Many people like the idea of brewing their own beer. Beer can get expensive, and brewing your own is like cutting out the middleman and his ridiculous mark-ups, right?
Of course, many envision their home-brewing operations with rose-colored glasses—or beer goggles—to the extent that they miss the point that brewing beer is work. They see themselves happily swimming around large vats of beer or creating such a heavenly brew that the masses cry out for the brand in every supermarket and convenience store in the country. They see themselves becoming the Bill Gates of beer.
However, brewing beer is a process that involves many steps. That means a lot of opportunities to screw up royally. If you plan on brewing your own beer at home, get your head out of the hops-laden clouds and try to avoid these common mistakes of brewing beer yourself.
Few people think of cleanliness when brewing beer, but cleanliness in next to Godliness, or so they say. If you want to create a brew that will make the angels sing, then you need to first pay attention to the sanitation of your brewing equipment.
Beer is a drink that is created through fermentation. Fermentation is basically the process of making the conditions as good as possible to allow single-celled organisms called yeast to grow quickly. You give the yeast food and a warm temperature to promote growth, and those little suckers spit out beer. That’s the basic principle of brewing beer, in a nut shell, anyway.
Funnily enough, those conditions that let yeast grow and multiply at a great rate to create beer are the same conditions favored by bacteria, mold, and fungus. Some of these little critters will just make your beer taste horrible. Others create a nasty little toxin that gives you food poisoning.
The main way for these bacteria and such to get into your beer is through the equipment you use to brew. You scratch your butt, pick your nose, or clean out the litter box and then handle the equipment that your beer will travel through, and voilà, food poisoning!
Sanitizing your equipment doesn’t mean just using soap and water—that just makes it clean. Sanitizing includes using some sort of sterilizing agent like bleach or other disinfecting product. Then, you need to keep your germ-infested hands off of your purified equipment unless you are planning on creating E. Coli Ale, Salmonella Stout, or Listeria Lager to delight and kill your friends.
Using Ingredients Past Their Prime
Another common method for really fouling up your beer is to use old yeast. Yeast is a living organism—just on a smaller scale than most of us. It lives and dies in its own time, and a large-scale yeast Armageddon spells disaster for your beer.
According to the experts at MakeHomeBrewBeer.com, beer yeast can live in powdered form around a year and in liquid form for up to two months. After that, it dies and you have to send millions of tiny sympathy cards.
Dead yeast means that there are no little organisms to turn the sugars in your mash into the alcohol known as beer. Dead yeast essentially means that you are creating a brew that is no better than bottling thrice-used bathwater.
Ignoring the Right Conditions
As stated before, brewing beer is a process that involves many steps. The devil is in the details, and you can really foul up your brew by neglecting the details of each step.
For instance, one step involves waiting for your beer to ferment. The details of that step involve keeping your concoction at a particular temperature. The experts agree that the exact temperature will depend on the type of yeast you are using, but most state that the temperature of your brewing beer should be around 60 to 70 degrees.
If you neglect to keep the temperature in the correct range, then your beer is going to suck as much as a Hoover vacuum cleaner. You will get about the same results as you would if you bought a frozen turkey at the grocery store, left it out on your kitchen counter for three days, put it out in the hot sun for one day, put it back in the freezer for another day, and then expected it to taste good (and not kill you).
Neglecting one or more small details of the brew process will cause you to be about as successful as if your mechanic left out some component of your car’s brakes. Everything might seem okay for awhile, but eventually you will be shooting down a steep hill, just picking up speed.
The experts urge home brewers to buy a guide to brewing beer and follow it to the letter. After all, how are you going to enjoy swimming in a vat of beer or becoming the next beer mogul if you can’t master the basics?