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The sweet taste of homebrew

October 12, 2011
By MIKE HUGHES - The Scene , Times Leader

Let's face facts. Men like to drink beer.

A 2007 report revealed that 212.9 million barrels, those of the 31.5 gallon variety, were sold in the United States. And while women too enjoy beer, the statistics show that men make up roughly 80 percent of the volume of beer consumed annually.

Men also like to build stuff and create things with their hands.

You don't have to drive far to find a store offering the necessary tools and equipment. From large retail stores like Lowes and Home Depot to the mom-and-pop shops we've come to depend on, these places are everywhere.

So why not combine the two and brew your own beer?

It's fun. It's not that difficult. In the end, you have a sense of achievement in knowing the liquid libation you're partaking of is of your own creation.

I am no master brewer but like most hobbyists, enjoy creating my own beer and tinkering with recipes to find something I like.

And really, it is fairly easy to begin.

You need the proper equipment and some starting off literature to point you in the right direction and that's about it.

So let's examine what all you need to craft that first batch.


I'm not going to completely bare-bones this list, but we're not going all out either.

The nearest dedicated homebrewers shop to this area is South Hills Brewing Supply in the Greentree section of Pittsburgh. So you can either hop in the car for some personal assistance or hop on line.

To me, making the drive is worth it to talk with those far more experienced than I.

On the way, swing by your local bookstore and pick up a copy of Charlie Papazian's The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, widely regarded as the "homebrewer's bible."

The guide has you covered from a-to-z, encompassing techniques, equipment, recipes, you name it.

As far as equipment, here's a list of what I've used during my first few batches:

For your first couple of batches, that's really all you need. Well, that and the actual ingredients themselves.

For my most recent batch, I purchsed: two 3.3 pound cans of dark malt extract syrup, three types of specialty grains (crystal malt, black malt and roasted barley), some hops for bittering purposes and a package of priming sugar for bottling. Oh and don't forget the yeast. That's kind of important. For the stout I was making, I used Irish Ale Yeast.

The books go into far more detail, but I can summise the basic steps for you.

I put two gallons of water in my boiling pot, along with the liquid malt, grains and hops and boiled it for about an hour, mixing it periodically. Toward the end, I tossed in some of what's called Irish Moss, a fininig agent, to help clear up the wort, which is what the brew is called at this point.

While the wort was brewing, I poured three gallons of cold water into the fermenter.

Afterward brewing, using the strainer and funnel, I poured the beer from the pot into the fermenter and allowed it to cool.

Once at the ideal temperature, I added the yeast, stuck the ferment lock on top of the carboy and let it sit.

For an ale, I usually allow the beer to ferment for about 14 days. By that point, the yeast has enough time to do what it needs to be, consuming the sugar and adding the alochol to the beer.

When it's time to bottle the beer, I syphon the liquid from the carboy to my "ale pail' bottling bucket. This is also where you add the priming sugar.

The reasoning is once bottled, the priming sugar will be consumed by the yeast still in the beer and provide carbonation.

Using the spigot, simply fill up your bottles, cap them and store them at room temp for about 10 days. After that point, you can start drinking or putting them in a fridge for chilling and later drinking.

You can drink some of your beer while you're bottling it, but it will be noticeably flat.

It can get a lot more complicated and many homebrewers deviate from provided recipes to come up with their own creations. It can be as simple or as complicted as you'd like it to be.

But it's not hard. So as Mr. Papazian says, 'relax and have a home brew.'

Hughes may be reached at



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