reduced: pry each bottle cap up slightly to relieve some pressure, perhaps letting some foam gush out, re-cap, and let the bottles sit for a few more days.

Undercarbonation is caused by underpriming or dead yeast. Remove each cap, add a few granules of dry yeast or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sugar to each bottle and re-cap. I suggest trying the yeast first; if the brew is still flat after another two weeks, try the sugar. Yeast should be tried first because if the problem was dead yeast, if you try adding sugar first it will fail, and when you add more yeast, you will have too much sugar in there.


Sign #5 that you're a beer geek:
Homebrew club meetings comprise the better part of your social life.

There are lots of homebrew clubs across the United States and Canada, and most likely a few in your area. Zymurgy magazine often includes a list of clubs that are registered with the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), complete with phone numbers. Chances are your homebrew supplier can tell you about a local club. In fact, most homebrew shops have a local club associated with them. Some shops let the club meet there, or the club meets at members' homes. Shop usually gives club members a 10% discount, too.

You can start a club if there are none in your area. Notify your supplier and register with the AHA (it's free). This will get the word out. You can make up a clever name like "The 6:00 Brews", or acronym like "PALS (Peoples Ale and Lager Society)".

Most homebrew clubs have a monthly newsletter, and a nominal yearly dues to cover printing and mailing costs.

Probably the most important and enjoyable thing about homebrew clubs is tasting. Members bring a few of their homebrews, or microbrews if they don't have any of their own, and everyone samples them all, pouring a few ounces of each into their tasting glass. This is not the same as a bunch of party animals getting drunk together - this is a group of earnest homebrewers getting drunk together. People exchange ideas and offer compliments and tips for improvement. A few suggestions for tastings:

  1. Have bread, crackers and/or cheese available, to slow down the absorption of alcohol, and to cleanse the palate between samples.
  2. Do not allow anyone to smoke, because smoke ruins olfactory perception for everyone.
  3. Sample the lighter brews first, then the darker, sweeter, or more bitter ones. Once your palate adjusts to richer brews, lighter ones will seem bland.
It's a lot of fun to arrange brewery tours, cookouts, happy hours, etc with your club. You can even have your club get together with another club once in a while. Club membership goes way beyond merely sampling brews - it's a great way to meet people and expand your social life.

Incorporation is a good idea. If someone has an unfortunate accident as the result of alcohol consumption at a meeting, this person could sue individual members of the club, especially the host. Incorporation helps limit liability to the club, not individual members, so the only assets that could be seized would be the club treasury. Incorporation by itself might not be enough, however. A legal consultation with an attorney could be well worth whatever it costs.

Another method of liability protection is to buy insurance for the club. The drawback is that insurance for a club that drinks alcohol and drives home is pretty expensive - over a thousand dollars a year, and a club of a few dozen people paying ten to twenty dollars a year in dues doesn't have that kind of money to kick around.

Being a part of a club helps you obtain information about upcoming events (microbrew tastings, brewery openings, homebrew competitions, etc). Some members always seem to get a hold of this info, and they pass it on to others. Presidents of AHA-registered clubs get put on mailing lists and get all sorts of information sent to them.


Reason #5 why homebrew is better than women:
You don't have to wash a homebrew to make it taste good.

So you've been impressing your friends with great homebrews. Have you ever wondered how your brew compares to others'? Well, a homebrew competition might be right for you.

A group of homebrew enthusiasts (usually a homebrew club) decides, "Hey, let's have a homebrew competition!" The event is organized and advertised. Contestants send their entries to the coordinators. Many people volunteer to help sort entries, mail evaluations to the contestants, etc. Sometimes there are many beer style categories, so each one has its own competition, and other times the event is for just one particular style. Beer judges, who have gone through tasting training and/or certification programs, sample the entries and decide which ones are best. "Best" does not necessarily mean which ones have the most pleasing flavor and aroma - it also means which ones fit that particular style. If, for example, you entered your beer as an India pale ale, which is a light bitter style, and it tastes and smells wonderful but isn't at all bitter, you probably won't win a ribbon, whereas had you entered it in the American Ale category you might have taken top prize. For this reason, many homebrewers have no interest in competing because they just want to brew beer that tastes good; making it fit a particular style is of no interest to them.

