Beer, A beverage we all love. Beer is something which needs no introduction. The one beverage can be found at almost every place: A restaurant, cafés, stadiums, bowling alleys.
But what if we tell you that Brewing beer started in a household and you can do it too if you want a fresh tall glass of beer? A chilled beer goes with everything meat-based cuisine like the famous all-American Barbeque.
History and Early times
We have been drinking beer for almost 7,000 years, and the original brewers were women, it might be a shock for a few but from the Vikings to the Egyptians, women brewed beer for religious ceremonies and to make a comforting and calorie-rich beverage for their homes.
From the Stone Age to the 1700s, ale(later beer) was a household beverage for most families in European countries. The drink was an inexpensive way to make use of the excessive grains. For the working class, beer provided an important source of nutrients, full of carbohydrates and proteins because the beverage was such a common part of the average person’s diet, fermenting beer for women was one of their normal household tasks.
Some ambitious women took this household skill to the marketplace and capitalized on the homemade nutritious beverage and began selling beer. Which started a journey of the commercialized beverage industry which is still continued and embraced. Widows or unmarried women used their fermentation prowess to earn extra money, while married women partnered with their husbands to run their beer business.
Up until the 1500s, brewing was primarily women’s work that is until a smear campaign accused women brewers of being witches because women used to wear long and pointy hats so they can be located in a crowd by the customer but the men brewers wanted to cut their competition and dominate the market a ruse was turned into a rumour that the women were witches and were making magical potions.
Unfortunately, the rumour held that women brewers were linked with witchcraft and eventually women stopped brewing beer. Much of the iconography we associate with witches today, from the pointy hat to the broom, may have emerged from their connection to female brewers in the 1500s.
Brew your own Beer
3 Liter mason jar/glass pickle jar with a tight screw lid/ plug,
Airlock (or a blow-off tube),
A grommet gasket or food-grade plug with 7-8mm inner diameter (cork or anything else to get a firm grip),
A steel pot (at least 5 litres),
A hydrometer or refractometer (optional),
Swing top glass bottle (6 x 500ml or 3 X 1L),
Food grade siphon tube (1.5m) preferably one with a mechanical pump and a steel mesh filter.
100-125 gm/litre Dry malt extract 100-125gm per litre. Or liquid malt extract, 120 to 150gm per litre,
1 packet Hops about 0.25gm of bittering hops like Cascade, Magnum and 0.5-1gm of aromatic hops like Citra is good for beginners,
3 litres Purified water RO or bottled 3 litres,
3 gm Beer Brewing Yeast: 0.5-1gm per litre,
1 kg Ice made from boiled water which is frozen in aseptic ice trays a night before 1kg,
1 gm Gelatin 1/8 teaspoon per litre and Irish moss (0.25gms per litre),
8 gm Priming sugar or Sulfur less sugar 1-1.5 teaspoon per litre or brown sugar for carbonation,
5 ml Brewing Sanitizer (Anphossan) Iodine solution, hydrogen peroxide, Starsan etc.,
2 gm Yeast nutrient 1/2 teaspoon per 3 litres.
Step 1: Prepare Wort
Boil at least 2 kg of water (or 2 litres).
Add malt extract: stir it to prevent it from sticking to the bottom and caramelizing.
Add the hops (this is malt extract-based simple brewing so we add all of it together. In grain-based mashing, the bittering hops are added early and aromatic is added just moments before it starts to boil, as described in the next chapter).
Adding Irish moss helps remove the proteins and clear the final beer.
After 5-10 minutes of continuous boiling (or above 70° temperature), take the vessel out of flame and plunge it into an ice bath. You may add ice cubes inside the wort as well to achieve faster pasteurization. All the mashing (starch to malt conversion) happens in the factory where the malt extract is made. Hence, over boiling it will only result in a reddish kettle caramelized hue.
Chill until the wort reaches room temperature (less than 30o C).
Step 2: Sanitize
Use rinse-free sanitiser to wash & soak all equipment and surfaces (at least 5 minutes of soaking of the Mason jar). You may also boil the equipment if it is temperature resistant. Your hydrometer, siphon, airlock and everything that will touch the wort should be sanitized.
Invert and jerk the equipment to shake off any capillary water sticking to the equipment’s surface. (Optional) Rinse it with sterilized water to remove any residual taste/colour of the disinfectant.
You might have to use a hot nail to puncture the Mason jar’s lid to insert the grommet gasket & airlock. Use a sealant (glue) to achieve a good seal between the lid and airlock.
Step 3: Kick-starting fermentation
Pour the wort into the Mason jar and take the hydrometer reading. I typically aim for 1.055 S.G. but based on the desired alcoholic strength of the beer, we may add or reduce the malt.
(Optional): Oxygenation of the wort is more important in larger batches. In smaller batches (less than 10 litres), pouring from a height is sufficient to infuse oxygen back. Use a hand blender (or) manually shake the wort vigorously to oxygenate. Compressed air is pumped into commercial breweries to increase oxygen levels.
Hydrate the yeast in 10 parts of water (10ml per litre) and add yeast nutrients. Mix them well and wait for about 15 minutes. If yeast is alive, we should see the yeast foam (bubbles) being formed. This is the most crucial step and dead/ inactive yeast can ruin any batch.
Seal the lid and attach the airlock. It should start bubbling in 4-12 hours. (Diagnostics): Press the plastic lid gently to induce bubbling. If there is a leakage in the seal, the airlock will not bubble and one can add a sealant in the gap.
Store it away from sunlight in a cool dark place and check specific gravity periodically over the next 7 days or until the bubbling has stopped.
Please take the hydrometer/ refractometer reading. You can refer to the original & final gravity in a Plato table (Percentage of malt in the solution). This will help measure the alcohol content.
Not all beer styles are supposed to be clear. If we prefer clarity, keep the fermenter at 4oC for 48 hours for turbidity to settle down. Dissolving 1/4 a teaspoon of gelatin in ½ a cup of warm water (not boiling) and mixing it with the beer will aid in suspended yeast settling down. It takes 48-72 hours for the process to show results. You will get a thick yellow yeast cake at the bottom and a clear beer.
Step 4: Bottling
Sanitize the glass bottles & rinse off the disinfectant with water. (Like we cleaned the mason jars during winemaking).
Use a siphon tube to pour beer into the Bottle & add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar for natural carbonation.
Seal the crown cap/ swing top cap tight and store the bottles in a cool dark place for three days for CO2 formation.
Serve chilled in a glass mug. (Homebrew is never drunk from the bottle directly because of the yeast deposits at the bottom).