How to Become a Brewmaster

Showcase your creativity with your favorite beverage
BY Bill Lindsey TIMEFebruary 2, 2023 PRINT

Some scientists believe beer was created by accident, when grains collected by prehistoric hunter-gatherers were inadvertently exposed to water and subsequently fermented, creating a liquid that has since evolved into what we call beer. The oldest records of beer were discovered by archeologists in the ancient Sumerian city of Umma in present-day Iraq, dating to around 2050 B.C.

As one of the top five beverages enjoyed worldwide today, an estimated 6.3 million gallons of beer were consumed in the United States in 2020, produced by more than 9,000 breweries.

As the final step in creating the beer’s flavor, finishing hops are added during the last 15 minutes of boiling. (Steve Bowers/Shutterstock)

Yet, despite a plethora of readily available choices, many opt to brew their own beer, either inspired to create a unique flavor or spurred by a strong case of I-can-do-it-better. As imagined, since it can be made by cavemen, modern man can also brew beer. The good news for those who slept through high school chemistry class is that the process is simple; finding a space to create a home brewery is possibly the most difficult part.

Just as wine is essentially any beverage made from fermented grapes, beer is made by heating grains to form a mash, after which the brewmaster adds ingredients such as hops to create a specific flavor and then allows it to ferment for several weeks, adding yeast to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. The brewing process can be simple or complex, subject to the personal whims of the brewmaster.

After the wort has been boiled, it’s allowed to cool, water is added, an initial specific gravity reading is taken, yeast is added, and it’s transferred to bottles for final fermentation. (Benoit Daoust/Shutterstock)

What You’ll Need

The equipment needed includes a fermenter to hold the water and grains, which should be equipped with an airlock to prevent an excessive buildup of the carbon dioxide that is created during the fermentation process. This is when the grains and water are converted into a liquid called wort; hot water (about 150 degrees F) is used to initiate and speed up the enzymatic process, during which starches are converted into sugars—some refer to this as the mash stage. In the lautering process, solids such as husks are removed from the wort. A fermenter can be as basic as a food-grade five-gallon bucket or as high-tech as a BrewBuilt X2 Uni-Conical fermenter.

Barley is the most popular grain used to brew beer. It must be malted to prepare it for use in making beer, by being soaked in water to germinate, in which a small sprout forms. (M Kunz/Shutterstock)

The next item on the list is a brew pot, used to “cook” the wort and other ingredients. The size of the brew pot dictates how much beer can be produced, but keep in mind there needs to be enough headspace to help prevent the ingredients from boiling over and creating a stinky mess. A heat source is needed to boil the ingredients, with options ranging from a kitchen stove to a propane-fueled cooker (always ensure adequate ventilation, and place cookers a safe distance from flammable items).

Other basic equipment includes strainers, thermometers, a hydrometer to measure sugar density of wort, and tubing to transfer liquids from one vessel to another. All equipment must be carefully sanitized before it is used to help prevent contamination, which could negatively affect the beer’s flavor and could possibly ruin a batch.

The beer’s specific gravity is measured at the beginning and end of the fermentation process to make sure the ABV—alcohol by volume—matches the recipe. (Blossoms/Shutterstock)

Brew to Your Heart’s Content

A variety of hops are added during the boiling phase to create a distinctive flavor. Bittering hops are used first to mitigate the sweetness of the wort. After about an hour of boiling, when there are approximately 15 minutes remaining in the boiling process, the brewmaster adds hops selected for their flavor, from citrus to earthiness. At the completion of the boiling process, finishing hops are added and the beer’s finished flavor is created. The selection of hops highlights the brewmaster’s skill and creativity.

The best part about being your own brewmaster is being able to share the finished product with friends and family. (Ground Picture/Shutterstock)

After the boiled wort cools, yeast is added to convert the sugars in the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide, after which it is allowed to ferment in a cool, dark place for about a week to 10 days. To prepare the almost-finished beer for drinking, a bit of sugar dissolved in water is added to create carbon dioxide that will carbonate the beer. The final step is to bottle the beer using containers that can withstand the pressure of carbonization. Age the beer in a cool, dark, but not refrigerated place for about 10 days, after which it can be refrigerated and enjoyed.

Those wanting to create a brewing facility rather than cobbling a system together might consider ready-to-use systems, such as a Blichmann 3-Vessel system, which makes brewing relatively simple and can double as man cave décor. Crafted of gleaming stainless steel, this system includes pumps, heaters, and three vessels sized to create 5- to 15-gallon batches, all resting on a restaurant-grade, 14-gauge stainless steel table. One of these or similar systems can have a brewmaster creating batches of 5 to 20 gallons within hours of delivery. There are also many less sophisticated brewing systems to choose from.

Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.
You May Also Like