Entering a homebrew competition is easy. If you live close enough to the drop-off point, you can drive your entry there. In most cases, however, you will have to use a carrier. Generally three 12-ounce brown bottles with no labels or identifying marks on the bottles or caps are required. This assures anonymity. It is highly recommended that you wrap the bottles in bubble wrap or the like, and pack tightly in a well-secured box. Package carriers do not walk on eggshells. Fees are usually $5-$8 per entry, plus shipping. I've found UPS to be very reasonable - about $4.

After your beer is judged, an evaluation sheet is mailed to you. It shows not only your score, but what the judges liked and disliked about it, and suggestions for improvement. For this reason, these events are good opportunities to have experienced tasters help you improve your work. Winners of national competitions sanctioned by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) often get their picture and recipe published in Zymurgy, a homebrewing magazine published by the AHA.

These events happen everywhere. Almost every week there is one happening somewhere. In the U.S. there tend to be more out West than in the East.

I tend not to enter homebrew competitions because I brew to make something that tastes good - I do not try to make any particular style. Furthermore, if I like what I brew, I don't care whether or not some guy out in East Overshoe likes it too. I'm like Starkist: I don't make brew with good taste - I make brew that tastes good. It'd be a waste of my money and homebrew to compete.

I will never become a certified judge either. Yes, there are beer judge certification programs - I wish they had courses like that in college! When you're a judge you have to sniff and taste and think about the drink you're evaluating - you do everything but enjoy it.


Cop:"Let me see your driver's license and registration."
Motorist:"Sure. Hold my beer."

Between all the different types of malts, hops, yeasts, fruits and spices that can go into homebrew, plus the different proportions, boiling times and fermentation temperatures, you could brew a batch every day for the rest of your life and never duplicate a previous brew. There are a lot of recipes floating around out there. I have listed several of mine here. Use or ignore as you like, but always remember that this is your hobby, your chance to be creative, and there is no need to duplicate what someone else has done. Why deprive yourself of the joy of experimentation and discovery?

Ben's Favorite Homebrew Recipes

# = pound
OG = original gravity
FG = final gravity
RB = roasted barley
choc = chocolate malt


1 1/2 # crystal malt
6 # Northwestern weizen malt extract
1 oz Saaz 5.4% - bittering
1/2 oz Northern Brewer 9.3% - bittering
1 oz Hallertau 2.9% - aroma
2 tsp polyclar
11.5g packet Edme yeast


Steep crystal, remove. Add malt extract. Boil bittering hops in water in another pot for 40 minutes, adding aroma hops for the last minute. Dump contents of both pots into enough cold water to make 5 gallons. Pitch yeast. Bottle one week later, adding polyclar.


I know, I know - Saaz is a noble hop, not a bittering hop. I didn't know this. But who's to say which hop should be used for what? Alpha is alpha, whether you use 2 oz of a 3% hop, or 1/2 oz of a 12% hop. Anyway, the beer came out great: nice amber color, crystal clear (well, it took a few months to completely clear), very nice and clean taste, with no detectable bitterness. Took 1st place in a homebrew club's Summer '95 wheat competition.

OG: 40
FG: 20

Pale Ale

1 1/4 # carapils
1/2 # Munich
1/2 # 24L crystal
1/2 oz Brewers Gold 7.6% - bittering
1/2 oz Perle 8.2% - bittering
1/3 oz Northern Brewer 9.3% - bittering
1 tsp Irish moss
4 # gold extract
1/2 oz Tettnang - aroma
1/2 oz Cascade - aroma
1/2 oz Kent Goldings - aroma
Wyeast 1056


Mash grains at 158 degrees for 30 minutes. Separately boil bittering hops in water for 60 minutes. Mix all together with Irish moss and extract. Steep aroma hops in hot water and add. Chill. Make 4 gallons. Pitch yeast. Bottle one week later.


