By Tyler Allen
Homebrewing is hot right now in the United States.
A 2013 survey conducted by the American Homebrewers Association estimates 1.2 million homebrewers in the country and two-thirds of them began making beer since 2005.
Humans have been brewing beer since at least 9500 B.C., and some believe modern agriculture was developed for the purpose of growing grain for beer. Ancient Egyptians consumed more beer than water because fermented beverages are essentially sterile, and early Romans believed growing barley was so important they honored the grain on their coins.
While the gear used for brewing has evolved since ancient times, the process has changed little. Adding yeast to grains and water creates fermentation, the yeast eats the sugars of the grains, and the by-products are alcohol and carbonation.
The addition of hops as a flavoring agent and preservative came much later, probably beginning in ninth century Europe, according to British beer historian Martyn Cornell. Today, most beers are flavored with hops, especially the big American pale ales popular in this country.
“It’s a labor of love,” says Claire Olsen, manager at Bozeman’s Planet Natural. In 2011, the garden store opened UBrew, Bozeman’s first one-stop homebrewing supply shop. “Either you love beer, or you love spending time in a hot kitchen over a hot stove.”
UBrew styled out Mountain Outlaw with all the necessary gear to make our own suds. Our first batch was made with a Brewer’s Best American Pale Ale kit, which includes the grain, malt, hops, yeast and step-by-step directions to make five gallons of beer. The end result: a medium-bodied, deep golden, moderately hopped, quaffable ale.
Start saving your beer bottles now, buy the gear, and get brewing!
Pictured below are the essentials for brewing a great batch of beer. We’ve isolated critical elements in the Brewer’s Best American Pale Ale kit, and other necessary gear available at Bozeman, Montana’s UBrew.
The Brewer’s Best kits include a powdered sanitizer, but throw down a little extra cash for the easy-to-use, acid-based Star San, which requires no rinsing. Keep your gear clean so bacteria doesn’t kill the yeast, and all your hard work in the process.
You want a pot big enough to boil at least 2.5 gallons of water. Once your water has reached the appropriate temperature (150-165 F), add your grain bag and start steeping – this creates your “wort,” adding flavor, complexity and color to your beer.
The backbone of your brew, extracted malt provides the fermentable sugars for your final product. Stir it well when adding to the wort so it doesn’t settle and burn at the bottom of the pot.
Hops are your seasoning and provide complexity and bitterness to your beer. Breweries in the Western U.S. often use Cascade and Citra hops for their popular pale and India pale ales.
Check your temperature early and often. After you terminate your boil, cool the wort to approximately 70 F by placing the pot in a sink filled with ice water.
Transfer the wort into a sanitized fermenter, either a 5-gallon bucket or glass carboy, being sure not to suck the “trub,” or heavy sediment, off the bottom. Add clean water to bring the volume up to approximately 5 gallons – with the provided hydrometer, keep a close eye on the density and don’t overfill it. Density will ultimately determine your brew’s alcohol content.
Pitch the yeast into your wort and stir well with a sanitized spoon. Secure your lid and airlock, which you fill halfway with water. The CO2 bubbles released during fermentation let you know the yeast is doing its job.
After about a week, your brew is ready to bottle. Your kit comes with caps and a capper, you just need to provide the bottles. Make sure they’re clean and well sanitized – as well as all equipment that comes in contact with the beer on bottling day. Add the priming sugar, cap the bottles and your brew naturally carbonates over the next two weeks. Prost!
This story was first published in the winter 2015 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.