Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What This Writer Does For Fun. Brew Beer.

What do writers do for fun? Besides writing, of course. Some garden. (I do that too.) Some sew or embroider. (Okay, I do those things too.) But here’s something less common, I brew.

A long time ago, I gave my husband brewing equipment for Christmas, and thus began our homebrewing experience. We’ve been brewing for nearly fourteen years.

Yeast, two bags of malt, grain, hops, treacle, Iris moss.
 Add water and you get beer.

Here are some FAQs.

Is it hard?

No. Not much more complicated than baking cookies. But it takes time and patience. If you’re not patient, you’ll have a boil-over. There is nothing worse than trying to clean burnt malt off a stove—think, having to scrape with a razorblade. Yep, been there, done that.

Here's Cal stirred the pot so the wort doesn't boil over.
In the background is the copper wort chiller.

Is it expensive?

It isn’t cheap. But once you start buying equipment and relatives find out, they tend to buy you the next thing. After all, a wort chiller is a much cooler present than a shirt and a tie.

How long does it take before the beer is
Here I am with the grains that have been cooked.

Depends on the beer. We brewed an Imperial Stout, a fairly heavy ale. I’m guessing start to finish will take 8 to 12 weeks. Maybe a bit longer because it’s winter and our house is cool. The brewing yeast is very responsive to temperature. And when we pitch the yeast, we toss in 100 billion yeast cells. (It takes about 24 hours to culture them. Sounds complicated, but it isn’t.) BTW, brewing in the summer can be interesting. We have had the primary fermenter explode more than once. Thankfully, primary fermenters are made of food safe plastic so there aren’t any glass shards. It just blows the lid off and makes a huge mess.

Interestingly, blowing off the lid has never ruined a batch. There so much carbon dioxide coming off the beer that there hasn’t been any contamination.

Five gallons of beer in the primary fermenter.
What do people think?

Some people are shocked. Some people think it’s cool. One time my strict grandmother called while we were brewing. She asked me what I was doing. I said, “Brewing beer.” My grandmother said, “Oh, my mother used to do that every fall. When the wheat was harvested, she made big batches of wheat beer for the workers.” Wow. So I’m upholding a Dutch family tradition. Cool.


  1. OMGosh, that is so cool to learn that about you! I went through a stage a year or so ago where I wanted to do this, but never did. I think about it though sometimes, lol. :)

  2. It's quite interesting, and the end product is enjoyable.

  3. Ahhh. . . beer, the staff of life. . .