This was the first batch of my second brewing season. I split the wort into four one-gallon glass jugs and pitched each one with a different Wyeast, so I could see which made the best beer, plus one gallon of wort is a good amount to pitch a Wyeast pack into. Of the 4 yeasts (1056, 1338, 1084 and 1028), 1056 was the best, which is why I list it in the ingredients. The others had a somewhat rank off flavor (especially the 1028), which might be attributable to the high fermentation temperature (it was August, and I'm too cheap to use the A/C), and if this is the case, it shows that 1056 is a good high-temperature yeast. The 1056 beer turned out quite good, clear and crisp. Everyone who tried it liked it, from women who don't drink much beer, to men who prefer darker, thicker beers.

Thick Stout (partial mash)

1 # 80L crystal
2 # Belgian caramunich
2 # Munich
2 # Vienna
2 cups choc
3 cups RB
1 tsp gypsum
3/4 oz Galena 11.8% - bittering
3/4 oz Chinook 10.9% - bittering
1/2 oz Nugget 13.7% - bittering
6.6 # Northwestern dark extract
1 oz Fuggles - aroma
1 oz Willamette - aroma
1/2 oz Perle - aroma
liquid yeast


Mash grains and gypsum for 30 minutes at 122 degrees and 65 minutes at 160 degrees. Sparge. Boil bittering hops in water for 60 minutes. Mix all together with extract and boil briefly. Add aroma hops at end. Make 4 1/4 gallons. Chill. Pitch yeast. Bottle one week later.


If you like thick stouts, this is the beer for you. It was thick and delish! This was a 4-yeast split batch - I split the wort into four one-gallon jugs and pitched each with a different Wyeast: 1056, 1338, 1028 and 1084. They all turned out great in their own way - even the 1028, which had a rank flavor that spoiled lighter beers but mixed well in this one. The 1084 tasted and smelled the most alcoholic.

Oak Beer (partial mash)

1/2 # Belgian caramunich malt
1/2 # Munich malt
1 # crystal malt
1/4 tsp gypsum
2 # amber DME (dry malt extract)
1/3 oz Galena 11.8%
1 oz Fuggles 3.2%
1 tbsp polyclar
5 oz oak wood chips (untoasted)
Wyeast 1338


Mash grains and gypsum for 30 minutes at 122 degrees (protein rest) and 30 minutes at 156 degrees. Sparge and add DME to the sweet liquor. Separately boil hops in water for 30 minutes, then add hops and hop tea to sweet liquor and boil another 30 minutes. Chill. Make 2 gallons. Pitch yeast. After primary fermentation, rack into secondary and steep oak chips in a straining bag in some heated wort for 20 minutes. Remove bag, sparge chips, and add oak tea to secondary. Bottle 10 days later, adding polyclar.


Turned out well, with a very good oaky flavor and aroma. Too oaky for some people. You can always use less oak.

Sweet Stout

1/2 # chocolate malt
5 # crystal malt
1/2 tsp gypsum
1 1.5kg can John Bull Stout hopped malt extract
1 1.5kg can Munton and Fison unhopped dark malt extract
12 oz Grandma's unsulphured molasses
1/2 oz Chinook 10.9%
1/2 oz Galena 11.8%
2 tsp polyclar
dry yeast


Steep grains and gypsum. Remove grains. Add molasses and both cans of malt. Separately boil hops in water for 45 minutes. Mix all with enough cold water to make a little over 6 gallons. Pitch yeast. Rack into secondary after fermentation completes, and bottle two weeks after that. Add polyclar at bottling time.


