Saturday, January 7, 2012

brewing again!

I know a lot of folks out there have mixed feelings about Jimmy Carter, but those of us who are homebrewers love the man for making homemade beer and wine a legal endeavor again. From the time of prohibition to 1978 it wasn't legal to make alcohol at home as a hobby or for home consumption. But when an amendment was added to a bill allowing zymurgy in the home once again, homebrewing clubs, stores, and small micro-breweries exploded.

One very micro, micro-brewery is this farm. I'm new to homebrewing, but I adore the entire process. From heating wort over the stove to clasping the final cap on the last bottle, it feels almost subversive. Like I am part of something I'm not supposed to be. Anyone out there who has opened a hand-sealed cap off a bottle of a backyard batch knows this feeling. A buzz in a bottle, a creation of alcohol and carbonation. I remember seeing that first ever IPA froth up and I could not believe I had done something in my kitchen I had only see done from factory products. It's like wearing a pair of jeans you sewed yourself. Totally possible, but rare to the uninitiated.

I am a homebrewer and proud of it. Equipment in this kitchen includes items like siphons and bottle cappers, sanitizing potions and saved brown bottles to wash and reuse from other (larger breweries). There are Guinness bottles full of hard cider in the fridge right now with shiny cold caps. The cider making wasn't exactly "brewing" since I wasn't over a hot kettle mixing grains and hops and then rapidly cooling it off before sticking it in a fermenting container with yeast. This was just apple juice fed honey and yeast and fermented twice to give it a kick. I drink it cold and feel the happy sting, like a sharp, flat, champagne. It's 12% alcohol and that's enough to stop anyone from driving the school bus after a few pints.

I think for a lot of people who like the idea of homebrewing, it just seems so complicated? The sanitizing, chemical reaction, racking bottles...what a bother. Truth is it can be. But it can also be very simple, just like any craft practiced in the home...

I can hand you a fiddle and ask you to play Old Joe Clark or a Bach Concerto. One is more complicated and usually higher praised for the effort and results, but that doesn't mean Old Joe Clark doesn't sound like a fun tune, get you dancing, and you made it yourself. My homebrew is like that. It's not fancy (yet), and nothing to brag about at the homebrewing contests around the area. But no one can dispute that what comes out of those bottles is frothy, home made beer. And to pour a glass of black homemade stout and play a fiddle tune you taught yourself is just as satisfying and real as any chicken raised for the table or hand-kneaded loaf of bread. It is growing a celebration from seed.

Today I'll mix and start a batch of an Irish Black Stout from a kit I have here. It'll be ready to drink in about three or four weeks. The small pony keg I use makes exactly a case of 12pz bottles, and a case lasts me a long time. I just ordered a intermediate kit from Northern Brewer called Peace Coffee Stout. It's a dark, smooth beer with coffee and spices in it. I added a larger brewing kettle to my arsenal as well and bought some growlers to fill and carbonate for parties or music circles in the spring. This batch should be ready by the Meat and Beer party workshop, where we'll brew several types of beers together and make homemade sausage from scratch (thanks to Kevin and Bacon). That day will end with music, homebrew, and some seriously good brats and buns. If you're coming, bring your instruments!

I moved all thirty chicks outside in this weirdly warm weather we are having. It is 40 degrees out there. I swear it feels like a thunderstorm is coming...

P.S. If you are brand, brand new to homebrewing there are several beginner kits. I already talked about Mr. Beer (a company that I truly adore) for their kit beers anyone with a 2-gallon steel kettle can make good beer from. I suggest this super easy mix-and-pour brew kit for all beginners. For those ready for a little more of a challenge, there is this beautiful and inexpensive kit from the folks at Brooklyn Brew Shop for making a gallon of beer at home with a small glass carboy, and i can't think of a better gift to hand to hands-on friends. And no, neither of these companies are CAF sponsors!


Blogger Ellen Rathbone said... mean "From the time of PROHIBITION", don't you, not Probation? Or did you do some time in the slammer we don't know about? :D

January 7, 2012 at 12:18 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

yes, spelling mistake. i make those.

