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All-Grain Brewing 101: The Basics

Welcome to the world of all-grain brewing! In this video, we’ll give you a crash course of everything you need to know to get started all-grain brewing.

All-Grain Brewing with John Palmer

“How to Brew” author John Palmer stops by Northern Brewer to brew an all-grain batch of a very special recipe. In our video, Palmer discusses his techniques for adding salts to brew water, mashing, batch sparging (versus fly sparging), chilling and fermentation. It’s a full-blown brew day with one of homebrewing’s most influential people. Grab a pint and enjoy the show.

Capacity to Explore

Q: Can one have too many carboys?

A: No, one can only have too few.

If you ask my wife, I have plenty of brewing equipment, perhaps too much, as there is no room for the 60lb. bags of cat litter anymore in our basement.  But is the storage of cat litter, paper towels, or holiday knick-knacks more worthy of basement shelf real estate compared to happy fermenting, or otherwise on-deck carboys?

Starter Kit Buyer’s Guide

One Gallon everything included beer brewing kit for home brewing

Beer Making Kit Buyer’s Guide

To keep your brew day foolproof, these Starter Kits kits have everything you need to begin your adventure in homebrewing!

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Buy Deluxe Starter Kit

Thinking about buying a homebrewing starter kit for yourself or a gift? Ask any homebrewer and they’ll all say the same- you never forget the thrill of your first batch. Homebrewing is more than a hobby, it’s a way of life.

To keep your brew day foolproof, these Starter Kits kits have everything you need to begin your adventure in homebrewing:

Using the comparison chart above choose the homebrewing equipment kit that’s best for you. Each Starter Kit also includes your choice of a beer recipe kit. And to guide you through that first brew day, these Starter Kits include a FREE Getting Started Brewing 101 DVD, plus a laminated step by step instruction sheet. All of our Brewing Starter Kits are easily expandable as you grow more experienced and brew more complex beers.

Kit Details

Click on any of the options below to read more.


Deluxe Starter Kit


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Deluxe Brewing Starter Kit – $179.99

Our best selling starter kit for two decades.

Folks tend to become very passionate about homebrewing after a batch or two, but we’ve also seen a lot of new brewers fall in love even before embarking upon their first fermentation. For those of you who, like us, are already passionate about hand-crafted beer, here’s the Deluxe Brewing Starter Kit.
Our Deluxe kit uses a pair of large bottles called carboys as vessels in a two-stage fermentation process. Why do 2 Carboys equal Better Beer? Using carboys to perform a secondary fermentation allows yeast and proteins to fall out of suspension, leaving the beer more crisp, clean, and clear than by only using a primary fermenter. The additional equipment and extra steps taken with the Deluxe Starter Kit reward the brewer with clearer, cleaner tasting beer as well as the ability to brew a wider range of styles as your confidence grows and sudsy repetoire expands!

As with our other kits, you get to choose from 3 hand-picked beer recipes. And when you brew with Northern Brewer you never brew alone – you’ll also get a copy of our FREE Getting Started in HomeBrew DVD, plus a laminated step-by-step instruction sheet for the day.

Kit includes:

  • Instructional DVD
  • Your Choice of Recipe Kit
  • 6 Gallon Glass Carboy (Primary Fermentor), Bung & Airlock
  • 5 Gallon Glass Carboy (Secondary Fermentor), Bung & Airlock
  • Blowoff Hose, Funnel & Fermometers
  • Auto-Siphon & Tubing
  • Bottling Bucket & Spigot
  • Bottle Filler & Tubing
  • Bottle Capper & Caps
  • Carboy Brush & Bottle Cleaning Brush
  • Brewery Cleaner & Carboy Dryer

Two final pieces of equipment you’ll need: a boil kettle and bottles. If you have a stock pot that can hold at least 3 gallons, that will work fine. Otherwise you’ll want to pick up a 5 gallon kettle, which is an inexpensive option that works great for the beginning brewer. You’ll also need some empty bottles to put all that beer in. If you can get and clean 48 used beer bottles (the pry-off style, not the twist-off) then you’re in business. We also sell 12 oz beer bottles and 22 oz beer bottles; two cases of either will be enough for your first batch.