I actually started out to make less beer, with 1 # crystal and just the John Bull extract, but after realizing that I had added over 11 AAUs to already hopped extract, I added 4 more pounds of crystal to try balancing it. Needless to say it wasn't sufficient, so I added the Munton and Fison. The beer came out wonderful - I almost had an orgasm when I tasted it! Some people think one pound is plenty of crystal malt for a batch. I say you can never use too much. This beer has kept well in the bottle for over a year.

OG: ??
FG: 22

Thick Brown Ale

1 # Belgian caramunich
2 # 80L crystal
2 cups RB (roasted barley)
1 oz Cascade 4.6% - bittering
1 Northern Brewer 9.3% - bittering
3/4 oz Perle 8.2% - bittering
1 tsp Irish moss
6 # amber extract
1 oz Fuggles - aroma
1/2 oz Willamette - aroma
1/2 oz Tettnang - aroma
Wyeast 1338


Steep and remove grains. Boil bittering hops in water for 60 minutes. Mix extract, Irish moss, grain water and hop tea, and boil 30 minutes. Add aroma hops at end. Chill. Make 4 1/2 gallons. Pitch yeast. Bottle a week later.


Excellent sweet, full-bodied brown ale!

Stout: "Kitchen Sink" (partial mash)

1 cup red wheat flakes
2 cups cracked unmalted wheat
1 # Munich malt
1 # Vienna malt
1 # caramunich malt
1 # carapils malt
1 1/2 # crystal malt
1/2 cup RB (roasted barley)
3/4 cup chocolate malt
1/2 tsp gypsum
1/2 oz Brewers Gold 7.6% - bittering
1/3 oz Nugget 13.7% - bittering
1/3 oz Galena 11.8% - bittering
1/2 Northern Brewer 9.3%
2 tsp Irish moss
1 oz licorice root powder
3 # dark DME (dry malt extract)
3 oz oak chips (untoasted)
1/2 oz Cascade - aroma
1/2 oz Fuggles - aroma
1/2 oz Perle - aroma
1 heaping tbsp polyclar


Do 25-minute 90 degree dough-in with wheat and Munich. Add Vienna and do 30-minute 122 degree protein rest. Add caramunich, carapils, crystal, RB, chocolate and gypsum. Do 45-minute mash at 158 degrees. Sparge. Boil the bittering hops for 30 minutes in water, and with sweet liquor for 30 minutes. Add Irish moss in last 15 minutes. Add licorice and DME at end. Chill. Make 3 1/4 gallons. Pitch yeast. At secondary, steep oak and the aroma hops in hot water, cool, and add this "tea". Add polyclar. Bottle a week or two later.


I made this batch at the end of my first brewing season in order to use up a bunch of stuff I had lying around. It is a complicated brew, both in the ingredients and the procedure, but it's worth it. A few months after bottling this beer was so good that I entered it in the Samuel Adams World Homebrew Contest in November '95. Okay, so it didn't win, but it was great nonetheless. Note that I used licorice ROOT, which is different from licorice STICK. It's a natural sweetener which doesn't taste much like what you think of when you hear the word "licorice" (anise, Ouzo, etc).

OG: 70
FG: 23

Belgian Half-Wit

1 # 24L crystal
1 1/2 cup oats
2 # English pale
1 oz Cluster 7.5%
4 # can of Alexander's Sun Country Wheat Malt Extract
1 tsp Irish moss
1 1/2 large orange peels, cut up
1/4 cup coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin
Wyeast 3944 or 1214


Mash grains and oats at 158 degrees for 90 minutes. Sparge. Add extract and Irish moss to sweet liquor and boil 15 minutes. Boil hops in water for 60 minutes. Add orange peels, coriander and cumin at end. Chill. Make 3 1/3 gallons, including orange peels. Pitch yeast. Do a secondary, removing orange peels at that time.


