It is likely you have come across hundreds, maybe thousands of different beers in your lifetime, all with a special taste and unique history. The differentiation between the third most popular drink in the world starts with the beer brewing process. The two main types of beer are lager and ales, which are characterized by the type of yeast used in the fermentation process. There are endless types of ales and lagers, as well as specialty beers that all can be brewed from the comfort of your own home with a home beer brewing kit. It is important to understand the difference between these types of beer, especially in homebrewing.
Ales: Typically served at “cellar temperature” (not too cool, around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit), ales are more complex and full-bodied in flavor than lagers. When brewing ale, the yeast tends to gather at the surface of the fermentation tank for the first couple of days prior to settling at the bottom. Ale brewing must be done in warmer temperatures, between 60 and 72 degrees, which allow the yeast to multiply. Ales are usually more complex, robust, and flavorful, with higher alcohol content than lagers. After fermentation, ales are aged for a few weeks at 40 to 50 degrees. The types of ales are many, and because of the fact that they are quicker and easier to brew than lagers, they’re great choices for home beer brewing!
Barley Wine: Despite its name, barley wine is a type of ale beer that has been around since 1903. In brewing barley wine, there is not a difference in the grain, but the quantity of grain packed into the brew. There is around double the grain in barley than in pale ale, and more than double the grain than in a pilsner. A barley wine is boiled longer than other beers, which causes the sugar to caramelize which intensifies the color and the taste.
Pale Ale: The British are responsible for this improvement in brewing expertise, discovering that using coal instead of wood in a kiln would cause beer to amber colored and clearer than pervious British ales. Many pale ale brewers find the type of water to be the most important element in making this type of beer. They often try and chemically treat the water to make it identical to the naturally occurring water from the original brewery in England. Pale malt is naturally used to make this understated and woody brew, and some mixtures have small amounts of crystal in them.
Indian Pale Ale: In the 1700’s, several British service men and citizens resided in India as part of the colonial rule and did not have access to British ale, which led to the creation of IPA. To protect this brew from high temperatures and motion of the British ships, generous amounts of hops were added which are responsible for its high alcohol content. When the British occupation of India was over, the popularity of IPA grew due to a shipwreck off the coast of England. The barrels were recovered from the ocean and sold in England, which soon were high in demand because of the atypical amount of hops in the ale. The beer also has a bit of crystal malt to sweeten it up, with a golden amber body.
Porter: Porters were very popular before the creation of pale ale, and declined in consumption because of the Prohibition in the U.S. and the beer tax in Britain. Porters are very dark in appearance, with touches of roasted grains, chocolate, coffee, toffee, and licorice. This brew uses traditional English hops and is thin and mild to the taste.
Stout: This creamy brew is black in appearance, with a thick and creamy flavor. Stout is typically brewed at higher gravities than most beers because of its high density. Stout is made with black unmalted barley and specialty grains, adding non-fermentable sugars, which is responsible for the thickness. It can be brewed with coffee, oatmeal, or milk sugar to add aroma and uniqueness.
Lagers: Lagers are smooth and crisp in taste and when serving, the colder the beer the better. In brewing a lager, the yeast sinks to the bottom of the fermentation tank instantaneously, which is why it is known at bottom fermenting. Lagers are brewed successfully at cooler temperatures, typically between 46 and 55 degrees. Light and dry are adjectives that classically describe lagers, which are the most frequent type of beer sold in the United States. Lagers have higher alcohol content than ales and are aged for longer and at cooler temperatures, on average between 32 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. There are various different types of Lagers, which are the most popular type of brew sold in the United States today.
Bock: In brewing a bock, ingredients aren’t the only important element. Decoction, a German style of heating mash, taking out parts of it, boiling those parts and then returning it to the mash is practiced when making this rick, malty beer. Munich malt contributes to a bocks deep color, and yeasts with low congealing tendencies are used so they can survive in the high gravity liquids that come from mashing the grains.
Oktoberfest: In 1872, Spaten brewer Josef Sedlmayr made a beer comparable to the Vienna lager that was a hit during the first Oktoberfest in Munich, which is now known as Oktoberfest brew or Maerzen brew. Oktoberfest is undoubtedly German and is made with Pilsner as the base malt, and Vienna or Munich malt. The hopping in this brew is classically light and uses yeast that doesn’t result in a dry beer. Oktoberfest should be malty but not nutty, with a light brown flavorful body.
Pilsner: Commanding more than half of the beer market internationally, Pilsner is undoubtedly the most admired style of beer and is brewed all over the world. Pilsner’s are made with lightly kilned malted barley and Noble Saaz hops that create a fresh and simple beer. This brew has a light grain flavor that allows for a refreshingly clean and cool beer.
