It's fairly simple to make you own basic beer but you will need to buy some equipment (see the Brewing article for info). You can either start with raw ingredients or purchase a can of "beer mix" and a bag of brewing sugar. For people just starting out its recommended that you start with a can of beer mix as brewing from raw ingredients can be quite complex.
why brew beer? I brew because I love great tasting beer, and the microbrew stuff is too expensive for me. I make beer for about 25 cents per 12oz bottle. My beer is some of the best I have tasted, and I sample a lot of the microbrews around my area of Grand Rapids MI.
Brewing is fun. I love to create something I know that my friends and I can enjoy. The most important thing to remember when brewing is what Charlie Papazian proclaims in his books. "Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew!" It is easy to get wrapped up in tiny details when brewing, it is important to remember that we are doing this for fun. Little things will go wrong, and there is nothing we can do about this. So relax, dont worry, and make some homebrew.
What you need
Basic brewing can be done with little equipment. I will list the equipment in order of importance
Fermentation bucket: These are sold in any homebrew shop, or you can use a large bucket or container you have already. You want to size your bucket a gallon or two larger than your batch size. you want a bucket that can be sanitized easily. This means it shouldnt be scratched up, because bacteria can hide in the scratches and avoid the sanitizer. It is best if there is some way to seal the bucket. I use 6 gallon plastic buckets for my primary fermentation and glass carboys for the secondary fermentation. The six gallon bucket costs about $10 at a homebrew store.
Boiling Kettle: I use a 21 liter aluminum pressure cooker. For a five gallon batch of beer, you want to be able to boil about 2.5 gallons of liquid. A 16-32 quart enameled steel, aluminum, or stainless steel pot will work well. this can be the most expensive part of the setup. I bought my pressure cooker off of ebay for $30, I think you can get enameled pots pretty cheaply at a walmart.
Longhandled Spoon: to stir the boiling wort with.
Bottles: To bottle a 50 gallon batch, 50 or so 12 ounce bottles are required. I have heard that you can use twist-off type bottles, but I only use the kind that require a bottle opener. I heard that you can get powdered glass in your beer when using twist-off bottles, because they arent built to be recycled. Pop-top bottles are surprisingly hard to get a hold of in 50 bottle batches. maybe contact someone you know that works in a restaurant for these. Homebrew shops sell the bottles new for 50 cents each.
Bottle caps: These can be purchased inexpensively from a homebrew shop. I think they run about $3 for 100
Bottle Capper: This costs about $15 at a homebrew shop.
Sanitizer: you can pay a lot of money in a homebrew store for a fancy no-rinse sanitizer, or you can use common household bleach. I use bleach. I pay about $1 a gallon for it.
Airlock: This allows the carbon dioxide to leave your fermenter, but keeps air out. It isnt absolutely necessary, it is possible to brew fine beer without one, but they are cheap and make life easier. They cost about 75 cents at the homebrew store.
Hydrometer: found in homebrew store for about $3-6. these are very delicate, I have broken several. These are not especially necessary anyways. They are used to find the alcohol percentage of the beer.
wait a minute, not so fast. we need some materials to make the beer from. These can be purchased from a homebrew shop.
Easy Amber ingredients: 6 pounds of Amber Malt extract(liquid or dry) 3.5 ounces of Cascade hops 1 package of Ale yeast 3/4 cup of corn sugar OR set aside 1 1/4 cup of the dry extract
Once we have the equipment and the material, the fun can begin.
A quick overview of what we are about to do:
- sanitize equipment
- boil the wort
- cool the wort
- mix wort and water in fermenter
- pitch yeast
- put fermenter in a dark place and leave alone for two weeks
- bottle and cap beer
- leave bottles alone for a week
- drink the beer
First, we need to start the sanitation process. Anything that will touch the beer has to be sanitized, except the brewpot, it boils the beer for an hour, and gets sanitized that way. Fill the fermenter with cold water and pour in some bleach. not much, only a little is needed to accomplish a lot.Fill the fermenter with cold water and pour in some bleach. not much, only a little is needed to accomplish a lot. The proper dilution ratio when making a bleach sanitizing solution is 1/2 ounce of bleach per gallon of water. Leave the equipment in the bleach for at least 20 minutes, then rinse in hot water before use. If the bleach is at the proper dilution, it will not leave a smell after rinsing. Some people love the sanitation aspect of brewing, and use it as an excuse to spray sanitizer on every surface in the house. If you are like this, just remember it is MOST important to clean the equipment well. If you like to spray sanitizer on everything else too, then by all means go ahead, it cant hurt.