January 7, 2012 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

and i currently have a clean record!

January 7, 2012 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Lee Ann said...

Homebrewed Hard Cider? Holy #$%& - that's fantastic!! Where can i find the directions? This, I gotta try. Lov'in good old WoodChuck, but it certainly puts a dent in my wallet these days.... ;)

January 7, 2012 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Rosie said...

I started back with making hard cider and found an easy recipe on YouTube. 7 days and you have a good sweet cider, longer and it will get dryer.
I am also making homebrewed sodas using water kefir as my fermentation. There is an endless combination of fruits that make great sodas that are actually good for you.

January 7, 2012 at 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay for beer brewing!

We've been making batches with friends to ensure we get some variety (I'm a very *very* slow drinker!).

Our next batch may be an all grain batch now that I found an awesome grain mill for the kitchenaid on super sale! Nervous about it but the process should be interesting!

January 7, 2012 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger ALWP said...

My husband and his friends are avid homebrewers. They started filming a show for our local public access station, "Brew Bandits." Here's the link to part one, if you're interested:

January 7, 2012 at 1:28 PM  
Blogger KiwiGirl said...

Only slight problem I have is somewhere warm and big enough to put the container when the beer is brewing. My HWC cupboard is stuffed to rafters with blankets and sewing/crafting gear so any other suggestions? P.S - I sent you a Xmas card but it bounced back to me, saying the address was undeliverable?? Is this because I mailed it from outside the US?

January 7, 2012 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger georgie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 7, 2012 at 2:37 PM  
Blogger georgie said...

A friend used to make beer. He says the most important thing in beer making is sterilization of all containers and utensils just before use. This makes the purest brew. Lots of work but apparently what he brewed got rave reviews/quick consumption by his buddies.

January 7, 2012 at 2:37 PM  
Blogger Missy said...

We've started homebrewing as well. We've already gone through our first batch and about to start making another. We use Midwest Brewing Supplies, whom we like. Mead is also on the agenda soon, which is my favorite fermented beverage and will drop you like a fly.

January 7, 2012 at 4:38 PM  
Blogger karental said...

Mister home-brews. I drink it. It is darn good.

January 7, 2012 at 5:56 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

Mmmmmmmmm! Super delicious and cozy. Especially during cold winter.

January 7, 2012 at 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friend and I are going to start making beer this year. We have made mead and wine and hard cider so far so beer is left to do! I was thinking about how i don't know many women who are brew masters just men. More women need to get involved in making alcohol at home I think and take back the tradition (which women used to exclusively do). The kits look like a fun way to start. :)

January 8, 2012 at 5:55 PM  
Blogger Misty Meadows said...

I haven't tried my hand at beer making, but I have made a few gallons of 'country' wine.

January 9, 2012 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Matt_Middleton said...

Jenna: As an avid fan of expanding vocabulary, thank you for introducing me to "zymurgy". I'm definitely appropriating that one!

Lee Ann: The basics are juice, yeast, and sugar in a sterile container with some sort of airlock. If you want to really cheat (like me), store-bought juice is fine, as long as it doesn't have anything besides apple juice and ascorbic acid.

January 9, 2012 at 12:29 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

We've been homebrewing and making wine for almost 8 years. At this point we're hooked. It took us a long time to work up to all-grain brewing but it has been totally worthwhile. Our kit beers and partial mashes never turned out badly, but there was a definite difference in quality when we switched to all-grain. Plus, there are much worse ways to spent a Saturday than hanging out with friends, drinking beer, and watching pots boil.

Jenna - I've heard livestock really love to eat the spent grains. We don't have any livestock to test this on, unfortunately. (Unless you count the compost pile - happy microbes!)

January 19, 2012 at 4:58 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

Georgie - Sterilization is VERY important. If wild yeast or bacteria get a foothold before the yeast you add, the flavor will be "off". You may still get something drinkable or you may get something to feed to the compost pile.

We've also found that water quality makes a big difference. It's a simple step but, depending on your water, can make a huge difference.

January 19, 2012 at 5:03 PM  

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