Believe it or not, homebrewing didn't become federally legal in the United States until 1979. And even with federal legalization, it only became legal to brew your own beer in Alabama and Mississippi in 2013.
Over the years, microbreweries, and homebrewing as well, has become increasingly popular. Thanks to the internet, people are learning that starting a home brewery is surprisingly simple, easy, and fun.
The cool thing about homebrewing is that you can make it as involved as you want to. It's an extremely customizable process that you can build on and experiment with.
Interested in learning more? Continue reading and we'll walk you through everything you need to know about starting a home brewery.
Get Your Equipment
First off, you're going to need your essential ingredients. This includes malt extract or malted barley, water, yeast, and hops. There's also essential equipment that you're going to need.
Most importantly, you'll need some kind of heat source. For most beginners, this is their stove. You'll also need a large brew pot, known as a kettle.
If you're doing all-grain brewing, then you'll need two pots.
In order to move your brew from the kettle to the fermenter, you're going to need tubing and a siphon. Lastly, you need a fermenter, which is the vessel that's going to hold the liquid (known as wort) that will ferment and then turn into beer.
You'll also need an airlock that you're going to put on top of your fermenter. It will go in the neck if you're using a "carboy" (a glass jug), or into the top of a sealed plastic bucket. This is going to let carbon dioxide leave the fermenter while the yeast is at work.
Some other important gear that you're going to need is a hydrometer (to measure the alcohol content) and sanitizer and cleaner. Everything that you work with, including your hands, needs to be sanitized and cleaned constantly.
You also want to make sure that your kitchen is well organized before you start.
You can break the process of making beer into three parts - creating the wort, fermenting the wort, and packaging or bottling the finished beer. On the day of the brew, you're going to make the wort and get it ready for fermentation.
It's important that you know what you're signing up for. The brewing process typically takes up to a month. After your brew day, which will take about three hours to get through, the wort is going to be left to ferment for two weeks.
Then, it will be conditioned in a bottle for two weeks. This will add effervescence and clarity to your brew.
The easiest brewing method is all-extract brewing. It can be compared to opening up a can of Campbell's soup and heating it up. That's because you use pre-packaged malt extract to start the process instead of manually extracting starches from malted barley.
Malt extract either comes as dry malt extract (DME) or liquid malt extract (LME). Liquid malt extract tends to yield a beer that carries a fresh malt aroma. Dry malt extract, on the other hand, has less of a grainy flavor.
Whatever you buy, just make sure that it's fresh. Also, most beginners tend to start with five gallons of malt extract for their homebrew.
After you bought your malt extract, it's time to clean your equipment. Then, pour the extract into a pot of water. Boil the mixture for thirty minutes.
Depending on the specific recipe, you're going to want to add hops at specific time intervals. After the thirty minutes is up, cool the liquid and move it into a sanitized fermenter.
Fill the fermenter to the desired size of brew by adding cool water. When your wort cools to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, add the yeast. This is referred to as pitching the yeast.
After the yeast is pitched, tighten the fermenter and shake it up to increase the amount of oxygen. This is going to help the yeast consume more simple sugars in the wort. The yeast will then turn those sugars into ethanol and carbon dioxide, and thus create beer.
You want to make sure that the fermenter is sealed with a bung (a rubber stopper) and an airlock. You also want to remember to keep the fermenter in a space that is dark and cool. A basement or closet should be fine.
Make sure to watch the fermenting wort. The liquid is going to start frothing and bubbling as the yeast consumes the sugars. You'll be ready for bottling in about two weeks.
While all-extract homebrewing has a lot of the hard work already taken care of before you start, all-grain homebrewing is essentially you making your own beer from scratch. Even though this is the professional method, it's actually not that hard to do on your own.
The first step to all-grain brewing is soaking milled, malted grains in hot water. This is going to make your "mash." The starches in the grains will then turn into simple sugars.
The mixture of the sugars and hot water will act as the wort.
After making the wort, boil it in your pot with hops for an hour. You can also add herbs and fruits to create unique and interesting flavors in this step.
Lastly, you're going to cool the wort. An easy way to do this is to fill your sink with ice and place the kettle into it. If the kettle is too big, use a bathtub instead.
There are also wort chillers that do this more efficiently.
After your wort is chilled, pour it into the fermenter. After that, you just have to pitch the yeast, shake up the fermenter, set the airlock, and let the whole thing ferment.
The brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) process has only recently gained in popularity. This is essentially a more efficient and easier way to do all-grain brewing.
Here's how it works:
Normally, you would mash malt in a mash tun. With this method, you place the grains in a big bag and then put them in your kettle. The grains then become soaked in water.
After they've soaked, you have the sugary liquid drip back into the pot. After it's done dripping, you start the boil and then continue the all-grain process from there.
IMG Source: https://www.brewcabin.com/batch-sparge/
Sparging is when you rinse the grains with hot water after you mash. The point of this is to extract as much sugar as possible.
With batch sparging, you sparge in multiple batches. So basically, you drain out all of the liquid from your mash into the boiling pot. This is going to be about half of the batch size.
You then slowly add another three gallons of water to the mash tun. More sugars will then be soaked up. Then, you drain that liquid into the pot for your full boil.
IMG Source https://beerandwinejournal.com/tips-for-fly/
Fly sparging, also known as continuous sparging, calls for two pots. They are placed vertically so that one can drain into the other.
This method is used by many commercial brewers because it's extremely efficient. However, homebrewers probably won't see much of a difference by choosing this method.
IMG Source: https://www.teamhomebrew.com/homebrewing-articles/2018/9/16/how-to-partial-mash-the-easy-way
This process is also known as mini-mash brewing. It's a mixture of extract and grain brewing.
Here, part of the fermentable sugars from the wort are produced by mashing the grains in a pot full of water by using a mash paddle. If you don't have a mash paddle, then you can use a big spoon. Many people liken the process of mashing to making oatmeal.
After you mash your grains, move the wort from this first pot to a pot of boiling water. Here, you'll add the water and malt extract mixture. Bring it all to a boil and then continue with the all-extract process.
Homebrewers who don't have a big enough pot to perform an all-grain mash tend to choose the partial-mash method. It's also great for people who are comfortable with the all-extract process and want to try something new.
The Importance of Knowing How to Start a Home Brewery
While starting a home brewery may seem intimidating, it's actually not that scary once you understand how it all works. Hopefully, after reading the above article, you now have a better understanding of the homebrewing process and what's required for you to do it yourself.
Are you looking for some fun swag to go with your newly fermented beer? Check out some of our cool products to find ways to spice up your home brewery!