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Brew Share Enjoy™ Kit

Brew-Share-Enjoy-Kit-White-1-bestBrew Share Enjoy™ Homebrew Starter Kit – $159.99 $99.99

The perfect homebrew kit for the brew-curious craft beer enthusiast.

The Brew Share Enjoy™ Homebrew Starter Kit was designed by our brewmasters to provide the best out of the box first-time homebrew experience on the market. This all-in-one kit includes everything you need to start brewing today including our Block Party Amber Ale recipe kit.  Perfect for beginners, complete with foolproof instructions.


Kit Includes:

  • Block Party Amber Ale recipe kit
  • 6.5 gallon fermentor w/ lid & Bubbler airlock
  • Bottling Bucket w/Spigot assembly
  • Fermenter’s Favorites™ Bottle filler
  • 5 Gallon Stainless Brew Kettle
  • 21” Stainless Spoon
  • Auto Siphon, 5 ft. Siphon Tubing & Siphon Tube Holder
  • Cleaner/Sanitizer – Fermenter’s Favorites™ Oxygen Wash
  • Bottle Brush
  • Royal® Crown Bottle Capper & Caps (60ct.)
  • 20% OFF  coupon code for use on a subsequent purchase

 

Begin your Homebrew adventure today, with the Brew Share Enjoy™ Homebrew Starter Kit!

Block Party Amber Ale: Exclusively available with the Brew Share Enjoy™ Homebrew Starter Kit! Gather up the neighbors and block off the streets, it’s time to bring out some pints! Block Party Amber Ale is the perfect refreshment to brew, share, and enjoy around the neighborhood. It’s deep garnet glow accommodates friendly flavors of toasty bread crust, caramel, and an inkling of floral and herbal hop character. Paired with affable neighborly company, Block Party Amber Ale is a true crowd pleaser.

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Small Batch Starter Kit

7801-small-batch-starter-kitSmall Batch Starter Kit – $49.99

No Space? No Experience? No Time? No Problem.

GETTING STARTED JUST GOT EVEN EASIER

Here at Northern Brewer, we’ve spent countless hours in the Brew Lab eliminating every obstacle that stands between beginning brewers and the perfect homebrew. We got rid of the mess, the mystery, and every possible brew day mishap. And when we were done, what was left was a small but revolutionary box containing everything you need to create the perfect brew…our Small Batch Starter Kit.
Just follow the simple instructions in the free instructional DVD included with every kit, and within just a couple of weeks, you’ll yield a gallon of homemade, handcrafted beer (approximately 8-10 12 oz. bottles)…more than enough to make an unforgettable impression at your next party.

Kit includes:

  • 1 gallon fermentation jug with cap and airlock
  • Mini Auto-siphon and tubing
  • Bottle filler
  • 8 oz Easy Clean cleanser
  • Bottle capper and pry-off caps
  • Your choice of recipe kit
  • FREE “Homebrewing 100: The Small Batch Way” DVD

You supply:

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Glass vs. Plastic Carboys

Priming and Bottling Your Beer

Priming and Bottling Your Beer

Objective:

To maintain sanitation and successfully prime, bottle and condition your beer.

You’ll Need:

Bottles, caps, capper, bottling bucket, priming sugar, siphon, bottle filler and sanitizer.

Preparation

You have been away from your brew and equipment for some time now. Do you remember when it was stated, “sanitation is the most important task of the entire brewing process”? It is worth stating again here. Prior to bottling your brew, you will need to sanitize anything that will come in contact with your beer.

