River City Suds: Homebrewing 101

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — This blog post should help if you’ve become interested in homebrewing from the last post but don’t know where to start.  I’ll discuss extract brewing as well as equipment and process related items that are critical in producing a drinkable beer.

Most beginners start with extract brewing.  This means the brewing malts have already been mashed with water to produce wort, which is the sweet liquid from this process.  The company producing the extract then condenses this into either liquid malt extract or dry malt extract.  Homebrewers then use this to make beer.  Companies such as Brewer’s Best make recipe kits containing the necessary ingredients based on the style you desire to brew.  Some of these kits require additional grains to be steeped in hot water to contribute flavor and color for the desired style you are brewing. The kits contain instructions to assist your brew day.

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The first piece of equipment needed for extract brewing is a kettle to boil the water and extract.  The size of the kettle needed depends on the size of batch you intend to brew.  5 gallons is the “standard” size of most brewing kits.  I’d suggest a minimum of a 4 gallon kettle where you can boil concentrated wort which can then be diluted to the appropriate volume with cool water into a fermentor, which is the vessel that the sugary water becomes beer.  Fermentors can be as simple as a food grade bucket with lid or a carboy, which can be glass or plastic.  Many people recommend plastic over glass because shattering glass can cause severe injuries.

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Other items suggested are a long spoon to stir the contents in the kettle, a thermometer, and a food grade funnel.  The thermometer is important to measure the temperature when cooling the wort to place into the fermentor.  The funnel is to help with getting the wort from the kettle to the fermentor where the yeast will be added once the wort has chilled to the proper temperature.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, there are some process related items that you must follow in brewing. Cleaning and sanitation is vital in producing drinkable beer. Brew day can go as planned, but it’s unlikely you’ll achieve the desire end result if the fermentation vessel is not clean and sanitized.  Companies such as Five Star Chemicals make quality products for this purpose. Dirt cannot be sanitized, so it’s important to clean all equipment that will be in contact with the wort once it’s cooled down. The clean equipment can then be effectively sanitized.

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Getting into homebrewing CAN be done with minimal investment in equipment.  This post covered a few important basics beginners should find useful.  As stated in the last blog post, there is a wealth of information in books and online that delve much deeper into equipment and the brewing process.

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Making something that can be enjoyed by friends and family provides a great sense of accomplishment. Starting out can be very daunting, but there are many resources throughout the area that can help.

Richmond Homebrew Clubs:

  • James River Homebrewers
    Website: jrhb.org
    Facebook: JamesRiverHomebrewers
  • Mentoring Advanced Standards of Homebrewing (M.A.S.H.)
    Facebook: MASHRVA

Richmond Homebrew Shops:

  • Original Gravity
    Address: 6920 Lakeside Drive Suite D, Richmond, VA 23228
    Phone: 804-264-4808
    Email: tony@oggravity.com
    Website: www.oggravity.com
    Facebook: Original Gravity Homebrew Supplies
  • Artisans Wine & Homebrew
    Address: 13829 Village Place Drive, Midlothian, VA 23114
    Phone: 804-379-1110
    Email: info@artisanswineandhomebrew.com
    Website: www.artisanswineandhomebrew.com
    Facebook: Artisans Wine & Homebrew

Until next time — happy brewing!

Joel Miller won first place in the IPA category, first in Double IPA/Specialty IPA category and 3rd in Wood aged and Smoke beer category at the 23rd annual Dominion Cup, hosted by James River Homebrewers. It’s the largest homebrew competition in Virginia.

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