I split this into two batches of 1 2/3 gallons each, and pitched 1214 into one and 3944 into the other. Both came out GREAT. The 3944 batch was a bit drier. I call this batch a half-wit because I tried to make a wit beer but I only half knew what I was doing. I didn't use any unmalted wheat, so it didn't turn out white or cloudy like a wit beer should be.

OG: 66
FG: 20


2 # 24L crystal
1 oz Galena 11.8% - bittering
1 oz Nugget 13.7% - bittering
1 oz Cluster 7.5% - bittering
1 oz Cascade - flavoring
1 oz Fuggles - flavoring
6 # gold extract
1 tsp Irish moss
Wyeast 1056
1 oz Cascade - aroma
1 oz Chinook - aroma
1 oz Hallertau - aroma
1 oz Kent Goldings - aroma


Steep, remove grains. Boil extract with Irish moss 15 minutes. Boil bittering hops in water 60 minutes, adding flavoring hops in last 10 minutes. Mix all. Chill. Make a little less than 5 gallons. Pitch yeast. When racking to secondary, steep aroma hops in some hot wort and add hop tea.


A wonderful IPA - definite bitterness but not overpowering, and excellent hop flavor and aroma. Nice golden brown color. Cloudy, but who cares what it looks like, as long as it tastes good! You can add polyclar if you want to clear it. With any bitter beer, it's best to wait at least a month after bottling to let the bitterness mellow.

OG: 54
FG: 17

Molasses Beer

1/2 # 80L crystal
1/2 oz Brewers Gold 7.6%
2 # Dutch light DME (dry malt extract)
1/2 tsp Irish moss
12 oz jar Grandma's Unsulphured Molasses
Wyeast 1056


Steep, remove crystal. Boil DME with Irish moss 15 minutes. Boil hops in water for 60 minutes. Chill. Make 1 3/4 gallons. After fermentation, simmer out the alcohol, otherwise your finished product will be more like wine than beer. Chill. Add molasses and pitch some more yeast (simmering killed it). Aerate. Double or triple ingredients to make proportionally more beer.


Although there was no detectable molasses flavor, this beer tasted very good. Aroma was slightly sweet and alcoholic. Definite alcoholic taste. Cloudy. No aftertaste.

Potato Beer (partial mash)

1 1/4 # 24L crystal
2 3/4 # English pale
1 1/2 # Briess 2-row
2 # Munich
8 finely chopped raw potatoes
1 1/2 # Dutch light DME (dry malt extract)
1 tsp Irish moss
1/2 oz Galena 11.8% - bittering
1 oz Fuggles - aroma
Wyeast 1056


Mash grains and potatoes for 2 hours at 156 degrees. Sparge. Boil bittering hops in water in another pot for 1 hour. Boil DME and Irish moss in sweet liquor 15 minutes. Mix, cool. Make 3 1/2 gallons. Pitch yeast. When racking into secondary, heat aroma hops in wort, cool, add. Bottle 8 days after that.


Light but good aroma. Mild. Smooth. Nice flavor. Golden color. Cloudy. A little hop flavor really makes this a great pale ale. The potatoes probably didn't add anything. Maybe mashing with pre-cooked potatoes would make a difference. Anyway, you can probably save some work by omitting the potatoes.

OG: 62
FG: 22

Apple Beer

1 1/4 # 24L crystal
3 # amber extract
1 tsp Irish moss
1/2 oz Galena 11.8%
6 16-oz cans Seneca apple juice concentrate
Wyeast 1056


Steep, remove crystal. Boil extract and Irish moss 15 minutes. Boil hops in water in another pot for 1 hour. Mix and cool. Add apple juice to cooling wort. Make 3 gallons. Pitch yeast. Do a secondary. Wait at least 2 weeks to bottle, as apple sugars ferment slower than malt sugars.


Amber color. Slightly cloudy. Apple, champagne-like aroma and flavor. A very good New Year's beer.

