It’s really hard to wrap our heads around the fact that ALL beer is pretty rudimentary, with a handful of basics, and unlimited choices for additives and enhancers!
#1: MALT. Malt is actually roasted barley, and it’s available in many hues ranging from pale to black. (It’s the degree of roasting that determines the color.) Some home brewers like to use malt extract in either syrup or powder form, but have to be careful to use only pure brewing malt extract to avoid additives. (Malt containing cod liver oil is good for some things . . . beer is not one of them!)
#2: HOPS. Most brewers use fresh Fuggles while brewing stouts, and mild or brown ales; Goldings, give recognizable flavor to pale ales and bitters. Because fresh hops can’t be stored for long, some use hop concentrates.
#3: SUGAR. Granulated sugar is the “go to” sweetener for most beer recipes, and it’s usually cane (not beet) sugar that’s chosen. Invert sugar is what commercial brewers use because it speeds up fermentation.
#4: YEAST. Professional brewers never use baker’s yeast! Proper brewer’s yeast must be used. Yeast for beer is either top fermenting (for “beer” and ales); and bottom fermenting (for lagers). Those new to home brewing find it easier to use bottom fermenting yeast as the yeast settles to the bottom and makes pouring a clear glass of beer easier.
#5: WATER. The importance of using pure water of the right caliber is all important. Light ales and bitters need hard water, while brown ales, stout and lagers like their water soft.
SOME ADD-ONS: BASIC BREW INGREDIENTS . . .
Beer can be “padded” with flaked maize (corn), rice and oatmeal – adding more body and flavor, and lessening the cost. Dark sugars give extra flavor and richer color. (Check out this month’s Pumpkin Smash from your Favorite Beer of the Month Club!) Clearing agents ensure that the beer is bright and clear. Smash from your Favorite Beer of the Month Club!) Clearing agents ensure that the beer is bright and clear.
ASK MR. BEERHEAD: DAVID MARTIN OF WAUCONDA, IL, ASKS: “I HAVE SOFT WATER BUT NEED HARD WATER FOR BREWING MY LIGHT BEER. WHAT’S AN ECONOMICAL SOLUTION?”
You must be a serious home brewer to even ask such a question. Good for you! (You never know when your supply of beer from your favorite Beer of the Month Club may run out unexpectedly!)
Did you know you can actually harden soft water? Simply add 1 part salt, 1 part gypsum and 1/2 part Epsom salts — used in the proportion of 1 ounce to 10 gallons of water. No worries . . . brew on!