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    Member Longbow6360's Avatar
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    Default Homebrewing beer.

    I came home Friday night ready for a frosty, cold sixpack (or 2) after work. But nooooooo, the bushplanes that delivers our groceries has been weathered in this week and they generally don't fly on weekends. So here I sit, parched and sober. So I got ta thinkin', I should buy one of those home brew kits and start making my own beer! Grand idea.
    Does anyone have any experience home-brewing beer? What's a good kit to buy?

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    I'd second what he says... Don't go buying one of those stupid beer brewing kits for a few $$. get a sensible book, read up on the process and buy the few things you'll need.. decide if your going to go whole grain, or simply use malt extract, then get your basic equipment. After you've made a batch or two, get a book on basic recipes and experiment on your own.. Also.. keep a log, write down every recipe and describe the steps you go through.. and what the results were.. and let us know how your doing...!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old John View Post
    I'd second what he says... Don't go buying one of those stupid beer brewing kits for a few $$. get a sensible book, read up on the process and buy the few things you'll need.. decide if your going to go whole grain, or simply use malt extract, then get your basic equipment. After you've made a batch or two, get a book on basic recipes and experiment on your own.. Also.. keep a log, write down every recipe and describe the steps you go through.. and what the results were.. and let us know how your doing...!
    Actually I was going to buy a kit first. Maybe I better get the book iofthetaiga suggested first. How hard is it? Hoe long does it take?

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Longbow6360 View Post
    Actually I was going to buy a kit first. Maybe I better get the book iofthetaiga suggested first. How hard is it? Hoe long does it take?
    IMHO, the book will be one of the best $10 investments you could make and it'll answer all your questions. Brewing is like handloading in that it requires a little investment in some basic equipment up front; and a little like making homemade bread in that is can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it... We used to brew a fresh batch every two or three weeks (a couple cases per batch)... Times will vary with type of beer and recipe. Figure a week or ten days of fermentation time, then at least a couple weeks to a month of bottle conditioning for a basic IPA. Some beers such as stouts can bottle condition for a year... The beauty of homebrewing for someone located in a spot such as you are (besides a great end product), is that you can mail order all your dry ingredients, and you don't pay for the heavy stuff like water and bottles.
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    That book is good, but I also recommend this one... http://www.amazon.com/How-Brew-Every...d_bxgy_b_img_y

    If you get into Anchorage, everything you need is at Arctic Brewing Supply at the Seward-Abbot intersection. But for mail order, you cannot possibly beat Midwest Supply ( http://www.midwestsupplies.com ). To start out, I would highly recommend that you buy one of their brewing equipment kits if you can't get to Anchorage to pick up the supplies in person. You can get by with a couple 6-gallon buckets (one as a fermenter with air-tight lid and the other as a bottling bucket with a spigot tapped into it), airlock, racking cane with matching siphon tubing, bottle filler valve, a bottle capper, a candy thermometer, and a 5-gallon stock pot. If you want to be serious about getting good beer, you'll want to add a 5-gallon glass carboy with stopper and airlock for doing secondary fermentation. And you'll want a wort chiller. And a bottle rack. (And after bottling several cases of home brew, you'll want to get a kegging system).

    You also need to be meticulous about cleaning and sanitation. One little glob of bacteria hidden in a scratch in your fermenter will ruin the whole batch of beer. You need sponges and brushes and cleaning solution and a no-rinse sanitizer to finish it off. Making beer is a lot of work and a lot of time. You don't want to risk a bad batch by not doing your cleaning and sanitizing up front.

    As for the actual beer, you need great water. No city water loaded with chlorine and no unfiltered well water full of rust and skunk. You can filter and boil your own or use bottled water (realizing that you need at least 5 gallons of water to make a batch of beer). At first, use crushed grains, malt extract (liquid or dry), and pellet hops. You'll get going right if you buy proven recipe kits and brew a few batches that way before venturing off into buying separate ingredients or trying to invent your own. I've used a number of kits from Midwest Supply and they have all worked great. All the ingredients in the kit are listed, so after you find a kit that makes the beer you want, you can take that list and stop at Arctic Brewing to pick up all the stuff to duplicate the recipe.

    Here's the basic beer making process...

    Clean everything with an acid-based cleaner (no soap... soap ruins the head on your beer) and then sanitize everything. Make sure your kitchen is spotless and free of everything from bugs to pets to dust bunnies.

    Put the brew kettle (5-gallon stock pot) on the stove and put in 2-3 gallons of water. Heat it up to 160F and hold there. Lightly crush your grains (from the recipe) and put them in a muslin sack. Place that in the kettle and steep it for 20-30 minutes. Basically, you're making tea. Remove the grain bag and discard. Shut off the heat and slowly mix in your malt extract. Stir constantly so it doesn't burn to the bottom of the kettle. After the malt is dissolved into the water, increase the heat and bring it up to boil.