OG: 95
FG: 32

10W-40 Stout

3 # 80L crystal
2 cups choc
1 1/2 # RB
1 oz Galena 11.8%
3/4 oz Nugget 13.7%
6 # Dutch light DME (dry malt extract)
1 tsp Irish moss
Wyeast 1056 and 1338 mix


Steep, remove grains. Boil DME and Irish moss 15 minutes. Boil hops in water in another pot for 1 hour. Mix, cool. Make 4 1/2 gallons. Pitch yeast. A secondary is recommended. It will be ready to bottle in a week or so.


Nice roasted aroma with slight alcohol note. Nice somewhat roasted, sweet flavor. Good body and maltiness without being overly thick. The first few weeks there was a little bitter aftertaste which disappeared a month later. Very good beer overall. To make a thicker beer (as the name would imply) make only 4 or 4 1/4 gallons.

OG: 84
FG: 49

Dark Brown Ale (all grain)

3 # 80L crystal
1 # RB
2 # Briess 2-row
4 # Vienna
4 1/4 # Munich
1 tsp gypsum
1 oz Nugget 13.7% - bittering
1 1/2 oz Fuggles - aroma
1 tsp Irish moss
Wyeast 1338


Mash 2-row, Munich, Vienna and gypsum at 158 degrees for at least an hour. I mashed for 6 1/2 hours by putting the pot in the oven at lowest temp to maintain the temperature and then going to sleep for the night. Steep crystal and RB in another pot and remove. Sparge mash grains and combine both sweet liquors and boil bittering hops in there for 90 minutes and Irish moss for 15 minutes. Cool. Make a little under 5 gallons. Pitch yeast. When racking into secondary, heat aroma hops in wort, cool, add.


Nice light, roasted aroma and flavor. Dark brown and opaque but lighter than a stout. Medium body. Very good for its style (IMHO).

OG: 58
FG: 19

English Bitter (all grain)

4 # Briess 2-row
3 # Briess Munich
1 # Munton and Fison carastan
1/2 tsp gypsum
1 oz B.C. Kent Goldings 5.8% - bittering
1 oz Fuggles 3.2% - bittering
1 oz Fuggles - flavoring
1 tsp Irish moss
Wyeast 1968


Mash all grains and gypsum at 157 degrees for 2 hours. Sparge. Boil bittering hops in water in another pot for 60 minutes, adding flavoring hops in last 15 minutes. Boil sweet liquor with Irish moss 15 minutes. Cool. Make 3 1/4 gallons. Pitch yeast. When racking into secondary, briefly boil aroma hops in some hot wort, cool and add.


Nice aroma. Good flavor. Classic English flavor from English yeast and hops. If you like English bitters, make this one!

OG: 58
FG: 17

Scotch Ale

3 # Munton and Fison carastan
9 # gold malt extract
1 tsp Irish moss
1 oz Galena 11.8% - bittering
Wyeast 1056


Steep crystal, remove. Add malt extract and boil with Irish moss 15 minutes. Boil bittering hops in water in another pot for 60 minutes. Make 4 gallons. Cool. Pitch yeast. Do a secondary.


Light aroma. Very nice sweet, alcoholic flavor. Good body. Dark amber color. Very good overall.

Note that Wyeast 1728 can be used instead of 1056 in order to impart a unique, kind of woody flavor. I did this with another batch and it turned out well.

OG: 95
FG: 32

Hop Taste Special

1 # Munton and Fison carastan
3 # Northwestern gold extract
1 tsp Irish moss
1 oz Brewers Gold 7.6% - bittering
1 oz Cascade - flavoring
1 oz Hallertau - flavoring
1 oz B.C. Kent Goldings - flavoring
1 oz Fuggles - flavoring
Wyeast 1056


Steep crystal, remove. Add malt extract and boil with Irish moss 15 minutes. Boil bittering hops in water in another pot for 65 minutes, adding flavoring hops in last 15 minutes. Make 2 3/4 gallons. Cool. Pitch yeast. Optionally do a secondary.