Equipment to be sanitized and used in bottling:

  1. Bottling Bucket
  2. Beer Bottles
  3. Bottle Caps
  4. Auto-Siphon
  5. Priming Sugar

Racking:

You will have noticed your brew is now sitting atop a layer of trub, This sediment is made up of hop pieces, dead yeast and malt brewing materials. While not harmful to consume, it is not pleasant. Racking is the process of carefully moving beer off of the trub. We rack beer from primary to secondary fermenter and from fermenter to bottling bucket. Raking to a bottling bucket allows you to fully mix your priming solution and beer. Mixing in the priming sugar will allow the yeast to carbonate your beer in the bottle.

Gravity is Your Friend: When racking, your filled container must be at least several feet higher than the empty vessel which you intend to fill.

Siphoning and Priming

Add your priming solution to the bottom of your empty bottling bucket:

Make sure the bottle bucket valve is closed.

Insert your auto-siphon into your carboy:

Your siphon should be deep enough so as to actually begin to siphon yet not so deep as to disturb and begin to move the trub. Start with your siphon about 3 inches deep into your beer and slowly move deeper as your liquid is displaced into the bottling bucket. When close to the trub watch closely, you will want to stop siphoning prior to pulling any sediment. Siphon Smart!

Move your carboy and siphon off to the side, you will now focus on your bottling bucket:

You may need to reposition this bucket so that you can open the valve and insert a beer bottle.

How Long is Your Tube? Have enough tubing to allow the tube to rest within your bottling bucket, this way, your beer won’t splash as it enters the bucket.

Filling and Capping

Fill your bottles:

The best way to bottle is to use a bottle filler attached by a short length of tubing to your bottling bucket’s spigot. Fill your bottles so as to leave about 3/4 inch of headroom at the top of your bottle.

Cap your bottles:

Carefully place your cap onto the bottle, then position the capper atop both and with equal pressure on the capper handles pull down to the side of the bottle, crimping the cap to the bottle.

Condition/Storage

Why we carbonate beer:

The same reason that you may not want to drink a flat Coke product. For most, carbonated beer simply tastes better, the carbonation imparts a wonderful means of rounding out flavors and quenching your thirst. As a matter of fact, different beer styles call for different levels of carbonation. Some brews are force carbonated through kegging but many that homebrewers work with are ‘bottle conditioned’. Bottle conditioning involves adding a measured dose of sugar to your brew that will cause a small, controlled fermentation in the bottle. The CO2 that is released from this mini-fermentation will carbonate the beer. We create this mini-fermentation by adding a priming solution to our beer prior to bottling.

Use the right bottle:

Capping our bottles assures we protect our brew from any errant bacteria and it is vital that our caps, just like any of our other equipment, are sanitized and in good condition. You can cap any bottle that is a pry off style. Screw top bottles are not compatible, often missing the lip required by the capper and presenting an uneven sealing surface which can lead to breakage. Broken glass in our new brew = no brew.

The Wait is Over

You began a few weeks ago. Your brew day started the process of making wort. Your fermentation process made that wort into beer. You have carefully capped your bottles and primed them with sugar. After capping, you waited for the carbonation level to be just right. Today is the day.

beer bottling in growlers

Go ahead and chill your bottle and open just as you would any other beer. Carefully pour your beer into a glass to inspect color, carbonation, smell. Keep in mind this is a homebrew, you may find a small amount of yeast sediment at the bottom of your bottle. This is residual from the use of priming sugar, it is what brewers call ‘bottle conditioned’. Stop pouring just prior to this sediment and discard.

Ready to brew your next batch? Northern Brewer has plenty of kits to choose from!

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The Fermenting Process

The Fermenting Process

Objective:

To provide an environment in which the yeast can accomplish a healthy and clean fermentation.

You’ll Need:

Your primary fermenter, blow-off assembly, siphon, sanitizer and secondary fermenter (optional).

*Note: Checking Your Gravity

While your specific gravity will begin to drop during the fermentation period, this is an aspect you should trust and not necessarily test. You want your beer to be exposed to as little possible contamination as possible. Every time you unseal the airlock, this exposure occurs. A good rule of thumb, measure your original gravity prior to pitching your yeast, then at any time you might transfer your beer, either to another container or, finally, during bottling/kegging.

