Homebrewing Made Easy

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Make your own beer at home

Ever wanted to make beer at home but thought maybe it was too complicated and involve specialized equipment? That is no longer the case these days. It’s actually very easy to make beer at home and it’s pretty inexpensive to start with. I say “to start with” because once you get the hang of it with a starter kit, you’ll be wanting to upgrade to bigger and better equipment before you know it.

The first steps of becoming a home brewer used to involve a progression starting with an all-in-one kit (boil & add yeast), moving up to extract brewing (boil, add hops and yeast), and finally graduating to all grain brewing (doing everything from scratch).   Now you can skip the first two steps and buy a Brooklyn Brew Shop Kit, which is available online or at most local brew supply stores like Toronto Homebrewing.  The starter kits come in several different beer recipes and refill packs are also available.  I am partial to Brooklyn Brew Shop because it was their 1-gallon recipe book that really got me going in my home brewing adventures.  But you aren’t limited to buying this particular kit either.  Other home brew shops like Noble Hop in Toronto will also sell variations on the Brooklyn kit for similar prices.

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Pretty much everything you’ll need to brew beer is included in the kit.

These starter kits will brew a 1-gallon (3.8L) batch and they come with pretty much everything you’ll need to brew about 10 bottles of your own beer. All you need is a standard kitchen pot that will hold at least 8 quarts and some swing top bottles for your finished brew.

You can get swing top bottles by buying them new or by getting a few Hacker-Pschorr or Grolsch bottles from your local liquor or beer store. All you need to do is clean them out thoroughly after you’ve drank the beer.  Avoid using dish soap because it may leave a reside that you may taste in the finished beer.  Best way to clean them is rinse them with hot water immediately after you drink them and keep them in a clean place.  You can also run them through your dishwasher, but don’t use any rinse agents like Jet-Dry because that has a tendency to leave a residue as well.  Also if you choose to use Grolsch bottles be warned, because they are green if you don’t store the finished beer in a dark place your beer will get skunky.

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Try to use brown bottles for your home brew, green bottles are light sensitive and can result in skunky smelling beer.

These kits will come with pre-measured, pre-milled grains, pre-measured hops and yeast all ready to go. Most kits will also come with a 1-gallon glass jug and airlock that you’ll use to ferment your beer. You just follow the easy instructions that are included with the kit or Brooklyn Brew Shop’s handy 2 minute video tutorial.

The great thing about doing a 1-gallon batch is you can experiment with some really interesting and weird stuff like jalapeño saisons and peanut butter and jelly porters. It’s a small enough batch that you won’t have any trouble drinking all of it. Standard home brew batches are usually 5 to 10 gallons (19L to 38L), so that’s a whole lot of beer to consume if it doesn’t really turn out.

The only downside to making 1-gallon batches is if you make a really amazing brew, you’ll only have about 10 bottles worth.  It’ll be at that point that you’ll be itching to upgrade to a full 5 gallon system.  As enthusiastic as you might be at first, it’s always best to start small and get a feel for the brewing process. When you are ready to expand, you’ll know it’s the right time.

Home brewing is a great hobby with tangible (and tasty) rewards. Just be warned, if you really enjoy it, you’ll be doing it all the time! But that’s what will happen, it’s the reason why most of us home-brewers do it in the first place.  So give it a try and happy brewing!

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Documentary on Ontario’s alcohol laws will stream online

This documentary deserves a look when it debuts next Thursday on the Mom and Hops beer news site (http://www.momandhops.ca/). If you watch the trailer Jason Fischer from Indie Alehouse has the best quote, “Chinese state television came to interview me about how crazy our laws were”. Our liquor laws definitely need an overhaul. It’s doubtful anyone has the courage to take this on, but the cries for reform will just get louder and louder. The optimist in me is hopeful things will eventually change, hopefully this documentary helps to raise more awareness and make this a bigger issue.

Ben's Beer Blog

CaptureAs has been posited by fellow beer scribe Jordan St. John, it once seemed like roughly every six months we were inundated with a slew of articles about the makes-you-want-to-smash-your-head-through-drywall-it’s-so-frustrating world of beverage alcohol in Ontario.

Six months seemed to be roughly the amount of time it would take people to forget that one company was allowed to have 440 retail beer stores in this province while the people who actually make beer in Ontario were still only legally allowed to have one. And so this was the amount of time that would pass before some article would pop up, cause some outrage, make the rounds on social media, then quietly die with nothing ever coming of it. Some beer writers may have even used this cyclical outrage to build a reputation as something of a shit disturber. Ahem.

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