Nice light hop aroma. Slightly cloudy. Gold/amber. Wonderful hop flavor without being very bitter. Light maltiness allows the hop flavor to stand out. A great light beer!

OG: 52
FG: 14

Amber (partial mash)

2 # Munton and Fison carastan
2 # Briess Munich
1 oz Nugget 13.7% - bittering
1 oz Fuggles - flavoring
1 1/2 oz B.C. Kent Goldings - aroma
1 1/2 oz Cascade - aroma
6.6 # Northwestern amber extract
Wyeast 1056


Mash grains at 158 degrees. I didn't keep the heat on my kettle, so the temperature eventually dropped to 130 degrees, which I do not recommend - I would keep the heat over 150 degrees. (I didn't time the mash either. It was not a good brewing day.) Boil bittering hops in water in another pot for 60 minutes, adding flavoring hops for the last 10 minutes. Briefly boil extract in sweet liquor. Mix, cool. Make 4 1/2 gallons. Pitch yeast. Do a secondary. At bottling time, steep aroma hops in hot wort, cool, add. I kegged this one, and I should have added the aroma hops to the secondary and let the wort settle before I kegged, as hop mush always seeps through straining bags, and you don't want that stuff in your keg.


Very nice aroma and flavor. Amber color and cloudy. At first I was undecided about including this recipe here, but after so many people raved about the brew, I had to include it.

OG: ??
FG: 19

Xmas Beer

1 # 80L crystal
3 # gold extract
2 1/2 # Dutch light DME (dry malt extract)
1 tsp Irish moss
1/2 oz B.C. Kent Goldings 5.8%
1/2 oz Fuggles 3.2%
1/2 oz Cluster 7.5%
3 small orange peels, cut up
5 tsp powdered ginger
4 tsp crushed cardamom
7 tsp powdered cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp powdered nutmeg
1/4 tsp powdered allspice
1/2 tsp powdered cloves
3 oz honey
Wyeast 1056


Steep crystal, remove. Add malt extracts and boil with Irish moss 15 minutes, adding orange peels, spices and honey in last 5 minutes. Boil hops in water in another pot for 60 minutes. Mix, cool. Make 3 1/4 gallons. Pitch yeast. Definitely do a secondary.

Note: I originally made a slightly smaller batch with less malt, hops and spices, and I had to add more of each later because the wort wasn't as tasty as I wanted it. This was a pain in the ass for me, but it won't be for you because you'll do it right the first time.


Gold color. Nice light spice aroma. Superb spice flavor! Malty with great mouthfeel. A most excellent beer all around - it was well worth the extra effort.

OG: ??
FG: 26


Sign #6 that you're a beer geek:
Your back yard has a spent grain compost heap the size of a Buick.

After a few batches you find that you need a system of determining which bottles came from which batch. You can tape a note to each bottle (or hold one on with a rubber band), or write the batch number on the caps with a magic marker. But wouldn't it be nice to have actual beer labels? The easiest, most expensive way to do this is to order them. Mail-order small businesses will print up gummed labels with neat designs, and charge about 10 cents apiece, which isn't outrageous, but since they do get ruined by washing, you'll end up scraping, buying and reapplying labels for every batch. If you have a home computer you might be able to print your own, but these labels will also die horrible deaths.

I hand-draw labels, make photocopies on 8 1/2" by 11" paper (9-12 labels per sheet), cut the labels out, and the affix them to my bottles. Sometimes I use tape, which allows them to die when they get wet, but at least they're easily removed. Recently I have started using polyurethane to put the labels on permanently: I paint the front of the bottle, stick the label on, and paint over it, so it is waterproof. Two or three coats are necessary, but this is a one-time deal so it saves work in the long run.

The beauty of making your own labels is that you put what you want on them.