Directions:

Primary Fermentation

Within a day or two of brew day, fermentation begins. As the yeast convert malt sugars into CO2 and alcohol you will see bubbles come through the airlock. The specific gravity will steadily drop and a cap of thick tannish foam called krauesen forms above the beer.

You may want to store your brew in an area that is easily cleaned, a particularly violent fermentation could cause a bit of a mess. Violent? Yes, violent. As with anything that builds with increasing gas levels, explosions can occur. Explosions are most common if your airlock fills with gunk essentially stopping the flow of gas out of the carboy. If your krauesen starts filling your airlock. You may want to initiate a blowoff set up.

Roughly one to two weeks from brew day, fermentation ends. Bubbles coming through the airlock become very slow or stop entirely, the specific gravity is stable and the cap of foam starts to subside.

Secondary Fermentation

During our fermentation process, we see a layer of krausen form atop our beer, where does it go? That krausen normally dissipates over time and any remaining grain particles, hop particles and dead yeast cells will accumulate instead at the bottom of your fermenter in a mass known as “trub”.

While sitting on this trub for a short while can impart flavors we want to see in a beer, letting our brew sit atop this trub for too long can create flavors we don’t want. To avoid these flavors setting in, we will “rack” (siphon) the brew out of the first fermenter, careful to leave the trub behind and into a new, clear and clean fermenter. Doing so allows the brew to settle out and condition in flavor. It also give the brewer an opportunity to clear out the beer, after racking the beer into a secondary fermenter, still more trub may form, but when racked into bottles during the final stage the beer should be less hazy and more clear than it started off.

Remember, when racking into a new, secondary fermenter, it is equally important that this vessel is clean and sanitary. Be sure to sanitize your auto-siphon, your carboy, your airlock and stopper and any tubing that may come in contact with the brew.

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How to Make Beer

How To Make Beer

Objective:

To prepare “wort” by boiling malt and hops, chill the wort and pitch the yeast.

You’ll Need:

Your kettle, fermenter, funnel (optional), sanitizer, hydrometer and ingredient kit.

Directions:

Brewing is a process. The process involves boiling and chilling, a period of fermentation and finally bottling and storage.

Pre Boil Preparation:

Objective: To ensure you have the necessary equipment and ingredients to proceed with brewing.
You’ll Need: A list or knowledge of your equipment, ingredients and some sanitizer.

Yeast Preparation:

You may be using liquid yeast or dry yeast. If using liquid yeast, a Wyeast ‘smack pack’. You will activate the pack by breaking the inner pouch with a firm smack. Let the pack incubate at room temp for a least three hours. The best way to use Wyeast is to smack it a few hours before (or the night before) you plan to start brewing, and make sure that it inflates before you start the process. If you have dry yeast, simply allow the yeast to warm to room temperature. We will be using the yeast later on, set aside.

Water:

Fill your brew kettle with 2.5 gallons of water. Any good quality drinking water is fine to use.

Steep Specialty Grains:

Not all recipes or kits involve specialty grains. If your recipe grain does not involve specialty grains, proceed to step 4. Specialty grains add extra color and flavor to your finished beer. Specialty grains are steeped as you would a tea bag in hot water. Add grains to your muslin bag, soaking in the heating water for about twenty minutes or until the temperature of the water reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not steep the grains in water over 170 degrees, as this will result in a bitter flavor.

Adding Malt

As you boil your malt, you will notice some changes in your brew kettle. A foamy substance will slowly rise and cover your kettle surface. The foam is a product of the proteins present in the malt. These proteins begin to coagulate during the boiling process and rise to the surface, when clumped together, the proteins will become heavy and drop to the bottom of your pot again. This process may take anywhere from five to twenty five minutes. This is referred to as the “hot break”. Many brewers will await the hot break before beginning their hop additions and timing their 60 minute boil. It is not, however, required.

