Tips and Tricks for Home Brewing

To brew or not to brew? The advice below might help you decide if making your own batch of beer is worth a try.

Thinking about expanding your DIY prowess to beer production? Sounds smart enough—a solid stock load of suds, plus the pleasure of enjoying a homemade project is enough to inspire a Pinterest page. But before you start shopping for artisan bottles, there are a few things you should know. Marlana Gallo, co-owner of the How Do You Brew home brewing supply store in Newark, has a few dos and don’ts for crafting a kitchen tall boy. “If you follow the directions and pay attention to a few small details during cooking and cooling, you’ll get a good brew,” Gallo says. But there are a few ways to go wrong. 

DO give yourself adequate time. If you think this is going to be more convenient than running down to the liquor store, you’re wrong. You’ll need to set aside at least two and a half hours on Day 1 for cooking and cooling the wort, as well as cleaning and rinsing your equipment. After that, your brew will need to spend 10 days in a fermenting bucket, and another week to two weeks in bottles before you’re ready to crack the cap. Add another hour or two for cleaning and filling bottles, and you’re looking at a three- to four-week window of time from start to finish. Speaking of cleaning…

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DON’T skimp on cleaning. “Cleaning is very important, and it cannot be skipped in any way, shape or form,” Gallo says. “Any small amount of bacteria will greatly affect the taste if your bottles haven’t been properly cleaned.” That being said, you can still collect used bottles to fill, and How Do You Brew and other outlets do sell empty bottles—but either way, you still have to scrub-a-dub-dub.

DO invest in the proper equipment. Even down to the details of cleaning supplies (see above), like special bottle cleanser and a bottle brush. Bigger picture items include a 6.5-gallon primary fermenter, a 6.5-gallon bottling bucket with a spigot, a bottle capper, etc. Don’t forget the ingredient kit either. Home brew vets may have some or all at their disposal, but for the beginners, How Do You Brew sells a starter kit with all the essentials, and a separate ingredient kit. Both combined will run anywhere from $113.95 to $123.95, and that’s assuming you already have a pot large enough to cook your five-gallon wort. “A lot of our clients will use anything large, like a turkey fryer, for this step,” Gallo says.

DON’T try to set up shop in a studio apartment. OK, this might be a bit of an exaggeration. But the transfer of materials from one vessel to another and the week- to two-week-long storage of the filled bottles outside of the fridge in a dark, cool space before consumption can really cramp your crib. The upside to home brewing is that it yields 48-52 12-ounce bottles. The downside could be finding a place to store it all. (Possible solution: You can opt for a keg instead of bottles.)

DO have patience. That seven- to 14-day waiting period isn’t just to torture you and force you to reconsider your beer intake. Those precious bubbles need time to grow, and they do so when the bottled product interacts with bottling sugar in a closed environment. Pop the top too early, and you’ve got yourself a bunch of flat beer.

DON’T feel like your questions aren’t important. If you’re going to spend the time, money and household real estate to produce and store your beer, you better make sure you know what you’re doing. And that’s what the experts at How Do You Brew are here for, so don’t commit a party foul—ask for help when you need it by calling the store or stopping in for a visit.

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And if you’re looking to get in the holiday spirit, Nov. 1 is the American Homebrewers Association’s 16th annual Learn How to Homebrew Day. So either pony up for the goods and get started, or find a friend already ahead of the game and drink their beer. Either way, it’s a win.

Do you have more advice for budding brewers? Leave your own pointers in the comments section below.

How Do You Brew, Shoppes at Louviers, 203 Louviers Drive, Newark, 738-7009, www.howdoyoubrew.com

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