Home brew how-to, Part One
By Laurel Borrowman, Life & Style Editor
There can be a plethora of both perks and pitfalls to having a roommate. Maybe you live with a math genius, the perfect character foil to your numerically-challenged ass come midterm time. Maybe your roommate has the same Breaking Bad addiction, easing any worries you have about spending six straight hours on Netflix. But no matter how good or bad your roommate is, I guarantee that mine is better. We wear mostly the same size clothes, exactly the same size shoes, agree there’s nothing a bike ride can’t fix, and our lives both revolve around music. She’s one-upped me in one department though: she came with a beer kit. I basically live with a brew master.
I’ll debunk any myths right now. We are two normal looking young ladies. We aren’t keg-standing, chest-pounding, roid-monkey frat boys. We can lift heavy things and measure stuff. A prerequisite for brewing your own beer is not being a frat boy. Second, yes, you can do it at home. It doesn’t require a 500-litre barrel to overtake your dwelling, so there’s no need to rely on the supplies or operating hours of that U-Brew up the street. Third, it doesn’t taste gross. I remember my former impression of home brew was that it was bland, flavourless swill; its only draw was that it was cheap and plentiful. But that was just my uncle’s stuff.
In the next four issues of The Other Press, I’ll take you through the various steps of making beer at home. While it isn’t difficult, it is indeed a time investment that requires your attention and care, but I assure you, the rewards are huge. Once you’ve purchased the proper equipment, a batch of beer costs between 25 and 40 dollars, and yields about 25 litres. My Borrowmath tells me that that’s between one and less than two dollars per litre. So put that in your bottle and drink it.
Before you get too excited, I’ll let you in on the resource expenditure you’re in for. Nobody should enter the world of home brewing without being aware of what lies ahead. Here’s what you’ll need.
- About $100 to invest in the beer kit. This includes one siphon, one primary (essentially a 25 litre bucket with a hole in the lid), a carboy (a glass container with a narrowed neck that holds the same volume as the primary), a giant, unmeltable plastic spoon, a bung (hee hee), which is basically a fancy plug, specific for beer brewing. All this stuff, while you could probably improvise and save a bit of money, costs about 100 dollars, and you’ll likely never have to replace it.
- A large pot that holds about 30 litres of water. In my experience, this has been the most difficult piece of equipment to acquire for free, but we’ve always borrowed one from a neighbour. A new one is probably between 50 and 100 dollars.
- Twenty-five to 50 dollars for supplies each time you brew. This includes sanitizer and the ingredients required for your beer recipe (of which there are about a billion), like hops, grain, malt, and so on. This recurring cost will fluctuate depending on the recipe.
- Airtight containers to hold your brew. Emily and I committed to drinking nothing but Howe Sound beer until we had enough bottles for a batch. It was a labour of love, but surprisingly easy to do. If you put the word out to your posse, I almost guarantee they’ll switch beers in the name of your d.i.y. endeavour. The reason these bottles are great is that they are a decent volume (one litre), made of glass (I personally despise plastic), and most importantly, the rubber sling top has a seal that will take years to degrade. Basically, you can use the same bottles over and over as long as you sanitize them properly and don’t get all smashy on them.
- Patience and enough self-control to leave the beer alone for the required time. From start to finish, this is about four weeks.
Tally up the one-time financial investment, and you’re looking at about 100 to 200 dollars. And again, these are stocks that will never plummet. Once you’ve got that all sorted, you’re officially a self-sufficient beer machine that only needs a few 20s thrown at the situation to craft a batch that could quench the thirst of a dozen, or keep you and a friend stocked up for as long as it takes for you to drink 25 litres of beer (in my experience, this can take any where from a week to a month or so). I’ll bet you spend that in a mere week or two of drinking the torrid piss that you consider cheap from your local liquor store. Am I right?
If you aren’t convinced yet, my final point is that holiday season is approaching quickly, and home brew makes a great gift. It’s personal, it’s delicious, costs you very little, and it comes from the heart.
Now that you are convinced, come back next week when we’ll discuss recipes and step one of the process: making wort! In the meantime, I recommend visiting Google dot-com to track down a supplier in your neighbourhood (if you live in Vancouver, visit Dan’s Homebrew) so we can get started.