To cover or not to cover, that is the question, and a good question at that. Covering your brew kettle will help achieve a quicker boil, but it if the cover is left on during the boil it can also contribute to an off-flavor in your finished product. When you boil your malt, you boil off sulfur compounds. Without the lid, the compounds boil off as vapor, with the lid on, they may reappear as condensate, dripping back into your kettle and creeping into your finished beer. Once you have the liquid boiling, leave the cover off.

We now have wort! Wort (pronounced ‘wert’) is the combination of liquid grain sugars and water. This sweet wort will be transformed as we add hops in our boiling period and later when we add yeast to begin our fermentation process during which the wort finally becomes beer.

Adding Hops

Hop additions are typically performed according to what is called a hop schedule. The schedule is the order that the hops are added. While some brews may only call for one type of hop added at one time, typically there are more. Usually, the hop added earliest in the boil is the varietal responsible for bittering the beer, while those added towards the end of the boil contribute to flavoring and aroma. Hops are added with the amount of time they need to boil in mind, therefore times referenced are always those prior to the end of boil.

In this schedule, add the Goldings at the very start of the boil, which lasts 60 minutes. Add the Liberty 10 minutes before the end of the boil so as to boil for 10 minutes. Add the Willamette 5 minutes before the end of the boil so as to boil for 5 minutes.

Variances in hop additions can dramatically alter a beer recipe. If you are new to brewing and want assured results, follow the hop addition schedule in your recipe kit. As you become more experienced, play around with your hop additions, you may find you like the results! Recipes may call for other additions like spices, sugars or more malt. Treat these just like hops and add them to the kettle at their specified times.

WARNING! The watched pot never boils, but the unwatched pot always boils over. If the wort starts to froth up dramatically towards the top of your kettle, immediately cut the heat and stir. Boilovers will leave your nice stovetop a sticky, scorched and perhaps damaged mess. Stay in the brewhouse, not the doghouse!

Chilling

Yeast is highly temperature specific. Yeast varieties not only thrive in particular temperature, they can only exist in particular temperatures ranges. Temperatures too cold and too hot will kill your yeast.

Remember, No Yeast = No Beer

The extreme heat of the boil will surely kill your yeast. Before we even think to add our yeast we must make sure our wort is within a tolerable temperature range. The easiest way to do so is to use a cold water bath. Simply put your brew kettle in this cold water, replacing the water as necessary to ensure the temperature decreases quickly. You may even add ice cubes to this water bath.

During this water bath, you will want to keep your brew kettle covered almost all the way to protect the wort from any airborne microbes. Have you sanitized your fermenting equipment? Now is the perfect time. If you think back to discussion of preparation we noted the most important aspect of the brewing process was to clean and sanitize our equipment. Anything that may come into contact with our brewed wort must be sanitized. Brewers go through a lot of trouble to make sure yeast will thrive to transform our wort into beer. Any other elements introduced to the wort will compete with the yeast and may result in off flavors and an undrinkable beer.

When the temperature of the wort has fallen below 100 degrees Fahrenheit you can top it up with cold water to bring the temperature down to the appropriate range for your yeast. Then it’s time to get ready for fermentation.

Transferring

Slow and steady wins the race. Slow and steady also prevents precious beer spillage and tedious cleanup after brew day. Now that you have cooled your wort, you will need to transfer it to a fermentation vessel. Remember, this may be a bucket, this may be a carboy, but either one should be sanitized.

  1. Add two gallons of cool water to your fermenter. It is handy to have a gallon water jug around to avoid ‘eyeballing’ your gallons.
  2. Next, pour in the cooled wort. Leave behind any thick sludge in the bottom of your kettle.
  3. Add more cool water. This brings the total volume of your fermentation vessel to five gallons.
  4. Finally, seal the fermenter. Gently rock the wort back and forth for a few minutes to aerate for fermentation.

Measure your brew’s specific gravity with a hydrometer. Hydrometer readings before and after fermentation tells us whether or not fermentation is complete and can help estimate the alcohol content of the finished beer. Record this number, your original specific gravity (OG) to use as a reference moving forward.

