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Food for Thought
LIVE from NYPL will host Steve Hindy, Kim Jordan, and Charlie Papazian on April 25, 2014 at the Schwarzman Building. In light of this event I wanted to reflect on my own craft beer experience.
My fascination with craft beer started when I went on a trip to San Diego last year. While I was there I visited Bottlecraft, a place where they host and serve the best of San Diego’s craft beers, as well as a finely curated selection of bottles from around the world. After trying a flight of San Diego brews I was hooked. When I returned to New York I began researching different locations where I could try various brews. I found places such as The Ginger Man and dba Brooklyn. I would also stop at Hawthornes Cafe to check out their selection on my monthly visits to Philadelphia. After trying a good amount of craft brews in 2013, I thought this year I would take the dive and try to brew some of my own beer.
Beer has only four ingredients: water and grain, mixed with some sort of spice, and fermented by yeast. This means it’s supposed to be easy to make. Just by changing the types of those ingredients, and their ratio, you can brew pretty much every beer style.
The basic beer-making process is as followed: Yeast turns sugars into alcohol, and in beer, those sugars come from barely. In order to acomplish this you must first steep the barley into hot water to make a sort of sweet, grainy tea called wort. Different kinds of barely make the wort darker or lighter, sweeter or toastier. Then you boil the wort and balance some of its sweetness by adding bitter, aromatic spices (almost always hops). The hops are then boiled in order to release their flavors.
Once the hopped wort cools down you add the yeast to it. The yeast then takes over, eating the sugars from the malted barley to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide in a process called fermentation. This may take a while, but when the yeast is finished working, the wort has been successfully turned into beer. It is then ready to bottle, cap, and enjoy.
You need the following supplies in order to brew:
- Large Pot: At least 3 gallons in size
- Tubing and Clamp
- Airtight Fermenting Bucket: A 5 gallons plastic bucket with lid, or a glass carboy
- Airlock and Stopper: Sized to fit your fermenter
- Bottle Filler: Should be sized to fit on the end of your siphon tubing
- Thermometer: A floating thermometer with a range of 0-100 C or up from 32-220 F
- Bottles: Two cases of 12 oz bottles to bottle 5 gallons of beer. Do not use twist-off bottles, use high quality bottles that require a bottle opener
- Bottle Capper
- Bottle Caps: About 50 caps for a 5 gallon batch
- Sanitizing Solution: Household bleach can be used, but it must be thoroughly rinsed to prevent contamination
I obtained my materials and ordered a maple brown ale kit from Jasper’s Homebrew and Winemaking for my first attempt at home brewing. I followed the recipe to the best of my ability. I bottled the beer after it had fermented and patiently waited for about two weeks. When I finally tried my first bottle I was surprised by how well I had done but at the same time I knew if I had actually bought this beer at a bar I would have been disappointed. I suppose there is always room for improvement.
Below is a list of books, e-books, and DVDs about craft brewing and how you can start!
Beer Craft: A Simple Guide To Making Beer by Wiliam Bostwick