Whether you are new at home wine making or an old pro at home brewing your own beers, you have likely faced the challenge of finding the best supplier for all of your current and prospective future growth needs.
The list of basic needs for brewing is quite long.
- Steel Boiling Pot. The boiling pot you purchase must comfortably hold at least three gallons. Bigger is better in this case. Use only high-quality boiling pots that are made of ceramic-coated steel, stainless steel or aluminum.
- Two Fermenters with Airlocks. It is best to have two fermenters so that one can act as a bottling bucket. A six-gallon food-grade plastic type is recommended for early beginners. Also available are glass carboys that commonly come in three, five and six and a half-gallon sizes.
- Siphon with Bottle Filler. Siphons are available in many different configurations. However, they commonly consist of clear plastic tubing with a racking cane. They can also have bottle fillers. A bottle filler is most often made of plastic or metal tubing with a spring-loaded valve for filling your beer or wine bottles.
- Bottle Capper. There are different styles of bottle cappers available. You will need to decide between a bench-style or hand capper. Although bench cappers are more flexible and will be required to create champagne bottle caps, they are definitely more expensive.
- Bottle Caps. Oxygen and standard absorbing crown caps are the choices in bottle caps.
- Large Stirring Spoon. You will need a food-grade plastic paddle or stirring spoon for the wort during the boiling process.
- Bottle Brush. Used bottles should be thoroughly cleaned with a long-handled nylon bottle brush.
- Thermometer. Make sure the thermometer you select can be safely immersed during the boiling and wort process. It should have a range of approximately 40°F to 180°F.
- Hydrometer. The hydrometer can measure the specific gravity between pure water and water that has had sugar dissolved in it. A hydrometer is definitely required when creating beers from scratch.
Cost to Start Making Wine or Beer at Home
Considering all the above requirements, it is still not as expensive as you may believe to begin making your own wine or beer at home. Expect to spend anywhere from $100 to $200 at Adventures in Homebrewing for the first shot that includes buying the equipment. Subsequent brewings for five to six gallons of wine should cost anywhere from $50 to $200 depending on the quality and rarity of ingredients used.
Most home brewers have found that the experience, as well as the options for customization in their beer or wine, is sufficient reward for the brewing process. Home brewers also commonly market their own products locally with unexpectedly good results since even smaller grocers now cater to microbreweries and other open market opportunities. The affordable investment into a home brewing kit for wine or beer may even pay for itself in your very first batch as long as you are sure to purchase the most affordable brewing equipment for your needs at a reputable supplier such as Adventures in Homebrewing.
Perhaps you consider yourself to be a bit fanatical about your beer. This would be evidenced by the depth and range of colors that you stock in your refrigerator. Your beer bottles, and the libations themselves, probably range from the deep golden hues of hefeweizen to the pale amber of red beers. With any luck, you’re familiar with the deeper, darker colors of porters and stouts, dark like the shadows at nighttime, but marvelously anticipated for their rich flavors. Perhaps these colors and their respective flavors have only garnered your interest, but your present beer selection tendencies lean towards one solitary, pale colored beer. It’s good that you’re somewhat curious. A world of flavors awaits, each with its own crafting history.
After spending some time immersed in learning about different beers – and there’s no better way than to get to the store and try bottle after bottle – you’re sure to notice something: handcrafted beers don’t come cheap. In fact, their prices can easily be double, or much more, than the low-priced beers. Certainly you’re paying for better flavor and supporting smaller businesses when you buy specialty beers, but the question about making your own can arise pretty quickly. It usually comes across as something like this: “Could I brew beer at home and would it taste as good as these specialty brews I keep finding at the store? The answer is a definitive “Yes!” Think back to how things were a few hundred years ago. Beer, then known as mead, was a popular drink with most people. But, living in isolated areas far from towns, it was completely impractical to “run out to the store and buy a six pack.” How did these people get their drinks? They made them, and so can you!
Of course, to avoid trial by fire, it’s best to get an experienced brewer on your side. Adventures in Homebrewing is a great companion on this new journey. We’ve got over 40 years of experience with homebrewing and making wine, which can raise other important questions, such as, “Why limit oneself to only one type of nighttime drink?” But if you’re committed to beer and not much of a fan of wine, you need not worry. You’ll get as good of direction at making the ideal beer for your tastebuds with Adventures in Homebrewing as you would if you could transport yourself to olden times and visit a beer master.