Pitching Yeast

Patience is a Virtue:

The fermentation process, the process that converts our wort to beer, begins on brew day and ends a week or two later.

Pitch the Yeast:

The brewing term for adding yeast to wort is pitching. Early on in our brew day instructions, step number one in fact, we prepared our yeast for this moment. You either gave a good whack to your Wyeast Smack Pack or you brought your dry yeast out of refrigeration to warm to room temperature. Go ahead and sanitize a pair of scissors and sanitize the area you will cut on the actual yeast package. Remember, odd elements, bacteria and the like can destroy our beer. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Open your packet, if you have liquid yeast, go ahead and pour it directly into the wort, if you have dry yeast, sprinkle it on the surface of the wort.

Seal Your Lid:

Seal the lid of your fermentation vessel, fill the airlock with some of your sanitizer solution and move your vessel into a dark, quiet spot. Basements and closets are great places to store your beer during the fermentation process. The temperature of your brew will typically remain somewhat steady and your brew will encounter little exposure to light. You may want to store your brew in an area that is easily cleaned, a particularly violent fermentation could cause a bit of a mess.

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Essential Equipment For Brewing Beer

Essential Equipment For Brewing Beer

Objective:

To ensure you have the necessary equipment and ingredients to proceed with brewing.

You’ll Need:

A list or knowledge of your home brewing equipment, ingredients and some sanitizer.

Directions:

Success, so the saying goes, is 90% preparation and 10% inspiration, and so it is with beer. Brewing beer involves boiling malt, hops and water to create a grainy, sugary liquid.

Next, we add a fungus – yeast – to the wort, allow for time to pass and we have flat, warm beer.

Finally, we mix this warm, flat beer with a bit of sugar and bottle it, which will result in carbonated beer after a week or two.

But, let’s step back a moment. We add a fungus? Sure. Yeast is a fungus, a very special fungus, it is the crucial element to the creation of beer, it is what converts sugars into alcohol. We want to create an environment in which the yeast is happy; where the yeast is allowed to eat away at sugars without any competition. Competition means the yeast is unable to produce alcohol and even worse, competition means that some other element has entered our beer. Chances are this other element is bacteria. Bacteria will create off flavors in beer, beer that tastes, smells or feels unlike beer should, perhaps a strong smell of vinegar, a taste of cardboard, a viscous feel. Yuck.

To prevent the introduction of such odd elements, we clean and sanitize. It is the most important task of the entire brewing process. You must clean well everything that your beer may come in contact with, and just before use you must sanitize this equipment as well. Your brew kettle will not need to be sanitized as the boiling wort will accomplish this, but you will want the kettle clean.

There are many sanitizing solutions on the market, each with their own direction. Most are quick and easy to use. For example, Easy Clean: 1-Tablespoon Cleanser per 1-Gallon warm water and 2 minutes of contact time. No rinsing required.

Equipment:

  • Sanitizer: Sanitizer keeps your equipment clean and prevents infection.
  • Brew Kettles: Used for boiling your wort.
  • Fermentation Vessel: A container used to ferment your beer.
  • Fermentation Lock: Keeps your beer from being oxidized during fermentation.
  • Spoon: Used for whirlpooling and helps prevent boilovers.
  • Hydrometer: Use the hydrometer to figure out your original and final gravity.
  • Bottles: Once your beer has fermented, bottle it for serving.
  • Auto Siphon: The auto siphon to transfers beer between fermentation vessels.
  • Bottle Cappers: An essential piece of equipment, fastens caps to the bottle.
  • Bottle Caps: We have a variety of closures that work with many different bottles.
  • Starter Kits: Choose a variety of Starter Kits to begin brewing!

Ingredients:

All Northern Brewer Recipe Kits and for that matter nearly all beer will have four basic ingredients: Malt, Hops, Yeast and water. Don’t be fooled by the length of this list; there is enormous variety within each of these categories, enough to produce the wondrous array of beers available today, from the palest pilsner to the blackest stout and everything in between.

