The art of home brewing has been around since the ancient Sumerians first stumbled upon its process about 6,000 years ago, so it is really nothing new. Many large and some small companies have perfected their artistic style of brewing the age old beverage and made millions on the product. For many different reasons however, home brewing is recently becoming a very popular hobby for many people around the world, but why bother? Why go to the trouble of making your own beer? After all, it is much easier to just drive to the store, pick a brand that looks good, take it home, pop the top and enjoy almost instant gratification. But are you really getting what you pay for?
Perhaps the biggest reason to brew your own beer is the fact that you know exactly what is in your beer and exactly where it comes from. You have the exclusive choice as to where you buy your ingredients, how much you pay for them, or whether or not you want to grow some of your own ingredients. Choosing these items directly ensures that you know and understand the quality of the ingredients you will be using. Whether or not pesticides were used when growing the hops, if you use purchased malt, malt extracts, or do the mashing process yourself, and even the water you use and where it comes from can be a rather comforting piece of information.
Not only will you know what is in your home brewed beer, but you know how it is made. The basic process of beer consists of boiling the ingredients, cooling, fermenting, bottling and aging. Sounds simple, but the variations allow for every step to be adjusted, bringing out certain attributes to create a unique flavor, texture, and quality. By brewing beer at home, you are in control of the entire process, changing things to suit your needs and desires. You can choose to cold or warm ferment, rough, smooth, or sterile filtration, how to condition your brew, etc. Whether you choose to go with the simple, basic version of creating your home brew, or to tackle the more involved versions of the process, you know exactly how the end product was formulated.
Beer has been shown to have over 1000 flavor profiles. When brewing beer yourself, taste is a very personal choice. Perhaps you like the darker, smoother taste of stout with the more heavily roasted barley. On the other end of the spectrum, maybe a lighter, sweeter variety like pale ale is your style. Do you like more robust brews or creamier, more subtle flavors? What you choose to create your beer with determines the quality and flavor of the end product.
Beer is typically made from four main ingredients, water, hops, malt and yeast. Any number of a combination of ingredients and processes can be put together to create lagers, ales, pale ales, bock, dark or brown variations, Irish, Scottish, and French brews, even fruit beers. Variations in roasting times for the barley, fruit extracts, spices, even the amount of carbonation will determine what flavor is developed within the beer, and it’s all under your control. You can experiment and create your own unique flavors, adjust ingredients, change amounts, all to bring about something that is a representation of your desire for a particular style and flavor of beer.
Initially the cost of brewing beer at home may outweigh the cost of a case or two of your favorite store-bought version; however, that cost is quickly distributed and the initial purchase of beer making supplies pays for itself in no time. Beer making kits can cost anywhere between $30 and $150 and there are a wide variety to choose from. Typically the cost of a batch of beer, generally producing about 5 gallons, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-$50. It is safe to say, then, that after you start producing regularly, the cost of a bottle of home brewed beer could be well under $1.00 a bottle. And what do you get in return? A product you created from start to finish, an ingredient list you can actually read, and peace of mind knowing exactly what you are drinking. Oh yes, and the beer!