    When the first bubbles appear, put in your bittering hops (per recipe or kit) and start your timer. From this point, you boil for 60 minutes. Do not leave. You must monitor the boil throughout and tweak the heat to prevent a boil over. Keep it at a steadily rolling boil.

    If you get (or build - they are very simple) a wort cooler, you need to put it into the brew pot for the last 15 minutes of the boil. To keep from sucking the heat out of your boil, pre-heat your wort cooler with hot water off to the side. Put it in the beer and the last 15 minutes of boil will do the final sanitizing of the outside of the cooler (it must still be spotless clean before you use it). With 10 minute to go in the boil, add the aroma hops (per the recipe). When your 60-minute boil is done, shut off the heat and start up your wort cooler. Drop the temperature down to 80F as quickly as you can. Once you're there, remove the wort cooler and dump the brew into your primary fermenter. You must oxygenate it at this point (there are various ways to do this). Bring the volume up to the full 5 gallons and ensure the temperature is between about 68-74F (for ales). Add the yeast (per recipe) and seal your fermenter with an airlock in place (filled with sanitizer).

    Then you put the fermenter in a dark, quiet place that holds a steady 68-70F (for most ales) and leave it alone for at least 2 weeks. If you have a secondary, rack it over to the secondary after 1-2 weeks and hold it in the secondary for an additional 1-2 weeks. When she's all done, you'll sanitize a couple cases worth of bottles and your bottling bucket. Boil a cup of water with 3/4 cup of priming sugar for 10 minutes and let it cool. Dump that in your bottling bucket and then rack the beer into the bottling bucket to get an even mix. Fill and cap your bottles. Again, set them aside in a quiet, dark place for at least 3-4 weeks. The priming sugar will carbonate the bottles. When the proper time has passed, but some in the fridge to bring them down to ~38F and then enjoy.

    Important point about homebrew... the final product is not filtered, so there is yeast in the bottles. After the bottle conditioning is done and you put them in the fridge, do not agitate the bottles. The yeast will settle to the bottom. Gently pop the cap and slowly pour the beer into a chilled glass, but leave the last 1/4" or so worth of beer in the bottle. That will be full of the yeast and adds a bad flavor, so leave it behind and just enjoy the clear beer on top.

    When it's all said and done, if you pay yourself minimum wage, that first couple cases of beer (one 5-gallon batch is two cases of 12oz bottles) is going to come out to about $10 per beer. But, if you figure that price pays off all the equipment, each subsequent batch is only going to cost you about 90 cents per bottle! (perspective)

    Good luck!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Longbow6360 View Post
    I came home Friday night ready for a frosty, cold sixpack (or 2) after work. But nooooooo, the bushplanes that delivers our groceries has been weathered in this week and they generally don't fly on weekends. So here I sit, parched and sober. So I got ta thinkin', I should buy one of those home brew kits and start making my own beer! Grand idea.
    Does anyone have any experience home-brewing beer? What's a good kit to buy?
    Make sure it's legal where you are. I want to home brew but can't. I second the book recommended (or third). It's a good one. I also second the journal. I helped a friend brew in lower 48. It was fun, and a good brew sucks when you can't duplicate it.

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    Absolutely, positively make sure your equipment is very clean before you start brewing. Dirty equipment will ruin the beer and your enjoyment quicker than anything else.

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by happytobeinAK View Post
    Absolutely, positively make sure your equipment is very clean before you start brewing. Dirty equipment will ruin the beer and your enjoyment quicker than anything else.
    ....Step #1: "don't worry, have a homebrew".
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
    I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
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    Quote Originally Posted by JOAT View Post
    But for mail order, you cannot possibly beat Midwest Supply ( http://www.midwestsupplies.com ). To start out, I would highly recommend that you buy one of their brewing equipment kits if you can't get to Anchorage to pick up the supplies in person. You can get by with a couple 6-gallon buckets (one as a fermenter with air-tight lid and the other as a bottling bucket with a spigot tapped into it), airlock, racking cane with matching siphon tubing, bottle filler valve, a bottle capper, a candy thermometer, and a 5-gallon stock pot. If you want to be serious about getting good beer, you'll want to add a 5-gallon glass carboy with stopper and airlock for doing secondary fermentation. And you'll want a wort chiller. And a bottle rack. (And after bottling several cases of home brew, you'll want to get a kegging system).
    Good post JOAT! I work at a salmon hatchery and one of the seasonals left some brewing equipment here a few years ago so my boss let me have it. I went down your list and ordered what I didn't have from midwestsuppies.com. I've also been collecting bottles out of the recycle bin and I have quite a few now. I can't wait to get started. I'll use your instructions and let you guys know how it turns out. You obviously put a lot of effort into your post and I appreciate it. I'm sure I'll have more questions. Chuck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    ....Step #1: "don't worry, have a homebrew".
    I can't wait to sit out on my deck with a home brew and watch the ocean waves while the missus and I sip a cold one.