Some recipes and kits may also include specialty grains, sugars or spices.

You provide the most basic ingredient for your beer, water. Water chemistry can make a dramatic difference in your beer, but if your water tastes good to drink, it is fit for brewing.

Malt:

Beer is brewed by fermenting the sugars of malted barley and other cereal grains. Brewers utilize the process of malting, wherein seeds are prompted to sprout, after which growth is stopped through kiln drying, to eventually access these sugars. Malting stimulates amylase enzyme production within the grain. Brewers crush the malted grain and soak it in hot water in a process known as “mashing.” This activates the enzymes, which convert the grain’s starch into sugars. These sugars are then rinsed from the grain and the resulting liquid, known as “wort”, is boiled with hops and other ingredients. After boiling and cooling the wort yeast is added to ferment the substance and produce delicious beer.

Most new brewers prefer not to perform the mashing step themselves. Liquid malt extract and dry malt extract are the concentrated results of this process, malt sugars that have been produced by mashing and packaged for later use. Extract brewers then steep a small amount (usually about 1 pound) of specialty grains to provide specific malt flavors and color in the finished beer.

Hops:

Hops are the cone-shaped flower of the perennial Humulus lupulus plant. Hops are added to wort to impart a bitterness perfect to balance the sweetness of malt and to provide a wide variety of flavors and aromas. In addition to the bittering, flavoring and aromatic qualities that hops bring to beer, they also serve as a stability agent, preventing spoilage, contribute to head retention and act as a natural clarifier. While the use of hops in brewing is the norm today, it wasn’t until the eleventh century that hop use was first documented in Germany and not until the sixteenth century the use of hops became common to British brewers. Prior to this introduction beers were flavored and preserved with plants such as heather, rosemary, anise, spruce and wormwood; adventurous brewers still use these ingredients today. Particular hop varieties are often associated with particular beer styles, regions or even a particular brewery’s signature style. Hops are grown in countless varieties. All hops contain alpha and beta acids, it is these acids that contribute to the stability and bitterness of the beer.

Hops also contain a host of essential oils which can boil off if added early in the boiling process but which lend characteristic flavor and aroma when added later in the boil or even after fermentation. Each hop varietal can contribute dramatically different qualities of bitterness, flavor and aroma to beer. These flavors and aromas are often described as grassy, floral, citrusy, flowery, spicy, earthy, etc. Hops are often found as pellets, plugs or whole leaf. A staple of homebrew stores, you can also grow your own!

Yeast:

In 1516, The Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law, listed the only allowable ingredients for brewing beer to be malt, hops and water. As you can see, at one time, yeast was an unknown element, the primary agent of fermentation being completely mysterious! The Vikings found that if they reused the stick used to stir their beer, it would help start the next fermentation process. These ‘magic sticks’ were so valuable they were often family heirlooms passed from generation to generation. In truth we now know that these sticks carried the family yeast culture, the crucial element in fermenting wort to create beer. Fortunately for German brewers the Reinheitsgebot was amended rightly to include yeast after the microorganisms were discovered.

There is an old saying: brewers make wort, yeast makes beer.

So just what is yeast?
Yeast is a type of fungus. An organism that reproduces asexually, it is unusual in that it can live with or without oxygen. In a low oxygen environment yeast cells consume sugars and in return produce carbon dioxide and alcohol as waste products. This process is fermentation. Yeast is used in making wine, mead and cider as well as beer. Brewing yeast tends to be classified as either “top fermenting” or “bottom fermenting”. As the names indicate, the yeast strains tend to be most active towards the top and bottom of the wort respectively, though the cells are dispersed throughout. Top fermenting yeasts produce an ale style beer, bottom fermenting a lager style beer. These yeast strains are actually two different species, differentiated by temperature tolerance as well as a few other factors. Ale strains prefer warmer temperatures while lager strains ferment best at cooler temperatures.

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