Once you’ve decided to get started on this new project, it only takes a few steps to open the door and walk through it. Find a place in your home where the brewing will take place. The process need not fill your entire living space, but it does lend itself to having its own area, at least during the ingredient combination phase. You’ll also need space to store the beer undisturbed for some time – weeks, depending on the type of beer and desired alcohol content. With space arranged, it’s time to fill it with the fun task of beer creation. Get to it!
There are some things that are just easier to buy instead of making yourself. Just like mattresses – apparently, no one has ever tried to make a mattress on their own. And then there are some things that people buy instead of making because they don’t know how to do it or don’t know if it would be worth doing.
Beer and wine are things that can be made at home and it’s surprisingly simple. Here are some things you may not know about it.
1) It’s not as hard as you think
Making wine or beer is a science. Getting everything just right – removing grittiness, maintaining flavor and freshness, etc. – can be a complicated process. But that doesn’t mean it’s an especially difficult process.
Anyone with the proper home beer brewing or wine making equipment can make their own. Adventures in Homebrewing sells wine and beer making kits with complete instructions for the novice home brewer.
2) It’s legal
The thought of making your own beer or wine may conjure up images of backwoodsmen moonshiners hiding from the law; cranking out bottles of white lightning from stills secreted away in the hills. Or perhaps, the Baldwin sisters from TV’s The Waltons who made a very alcoholic and very illegal concoction that they called “the recipe.”
While it is illegal to make your own whiskey or moonshine, making your own wine or brewing your own beer is perfectly legal. There are however certain restrictions. Homemade beer and wine is for “personal” consumption so you can’t sell it. Also, you can only make a certain amount of it – 100 gallons a year per adult in a household.
3) It’s not as expensive as you think
When the CD player first came out, it was very expensive. Only the richest of kings of England could afford it. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you understand. It was expensive, but, with time, the technology became cheaper. This is true with wine and beer making supplies, too. While once costly, it is now relatively inexpensive.
Also, in the past, bulky and pricey fruit presses or crushers were needed to make wine. Now concentrates or juices can be used instead.
4) It can be just as good as or better than commercial wines and beers
The commercial beer and wine makers have a variety of tastes and products, but you’re still limited to that specific group of tastes and products. Making wine at home or homebrewing beer gives you more options. And since you’re making it yourself, you can customize it to fit your tastes exactly. You can’t do that with the commercial stuff.
The quality of what you make can be as good as anything found in the stores. Adventures in Homebrewing has sold quality winemaking and beer-making supplies since 1966 and has had customers returning for over 40 years.
Looking to begin your brewing career? E. C. Kraus has you covered with all the basic beer making equipment and beer brewing tips to jump in and get started. Below we share all the key components needed to become an expert brew master.
True Brew Handbook: This is the essential guidebook for the beginning beer maker. Full of recipes and necessary ingredients, this handbook guides you through the process step by step, carefully explaining the purpose of each ingredient along the way.
Screw-Top Fermenter: Fermenters are an integral part of the beer (or wine) making process. Fermenters are buckets that generally hold an upwards of 5 gallons, and come with an airtight lid specially designed to aid in the fermentation process. Fermenters are designed with a faucet for racking and bottling, as well as a hose for easy transfer.
Triple Scale Hydrometer: A hydrometer allows you to keep track of the fermentation process and determines alcohol content in both beer and wine. The hydrometer is very important, as it lets you know when your brew is ready to be bottled!
Double Lever Capper: This product allows you to cap bottles with ease. This is an important part of the process, as it is necessary to ensure your beer is properly sealed after bottling.
Beer Bottle Brush: This type of brush is specially designed for cleaning beer bottles. It can effortlessly clean both 12oz and 22oz bottles, and can even be used to clean champagne bottles or soda pop bottles.
Foot Of Hose: Hose is necessary for transferring the finished beer to the bottles.
5 oz. Jar CleanPro SDH: This cleans your beer making equipment. It is used to sanitize, clean, and deodorize both beer and wine making equipment such as fermentation vessels, tubing, air-locks, and utensils. This can also work well on surfaces such as glass, stainless steel, and plastics.
Brewer`s Best Ingredient Kit: This kit comes with everything you need to brew your own beer. Pick from a variety of indulgent flavors such as American Amber, Irish Stout, Red Ale, Vienna Lager, or many many more! Each kit makes 5 gallons of home brew.
Ready to get started? Luckily Adventures in Homebrewing has you covered. We want to make the beer making process as simple as possible, so we combined all beginners’ necessities into one! Check out our Beer Brewing Kit, which includes everything listed above, and even comes at a specially discounted price!