Creating something yourself instead of reaching for a store bought product is not only incredibly satisfying, it’s almost always better for your hip pocket and the environment. Beer brewing is no exception.
Creating your own craft beer gives an incredible sense of DIY satisfaction, as well reducing the environmental impact associated with manufacturing, transportation and recycling. You can also be selective about using local ingredients and choose to avoid common preservatives.
What is beer made of?
Beer is primarily made up of four main ingredients: water, malted barley, hops and yeast. These ingredients can be purchased from a microbreweries and some farmers markets, or you can learn to grow them yourself.
Alternatively, a basic home brew kit will contain a tub of malted barley extract instead of actual grains. These malt kits can be a good place to start your brewing journey and will provide you with everything you need for about $100, or even less if you can pick one up second-hand.
Whether you’re buying second-hand or new, ensure you sanitise all of your equipment every time you brew. The smallest amount of contaminant can ruin your entire batch.
Your brewing options
The process of making beer at home will vary depending on whether you’re using a malt kit or going straight to grain brewing.
Grain brewing is usually the most cost-effective way to make beer and it allows the brewer more control over the recipe. Grain brewing often uses the BIAB (brew in a bag) technique and can be done using some common kitchen items, further reducing the cost of brewing.
Microbreweries around Brisbane also offer brewing services. They provide the ingredients, equipment, bottles and a temperature controlled area for your brew to ferment. Most of them also provide you with step-by-step assistance when you start out.
How is beer made?
The process of making beer is actually very simple. Aside from water, the main element used in beer is wort. Wort is a sugary fluid bi-product created when you ‘mash’ your malted barley by soaking it in water. The process of soaking then breaks down the grain’s starches and leaves you with a sweet malt tea called wort.
The wort is then boiled with hops, a bitter flower. Hops adds a bitter flavour that compliments the sweeter malt and also helps to preserve the drink. Yeast is then used in the fermentation process to convert the malt sugars into alcohol and gas.
How long does it take?
The entire process can take anywhere between 4-8 weeks depending on the type of beer you are creating.
Ale only needs a couple of weeks in bottles before being ready to drink, while a lager will require at least another 4-6 weeks before being mature.
- In preparation for commencing your first home brew, start to collect your old beer bottles. Ask your family and friends to save theirs too. These bottles can be sanitised and used for your own home brew, saving you money on new ones and helping reduce waste.
- Read as much as you can on the topic. Sustainable Homebrewing by Amelia Slayton Loftus is a great book, and the author also has a website full of extra information.
- Online is awash with helpful articles and Q&A style forums. A few popular Australian sites include: Aussie Home Brewer, Australian Brew News, and Beer and Brewer.