Brewing Up A New Hobby
For Christmas, this year, I've become more and more interested in good beer. There's a lot to be said about a beer that hasn't been "Triple Cold Brewed" in the mountains of Colorado. Don't get me wrong; in a pinch I'll drink a few Coors Lights, but if I'm going to sit down and enjoy a beverage, I want to find a beer that, much like a good glass of wine, has had the heart of a brewer poured into it, ready to be imbibed. As much as I love photography, and dedicate a decent amount of my life to it, over the past few months it has become more of a business venture for me and, as such, has removed itself from the "hobby" portion of my life. The day that photography ceases to be fun is the day that I stop shooting, so don't get confused and think that I'm finished. I just need something else to do. With my own wedding having completed roughly six months ago, and the holidays finally winding down, the logical next step in my journey through man's oldest beverage was to make my own!
One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a homebrew kit. The kit came with nearly everything you could imagine for brewing, and was purchased from a local shop, Maryland Homebrew. If you're in the area and have even the slightest interest in homebrewing, I would highly encourage you to make your way down there and check it out. I was just down the other day to pick up one of the most vital components of homebrewing, Star San sanitizer. Homebrewing, at first, seems like an amazingly overwhelming ordeal to undertake. There are so many components that go into the beer that it seems like mixing something up or screwing up the process could be the easiest part of it all. But, the internet is an amazing thing, and with a little bit of research to boost my confidence, and all of my ingredients lined up and ready, I began making my very first beer.
I received an ingredient kit along with the homebrew kit which made things a little bit easier. Normally you have to get the grains, hops and malt all seperately and, using a recipe, brew the beer that way. The kit that I received had all of the ingredients to make a Wit Bier, which is similar to a summer brew; light in flavor and easy on the pallet.
The first step was to steep the grains. In their raw form, grains don't offer a lot for the beer. By steeping them, you give the beer better color and fresher flavor. Steeping grains does not convert the complex starches in the sugar into fermentable sugars, so only a small percentage of the steeped grain will ferment. Since unfermentable proteins are added by steeping, the body of the beer will be increased.
Steeping the grains was an incredible simple process. You add your mixture to the grain bag that you see on the right and, much like steeping tea, add it to boil water (constant temperature) for a fixed amount of time. Once this process is complete, you'll add your malt (or malt extract) and some of the hops, and create the portion of your beer known as the "Wort".
I won't go into much more detail about that, but I do have to say that I could probably keep hops around the house just to have the smell lingering in the air. I don't know that my wife would appreciate it much, but the smell of hops is amazingly pleasing to my olfactory sense.
After adding a bit more clean water to the Wort, it was ready to hide away in a dark, semi-cool place and leave it to ferment for a few days. After that, I'll transfer from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter, and then move on to bottling! I'm not going to spoil that surprise, though, as I want to make sure you come back and read the rest of this adventure!