Brewing your own beer is relatively easy and a fun way of utilising the natural products available to you. You needn’t make beer from barley and hops, you can make beer from a variety of plants such as nettles or seaweed, which give the drink a different and unusual taste.
Most beers are made using hops. There are five basic principles to brewing beer from hops, which are exactly the same processes that are used by professional breweries. These are:
- Malting – this involves the soaking of ground malted barley in hot water, which produces ‘sweet wort’.
- The ‘sweet wort’ is mixed with hops to produce ‘hopped wort’.
- The hops are removed from the ‘hopped wort’ mixture and yeast is added.
- The beer is left to mature and sugar or carbon dioxide is then added to the mixture to increase carbonation.
- The beer is then packaged in bottles or kegs.
Using a Homebrew Kit
In order to complete the five stages of brewing your beer, you will need to buy a home-brewing kit or source the equipment separately. Homebrew kits are readily available from specialist shops and websites, and make the process of brewing easy, especially for beginners. Once you have bought a homebrew kit you will only need water, as all the ingredients are supplied with the kit. However, if you want to be more creative and make beers from plants from your garden or beach, a homebrew kit may not be so useful.
Homebrew kits are great for getting you accustomed to the processes involved with making beer. All the ingredients are supplied in measured quantities, so you avoid any complicated processes such as ‘half mash’ and ‘full mash’ brewing initially (half mash brewing involves using separate ingredients and brewing them in specialist containers, full mash brewing involves extracting the malt from the grain and sourcing the other ingredients in their natural state).
If you don’t use a homebrew kit, you will need the following equipment:
- Brewing bin to hold the beer.
- Kettle to boil the beer (some bins come with kettles built in).
- Paddle to stir the beer remove malty deposits on the surface.
- Syphon to transfer beer into kegs or bottles.
- Thermometer to test the temperature of your brew.
You will also need water, barley and hops (if you are using them) and brewing sugar.
Making your Homebrew
Brewing your own beer with barley and hops takes just a few hours to prepare, and four-six weeks to store. However, if you want to make a different sort of beer, you don’t have to wait for so long.
Making Nettle Beer
This beer is cheap to make and follows an old English recipe.
- 900g young nettle tops
- 3.8l water
- 230g brown sugar
- 7.5g fresh yeast
piece of toast
Heat the water in a large saucepan until boiling. Add the washed nettle tops and cook them for half an hour. Strain the mixture into a large jug or brewers bucket and add sugar to the nettle water.
Spread the yeast on to the piece of toast and float it on the surface of the nettle liquid. Cover the jug and leave it for a few days at room temperature. Then, strain the mixture and decant it into clean, beer bottles. Leave them for at least two days before drinking it.
Making your own beer is cheap, fun and rewarding. You don’t have to make beer with hops and barley; you can use any number of plants to flavour your beer.