Suds at home: Tips for homebrewing
If brewing seems like a complicated process,...
If brewing seems like a complicated process, don’t be intimidated. Beer is made up of four simple ingredients: water, barley, hops and yeast.
To start brewing on your own, stop at the Wine and Hop Shop on Monroe Street. Here, you can get starter equipment (one-gallon kits are about $60, five-gallon kits are about $140). But if you have your own big pot and a plastic bucket, it’s a fairly easy DIY.
While you’re there, grab an ingredient kit to learn the basics. These kits, like One Barrel’s Penguin APA ($42 at Wine and Hop Shop), unshroud the secrecy of beer recipes, giving you the stuff you need and a recipe sheet to try it. It’s like a Blue Apron kit for beer. Once you get in the swing of things, you can start exploring your own recipes with different yeasts, hops and grains.
As you experiment with flavors, Adam Vavrick, formerly of Octopi Brewing Company in Waunakee, recommends blending hops to get the character you want. Mix and match cascade and citra hops and see what happens. For purer taste, One Barrel’s Peter Gentry suggests Camden tablets to get chlorine out of your water. It also helps to control fermentation temperatures, which could involve moving your equipment to the basement or garage for cooler, consistent temperatures (for ale yeasts, the ideal fermentation temperature is 65 to 75 degrees).
With each batch, you’ll learn more about how to alter the taste and get more specific with questions. Members of the brewing community are full of tips they love to dole out. When you’re sitting in a tasting room sipping a beer, don’t be afraid to ask the beer geeks behind the counter for advice.