|Home Brewing Tips
|Home Brewing Recipes
Brooks Brewery Associate Brewer
the crossroads of the beer world
|Thanks to all of my readers who have stopped down at the Brooks
Brewery in the Northside Lounge in Manville, NJ to say hello. As you
know the bar is temporarily closed but you should call about take out
and growler fills during these pandemic times. Hopefully we'll be back to
normal soon.. Although we don't do it for the general public if you write
me here at BeerNexus I'll be happy to answer any of your brewing
questions along with our head brewer Art Hanneman.
I know many of you have done more home brewing this past month
because of shelterig in home so I've prepared a few brewing tips.
Stay healthy and safe and of course keep brewing!
Prep Your Yeast Right
Two big rules of thumb for healthy yeast: Don’t let it sit in the fridge for
months, and make sure you’re giving it the right nutrients and amount
of oxygen to get the job done. When investing in tools and equipment,
find fermenters that are easy to clean and inspect. Also, invest in
oxygenation, whether in-line or a wand/stone. You will see a dramatic
difference in fermentation performance with pure oxygen versus
aerating by hand. When the yeast are happier, they'll reward you
with better tasting beer.
Save Your Money on Yeast Starters
You should consider making your own yeast starter. It’s the best way to
ensure your fermentation cycle starts off right with an active
fermentation, it lowers your chance for contamination, and unless you’re
making a super low-gravity ale (basically, lower sugar-to-alcohol ratio),
you’ll have to spend a lot of money on multiple premade packets of the
stuff. Craft Beer and Brewing provides a good step-by-step. Either way
you choose, you’ll need to plan ahead—if you’re DIY-ing your yeast
starter, you’ll want to give it 24 hours to keep reproducing after the initial
half-hour fermentation. If you’re using the premade stuff, “wake those
pitchable packs up and get them ready for your wort” a few hours
before you need to add them.
Stay Away from the Stovetop
Boiling over is a disaster to clean in the kitchen, but it's not unlikely that
it'll happen during the process. If you have a propane burner and patio,
garage, or driveway space, heat your concoction there. Brewers should
have a hose or a spray bottle at the ready when bringing the kettle to a
boil or adding hops. And at any point after the boil, use lids to cover any
open surfaces and supplement with paper towels moistened with alcohol
or sanitizer to keep any bacteria from falling in.
Go With Glass
Sure, plastic fermenters are much higher quality than they used to be—
they don't weigh as much and don't shatter if you drop them—but
glass is still the superior way to go. It lasts longer, won't leak, and it's
much easier to clean for guaranteed sanitation. There's no good
reason to skimp. But not to worry, if you go with plastic you can
still make great beer.
Find the Goldilocks Alcohol Level
Keep the alcohol level light, but not too light. You get more flavor in
stronger, more alcoholic beers, but it makes it trickier to manage higher
gravity fermentations if you're just starting out. Going too light, though,
leaves less room for error as there's nowhere to hide any flaws. Stick
within a range of 5 to 7 percent ABV if you're a first-timer.
We have all levels of home brewers reading this column so let me give
a few tips to the more experienced home brewers out there.
Get Fancy, But Intelligently
Learn the difference between the various malt types and hop varieties
before worrying about what chocolate-covered bananas taste like in a
beer. You’re better off taking on a more challenging style beer like a
clean Pilsner or a sour.
Give Barrel-Aging a Try
“Wood aging is all about surface-to-volume ratio. The smaller the barrel
volume, the larger the surface area, and the faster it ages,” says Boyce.
So start with a small barrel and work your way up. “I had a 12-gallon oak
barrel that I aged about 20 beers in before I ever got my hands on a [53-
gallon] bourbon barrel,” Porter says. Don’t expect to age it as long as
your local brewery would, either. Taste regularly and decide for yourself
when it’s ready, but it could be on the order of just a couple weeks.
Enter a Competition
Home brew competitions are held across all major craft brew cities. They’
re great places to get help and get feedback from more experienced
brewers. Check out America’s Homebrewers Association for upcoming
contests. If you just want some personal expert feedback you can check
out BeerNexus' Sandy Feld who accepts submissions for review.
That's it for this month. Hope to see you next time!
Good Brewing and Cheers!
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