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The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing

The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing - Charles Papazian (Note: see the discussion thread below... I may not be entirely qualified to write this review!)GEE WHIZ! DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN BREW BEER IN YOUR OWN HOME!? Yes, you can. It's a cliche you'll hear in brew supply stores, but if you can follow instructions well enough to bake a cake, you can make beer. Here's a little walk-through: So the book starts off with a nice list of all the equipment you will need.For most recipes, you'll be brewing a 5 gallon batch. Most of the ingredients are sold with this standard in mind, and most of the equipment is also designed to accomodate a 5 gallon batch. You'll need a 5 gallon pot, to do the brewing in,a vat (usually a big PVC bucket with a fitting lid) for the primary fermentation, and then a glass vat for the secondary. Later, you'll need the bottles and a capper.Here's me on BREW DAY. All the stuff is washed and laid out neatly in order. I'm not that organized in a lot of stuff I do, but it makes life a lot easier.That's dried hopps leaves in the clear plastic bag, malt sugars in the brown paper bag, spring water (don't use tap water to make your beer, people, unless you really like the taste of your local tap water)So a word about cleaning: this part cannot be overstated. The only way that beer brewing is different from baking a cake is the attention you need to pay to cleaning. The issue is that beer is composed of malt sugars which get fermented by yeast to produce alcohol, carbon dioxide, and other byproducts. Those "other byproducts" are complex, and vary with the yeast and the malt, but they give the beer its unique flavor. What you don't want is for your beer to be contaminated with bacteria. If that happens, the bacteria will out-compete the yeast, and it will ferment the sugars too, but it will produce different byproducts which make the beer taste NASTY. If you taste a bacteria-contaminated beer, you'll know it; the effect is akin to drinking spoiled milk. Here's what the beer supply store will sell you to clean with. It's called "One Step", and it looks like dishwashing detergent, but it isn't soap; it's actually a superoxide powder... basically an inert molecule of some kind which releases oxygen at such high concentration, it kills bacteria. (most bacteria have a limited ability to deal with oxygen; too much kills 'em). That's a great idea, because once the oxygen has killed the bacteria, it just diffuses away, so it's completely safe. Well, actually, I don't know about the other part... the part that holds the oxygen, but I've never heard about it being an issue, so what could possibly go wrong?LET'S GET TO THE FUN PART: ACTUALLY MAKING THE BEER!The first step is to bring your 5 gallons of fresh, pristine spring water (or toxic-waste contaminated tap water) to a boil. Then you take a bag of flavoring grains, and put them in what's called a "sock" (God, please don't use a real sock; get a 2-time use mesh brewing "sock" from the store).See? Like this:Here's a look inside, at the grains, before we tie it off and soak the sock in our water for 30 minutes:It makes a kind of tea, which has a light straw coloring to it, and which tastes like... I guess like a funny kind of tea. After 30 minutes, you're done with this step, so take the sock out.Now it's time to add the malt sugars. These come in the form of a thick molassas-like syrup. This is the real heart of the beer's substance.Way back in the Middle Ages, beer didn't have the bitter hopps to give it flavoring; it was all just fermented malt. These days, that's pretty much called Mead, which I haven't actually seen anybody drink, except at the Rennaissance Fair. I tried some there, and it wasn't all that good. I just drank it to be all anachronistic.MEADSo once the malt is all mixed in, you bring the mix to a simmer for about an hour, and during this time, you take a fresh sock, and fill it with hopps leaves.After that part is done, you let the brew cool, and then you add the yeast, and seal it up in the PVC bucket to ferment.First step takes about 4 weeks...There's some room for variation now... some people like to pour the sweet, clear brew off into a second container, leaving the sludge of precipitated yeast and other stuff behind... that's what the glass vat is for. You can continue fermenting a bit longer that way. However you decide, after about 1-2 months, you'll need to bottle your beer. You need to sterilize all the beer bottles. You can run your dishwasher hot to do this, and/or use the OneStep powder again.To give the beer its fizz, you need to add about a 1/4 cup of malt sugar. That will give the yeast just a little more sugar, with which to generate some CO2 gas. In the other fermentation steps, you could vent gas off with a little valve. In this last step, you cap the bottle where the fermentation takes place, and it dissolves the CO2 into the beer, creating the fizz!You cap the bottles with a capper.My wife and I have a little assembly line at this point, where I fill the bottles and she caps them. I wanted to include a picture of this, but she didn't like the way she looked in any of the pics, so she wouldn't let me post them. Too bad for you too, because she's lookin' really good.Anywho, after two more weeks, you can enjoy your beer!That wasn't so complicated, was it? This book goes through the basics, and elaborates with a few recipes and a discussion about different kinds of beer. It's a nice little book.