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    A good way to get the labels off your recycled bottles is to soak them in Oxi-Clean. Let them soak for a few hrs in warm water and the labels will come right off...

    Oh an not sure if anyone mentioned the light/UV factor and beer. Up here in AK when it is light out for 18 hrs a day in the summer it can play a big part on how your beer will taste. Make sure you store it in a closet, closed card board box or wrap it in a towel.

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    Joat did a great job of saying how you SHOULD do it, here's how you CAN do it....and still make a decent product.

    I've worked into more complex recipes now but my first several years were just two cans of hopped extract (pick your flavor) dump em into the pot, the instructions say it's a no boil kit but it doesn't hurt and helps ensure no bugs are in there. Get it to a boil (don't need all five gallons, three will do and your cold water added will do what the wort chiller does.

    Once full and down below 80 deg. add your yeast and either shake it or get a stirrer for your drill (my preference) to get things good and mixed up. Wait 7-10 days and nealry all of the fermentation is done. Secondary will clear things, open up flavor, and get maximum booze out of it, but is not completely necessary depending on if you are doing this for fun.....or survival

    At the end of your impatient wait, either bottle or keg (I use grolsch style bottles with snap caps and also keg with forced carbonation), and wait the prescribed time to let the bottles ferment, or you can drink the stuff the next day in a keg. This "green" beer still has all the booze, some flavors may not be developed as much but it makes a decent product, fills a friday night, and if you have the patience to wait and rotate batches it will finish in the bottle and can sit for many months.

    This was the bush style, get r done, beats 36$ Rainier 18-packs kind of brewing that I used to do and I remember it fondly. Now, living in Juneau it's not such a necessity, but I have gotten back into it and in the last month made a good porter and a sweet azz IPA from Homebrew Heaven in Washington (great shop I visit when I need to avoid the inlaws) and they ship as well.

    good water makes good beer, but no water makes no beer so use what you have, I had an artesian well at a church in Dillingham so that was convenient but use what you got and don't sweat it.

    Also, I got by for years with one 6 gallon glass carboy.....and no secondary fermentation, and no one complained. Next to sausage making, beer and wine brewing has been one of the most endearing little hobbies I have picked up as far as finished product quality and enjoyment of the process. There are many homebrew snobs out there but whatever, make what you want, it's nearly impossible to poison anyone, and always try to space your batches so you start the next batch with at least one of the last one available to sip on while brewing the next.....better yet if you can get two batches going at once and stay on it, you will never have to wait for store bought beer again.

    Don't forget wine brewing either, 80-90 bucks for a kit that makes 30 gallons of wine.....and i have made some excellent Shiraz, merlot, riesling, and malbec over the years. At least as good and normally better than many of the 10-15$ bottles I've purchased and you make it for less than 3$ a bottle. Same equipment, and only takes about a month.

    Definitely let us know how it goes, remote living and brewing to me go hand in hand. I lived in a one room shack with an outhouse and a steambath but nearly always had two brews on tap.....THAT, was livin.
    Last edited by Catch It; 03-19-2014 at 11:44. Reason: big blocky paragraph

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    Quote Originally Posted by Longbow6360 View Post
    I'm sure I'll have more questions. Chuck.
    Just ask. I love sharing my experiences with beer brewing. There are also some good forums out there to talk to beer brewers directly. You do want to get one (or both) of the books mentioned at the beginning. The instructions with Midwest Supply beer kits are good, but they do assume you have a little knowledge of what you're doing. If you place an order with Midwest, get their beer brewing DVD (IIRC, it is free with any order) and watch that before you do anything. He'll guide you through all the important steps from boil to bottle.

    As you collect beer bottles, skip anything that is clear glass. Always use colored glass, and preferably brown, to protect from UV. Also, do not try to reuse bottles that had screw off caps. You cannot recap those with a standard capper and standard caps. The absolute best bottles for recycling are those from Alaska Brewery (Alaska Amber, Alaska White, etc). They are pry caps and good quality bottles.

