Ifirmly believethat thekitchen isan incredible source of knowledge, and that you can’t genuinely understand something you love until you try constructing it yourself. If you love beer, these banalities yield a glorious thing.
Homebrewing is somethingof a national passion, but I’ve never delved into it, largely becausethere’s so much great beer producedby people who know what they’re doing. When homebrewers I know offera bottle, it often comes with a side of excuses explaining what they think went wrong and how the next batchwill be better. Brewers’ pride runs deep.
Still, I wanted to give homebrewing a shot, and theMidwest Supplies” Beer. Simply Beer .” starter kit seemed perfect for afirst-timer. The concept: Everything you need in one box so you can induce five gallons of brew, complete with instructions to make it simple, for only 50 bucks.
What could go wrong?
First , note that “everything” is somethingof a misnomer. $50 does not get you one key piece of equipment–a kettle in which to boil the wort that will become your beer. I had a big pot, but you if you don’t, Midwest offers one for $40. You don’t get bottles, either, so figure another $30 for empties unless you collect and clean your own.
Once I’d thoroughly read through the instructions and watched a few YouTube videos, brewing day ran instead smoothly. I experienced only a couple of problems, the worst of which was my five-gallon kettle wasn’t quite big enough. It simmered over onto my stovetop. I objective up brewing in two pots, side by side, which worked out fine.
Making beer is far less complex than stimulating wine( which I documented for WIREDin 2008 ), where technology can be a great friend. To ferment brew you simplyput it in a big plastic bucket with yeast, and, two weeks later, bottle the finished product. This is the messiest part of the operation, involving siphons and hoses and lots of spilling. After investing about two and a half hours on brewing day and another two and a half on bottling day, I aimed up with 45 bottles of pale ale. Ignore the cost of the pot( and the shipping ), and that comes to about $1.78 bottle. Future batches would of course be much more cost effective.
I was wholly expecting to screw it all up, but a month after brewing day, I cracked open a bottle and detected it amazingly drinkable. The beer possesseda nice, foamy head( though this vanishes too quickly ), and aflavor, is coming from Cascade hops, familiar to any fan of, say, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It offered a pleasingbalance of malted and hops in the body, and afinish I foundquite bitter without being overwhelming. It’s hardly an earth-shattering ale, but it’s much better than Bud. I guess I’m a brewer now.
My primary issue is theincredibly sloppy instructions. In fact, the kit includes two sets of instructions, and they don’t always agree. How “optional” is secondary fermenting?( Given that you don’t get a secondary fermenting, pretty optional .) How does the included hydrometer work, and why do you need? What about the bottle filler? And how does the included packet of oxygen washing sanitizer work? Given how critical cleanliness is to beermaking, failing to include specific instructions for usingsanitizer is a crazy oversight.
Still, I seem to have stumbled through well enough( and Midwest’s on-call brewmaster is thereif you have questions ), but a revamp of the brewing instructions as a pictorial guidebook with much finer detail would go a long way toward ensuring you don’t screw up–and induce that month of waiting all the less stressful.
All told I’m quitehappy with the knowledge gained from the process and moderately impressed with the beer–even though now all I truly want is a Racer 5.
7/ 10 – Very good, though not quite great.