AeratePlane attack.
AgingWrinkling; sagging; getting made fun of by teenagers.
AirlockWhat you have when a blonde puts her fingers in her ears.
AttenuationWhat you must pay in school.
BeerNot homebrew. Urine.
BoilUnsightly lesion.
CarboyYoung valet attendant.
Chill hazeLike purple haze, only colder.
ConditioningExercising; getting in shape.
ContaminationWhat religious fanatics practice on heathens.
Dry hoppingNot the real thing.
Ester1) Christian holiday. 2) Fred Sanford's ugly sister.
Final gravityWhat you weigh when you die.
GypsumFortune teller.
HeadWhat my ex-wife stopped giving me after we got married.
HopsWhat a bunny does.
Irish mossCatholic church gathering.
KrauesenFrench pastry.
Lag timePast era in American history, e.g. Alexander's Lag Time Band.
MaltWhen birds shed feathers.
MicrobreweryBrewery run by midgets.
MicroorganismVery small sexual climax. Like my ex-wife used to give me.
Original gravityBirthweight.
OxidizeBecome an ugly, hairy beast. Also called HowardSternize.
PitchMy ex-wife.
PrimingWhat you do before painting.
Protein restWhat you do after a big meal.
RackArrange billiard balls in a triangle.
SterilizePrevent from reproducing.
TrubA bunch of soldiers.
WortMany of these make a sentence.
YeastNot West.


AerateForce air into solution by agitating.
AgingProcess by which beverages change in the bottle.
AirlockDevice which allows gases out of but not into fermenter.
AttenuationDegree to which yeasts eat sugars.
BeerAny fermented beverage containing malted barley.
CarboyLarge, thin-necked glass container.
Chill hazeHaze formed in brew when chilling causes proteins to clump.
ContaminationPresence of microorganisms other than those you want.
DiacetylButterscotch-like compound produced by some strains of yeast.
Dry hoppingExtraction of hop aroma by soaking in cool, not hot, wort.
EsterFruity compound produced by some strains of yeast.
ExtractPowder or syrup made by mashing barley and dehydrating.
LauterRinse the sweet water from mashed grains.
FermentationProcess by which yeast eat wort sugars and turn them into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and flavors.
FlocculationTendency of yeast to sink after running out of food.
GrainBarley, rye, oats, wheat, etc.
GypsumCalcium-based chemical used for lowering pH.
HeadFoam on top of poured brew.
HopsVines used for adding bitterness, flavor or aroma to brew.
Irish mossSeaweed product used for pulling protein out of boiling wort.
KrauesenFoam on top of fermenting wort.
Lag timeTime between wort cooling and fermentation.
LauterRinse the sweet water from mashed grains.
MaltMalted barley.
MashConvert malt carbohydrates to sugars by soaking in hot water.
MicrobrewerySmall-scale brewery.
MicroorganismAny living organism too small to be seen with the naked eye.
Original gravitySpecific gravity of brew before fermentation has started.
PitchAdd yeast to wort.
PrimingProcess of adding sugar to wort before bottling.
Protein restPart of the mash process where proteins are broken down.
RackSiphon clear wort off the sludge on the bottom.
RespirationIntake of one gas and release of another.
SpargePour water on top of a mash during lautering.
SterilizeRemove all living things.
TrubProteins, hop pieces and other gook that settle out of wort.
WortUnfinished brew.
YeastFungus used to ferment beverages.


A member of 5 homebrew clubs, Ben is an avid homebrewer and winemaker who has graduated from guzzling light commercial beer at his fraternity to sipping great-tasting homebrews. The ex-wife he refers to is a fictitious character, a composite of the negative aspects of many of the women he has met, an image of the type of woman he vows never to end up with. He lives in central Maryland with his dog, Barley. He works full-time as a researcher, and plans to quit his job and open a microbrewery just as soon as he hits the lottery. His other hobbies are wrestling, kickboxing, oil painting, hashing , weightlifting, and writing humorous books. He has been making wine since 1983, and started homebrewing in 1994.