    I can't stress enough that you do need to worry about sanitation. I use PBW for cleaning and finish with One Step for sanitizing. PBW is pretty much the standard in cleaning. It's also great for cleaning your bottles. Rinse-brush-rinse the inside of the bottles with warm water and then put them in a big cooler full of PBW for at least 15 minutes. Labels will fall right off during this process. Brush again (wear chemical gloves when using PBW, it is acid based) and then rinse thoroughly in running water, inside and out (a spigot mounted bottle jet washer is another really important piece of equipment here). Set the bottles neck down on a rack to drain for a few minutes. Then you sanitize with a no-rinse sanitizer such as One Step. These are oxygen based sanitizers that have a wet time of 3-5 minutes to kill any and all bacteria, yeast, and mold. For this, I use a bottle spritzer to ensure a complete wash of the inside of the bottle. You then place the bottles on a sanitized bottle rack. The sanitizing step should be done immediately prior to bottling. The longer you wait after sanitizing (but after allowing at least 5 minutes of wet time on the sanitizer), the higher the chance of bottle contamination from airborne bacteria and mold.

    On bottling day, I generally start by cleaning the heck out of the kitchen (have 2 dogs and a cat, and they can cover the house with hair in a day). Then I PBW clean the bottles in a big Coleman cooler. Then I boil my priming sugar for 10 minutes and set it aside to cool. Then I clean and sanitize the bottling bucket, spigot, filler tube/valve, racking cane, and siphon tubing. Then I dump the priming sugar solution into the bottling bucket, pop open the fermenter and start the siphon to rack the beer into the bottling bucket. While that runs, I spritz all my cleaned bottles with sanitizer and set them on the bottle tree (another very handy piece of equipment). I then "recycle" the spritzer by pulling the plunger assembly out and leaving just the bowl. I put all my bottle caps in there, ensuring they are "inside up" and completely submerged in sanitizer.

    Once the beer is racked to the bottling bucket, I set it up on the counter top, attach the bottle filler tube to the spigot and pull up a seat. Take bottle from tree, fill it to the very top (the proper headspace is set by the displacement of the filler tube), and set it on the counter. After filling about 8-10 bottles, I will stop filling for a minute while I cap them. Then fill another batch of bottles and repeat. After capping, I put the bottles back into their cardboard cases. The full cases go into a dark room with stable temperatures for at least 3-4 weeks of conditioning time (sometimes more, depends on the beer).

    Once you're done bottling, use the PBW solution that is still in the cooler to clean all of your stuff. Rinse off everything with water and then clean with PBW and a soft sponge (no abrasive pads). Rinse and dry everything and then pack it up in boxes to keep it clean until the next batch. You never want to leave a residue in your beer equipment in storage. I usually pour the PBW into the fermenter (after blasting it out with the jet washer) and then let it sit overnight. That stuff will dissolve every little bit of crud left from the beer. Then you can dump and rinse it the next day.

    One last tip for today... if you're on a septic system, do NOT use iodine based sanitizers (Star San, Saniclean, Iodophor, etc.). If dumped down the drain, these sanitizers will kill everything in your septic tank. Plus, they require rinsing with once-boiled water between treatment and bottling. Real PITA and not worth the effort when One Step does the same job without rinsing or toxic waste.
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    ps, feel free to pull a glass or three of the green beer.....while flat, it will give you an idea of what's coming up once carbonation is complete.

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    I started about five years ago with a Mr. Beer kit. It got the job done and got me hooked. I still use the Mr. Beer fermenter for small experimental batches, alot. I really can't add much to what has already been posted. I'm still just doing malt extract brewing, just can't make the jump to full grain. My fun has come with playing with the various adjuncts that can be added like vanilla beans, coffee, jalapeno peppers, orange peel, etc.
    Have fun with it.

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    Wow Gr8 advice on here. New brewers should now and often tereaad JOATs talk on SANITATION.

    Vital to still making good 3rd+ batch, if you're not sanitizing enough/correctly, you'll know it by now.

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    Good info guys. I'm having a hard time understanding all the lingo but I'm a do-it-yourselfer and a research nut so things are clearing up.

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    You can make the hobby as simple or involved as you wish. Lots of good books and websites out there to help out someone new to the hobby, and lots of advanced knowledge as well. Two good sources for supplies in AK are Arctic Brewing Supply in Anchorage (arcticbrewingsupply.com) and Alaska Homebrew Supply in Palmer (alaskahomebrew.com). Both will ship orders through the mail.

    It's a fun hobby, you might even end up with something like this in your garage if you get hooked.

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    For those of you on the Kenai Peninsula, the Copper Kettle on K-beach in Soldotna carries an ample selection of Homebrewing supplies.
    Better yet, join the local Beer Brewers & Tasters society (meets 1st Wed of every month, usually at Kenai River Brewing Company off spur) and receive a discount at CK. Brew on.

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