Making Beer at Home

Posted on: July 27, 2010

Making Beer at Home
by John A. Burks, Jr.

So you’ve survived TSHTF. Your carefully laid out stores of food, water, ammunition, and medical supplies have gotten you through the apocalypse and you driven back the hordes of zombies/Democrats/Census Bureau workers/alien invaders/communists/insert arch villain here and all is well in the world. It’s time to put your feet up, loosen up that pistol belt, and relax. And what would perfect for that relaxation but an ice cold beer.

Oh… wait… I forgot beer. How could I forget beer?

In all seriousness, unless you are otherwise well prepared, beer or any sort of alcohol (besides the medicinal type, of course) should be way down the list of your preps. Beer has little in the way of value besides possibly trade or as I jokingly alluded to, as a comfort food. Still, if you are otherwise well prepared simple beer kits can be stored as indefinitely as canned food.

My local beer store’s motto is “If you can boil water, you can brew beer” and they are absolutely correct. A good quality beer can be produced with little technical knowledge or brewing know how. The most basic ingredients are grain, hops, and yeast.

Beer has been around, in one form or another, for at least ten thousand years and there are almost as many ways to make it. The three most common ways, for the home brewer, are All Grain, which involves making the beer from scratch; Extract, which uses a liquid malt to replace the majority of the grains; and canned kits, which I’ll talk about here.

Canned kits contain just about everything you need to produce a quality beer. The extract liquid is already hopped and even the yeast is under the lid of the can. The cans can be had for around twenty dollars, and with a bit of rudimentary equipment, will produce a very drinkable beer in just about any flavor you can imagine.

The first thing to do is remove the label, keeping it for the directions that are usually printed inside, and setting the can in hot water to loosen the liquid.

While you’re letting that warm, it wouldn’t hurt to clean your fermentation vessel, in my case a 6 gallon carboy as well as your siphoning tube.

The equipment doesn’t have to be sterile, but whatever stray tastes are left in your equipment will lead to sometimes strange tastes in your beer and unclean equipment is the primary source of bad beer batches.

As the can warms you’ll want to start warming about two gallons of water in your stainless steel brewing pot. Alternatively you can simply boil the water and then pour it in the fermentation vessel. Next you will mix in the required amount of sugar

and then the warmed extract from the can.

The mixture doesn’t even have to be boiling. Simply mix the ingredients well and, if you put it together in a pot, siphon it off into your fermentation vessel.

Simply fill the remaining space in the carboy with clean water and add your airlock. You’ve now officially made beer.

Move the carboy to where you’ll leave it for fermentation and then add the yeast from under the beer kit’s lid.

Fermentation time will vary from kit to kit, but generally speaking for the canned kits it’s only about a week. Some folks will, at that time, transfer the wort to another fermentation vessel to allow it to aerate and help with clarity. As the wort is fermenting air will bubble out of your air lock and the easiest way to tell your beer is ready, barring taking gravity readings at the time of brewing, is to simply wait for the bubbles to stop.

At this point your wort is ready and you have two options for storing it. You can either force carbonate it in a home kegging system or bottle it. We’ll just assume that CO2 tanks, kegs, kegarators, and faucets are even further down your list of preps than beer and go with bottling. Bottling is cheap and easy and you can recycle any commercial beer bottle into your collection that does not have a twist on cap. I like Dos Equis bottles because they are a pretty shade of green and it doesn’t hurt that I like the beer.

The first step in bottling your beer is to transfer it to a bottling bucket, which is simply a food grade plastic bucket with a spigot on the bottom.

Bottle carbonation also comes in two options. You either add a batch of bottling sugar to your wort in your bottling bucket or you add a sugar tab to each individual bottle of beer.

If you add the sugar to the wort then be sure to mix it extremely well or it can lead to issues as the beer carbonates. Then simply fill the bottle to the middle of the neck,

place a cap on top of the bottle, and then with both hands push down on the capper.

Five gallons of beer will make approximately 52 bottles of beer, or a little over two cases.

Store the bottles in a cool, preferably dark place and your beer should be ready to drink in about a month’s time. If you have an exploding bottle or two it’s generally due to imbalanced amounts of sugar from mixing in the bottling bucket which causes and excess of CO2.

The next step, obviously, is to enjoy your beer.

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