Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Boston Homebrew Patriot Pt.3 - Deluxe Homebrew Kits

"Beer snobs drink beers brewed by billion-dollar multinational corporations with obese marketing budgets. Beer patriots drink beer from independent breweries or make it themselves."

Did you know the founding fathers brewed hard cider? Here's a great article on Slate all about it.

The Slate article reminds me of Edwort's Apfelwein Recipe - quite possibly one of the easiest, tastiest and booziest recipes for any beginner homebrewer. At 8% ABV, Apfelwein is no sissy beer alternative. It's the burly, hoochy, hairy-chested uncle (from your dad's side) of sparkling wine.

After dodging a bullet and not buying a Mr. Beer kit, I stalked around on Craigslist for a while until I found an all-inclusive "Deluxe Homebrew Kit." Regardless of where you buy one from - your local homebrew store, or online - all homebrew kits are basically the same.

You get a primary fermenter (6.5 gallons to allow for 5g of beer + foam or "krausen"), a secondary fermenter (5 gallons), airlock equipment, a "bottling bucket" which is essentially a bucket with a small spigot to pour easily, a bottle capper and an auto siphon. Here's a good example of a classic beginner's kit.

Turns out you need even less than the "deluxe" kits. The modern consensus seems to be (according to forums - which are a GREAT homebrewing resource) that you don't need a secondary fermenter. Once thought to help clarify a beer and further ferment your brew, nowadays most homebrewers opt out of secondary fermentation and simply leave their beer in the primary fermenter for 3 weeks (disregarding whatever the directions say), then keg or bottle it. This is what I do and it's worked fabulously. It's also a much easier method :-).

So, if you do have a 5 gallon secondary fermenter, throw a batch of Apfelwein in it. Apfelwein creates very little kreusen and is a perfect beverage for 5 gallon vehicles.

A quick aside: don't be turned off by the plastic "Ale Pales" - plenty of veteran homebrewers use these primarily. As far as convenience, you can't beat it: easy to clean, no smell, easy to pour into and out of. If the idea of fermenting in plastic gives you the willies, go for all glass, but you should know that there are no adverse tastes/smells from brewing in plastic.

To make a good beer all you absolutely need is some no rinse sanitizer, a big pot, a 6.5 gallon fermenting vessel, and an airlock. Oh, and barley, hops, yeast and water. Or just an extract kit.

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