Eugene loved beer way before Ninkasi or Oakshire ever opened their doors. In fact, the reason why beer is appreciated on the same as level as art lies with the dedicated homebrewers who have practiced the time-honored tradition of homebrewing since pre-prohibition.
The American Homebrewers Association estimates one million Americans brew from home at least once a year, and I have to say these people are on to something. If you’re not a homebrewer it may be hard to imagine the allure. It’s more expensive, often requires some trial and error, can ruin your kitchen, and is definitely a test of patience. Even so, there is something undeniably rewarding about drinking a homebrewed beer.
About a month and a half ago my boyfriend and I decided to bust out the homebrewing equipment and wipe off the cob webs after a long sabbatical from brewing. It was one of those cold and wet February days, which was perfect for brewing a dark delicious stout. The recipe we used was a tried and tested Imperial Stout that he had brewed once before last winter.
Homebrewing is exactly the same as brewing at a big craft brewery, just on a much smaller scale. Beer requires four main ingredients: malted barley, hops, water and yeast. The first step in brewing starts with the mash. This consists of heating the water to around 160 degrees, then adding the grain.
There are three main types of brewing methods: using just extract, extract and grain, and all grain. Extract is grain (barley) that’s been converted to a sugary syrup and is often used by beginners because it is much simpler than using all grain. You might not be able to taste the difference, but all-grain beers convert the sugars to alcohol more efficiently leading to a cleaner and full-bodied beer. Craft breweries use all grain in their beer for the taste and because it’s less expensive. For this stout, we used a combination extract and grain recipe. Nine pounds of pilsner malt extract and two pounds of dry dark malt extract went into the beer. We then used one and a half crystal malt a pound of UK roasted barley, a half pound of UK chocolate malt and a quarter pound of UK black malt.
The purpose of this step is to extract the sugars from the grain that will later be converted to alcohol and give beer it’s color. This is called wort!
Next it’s time for the boiling process where the hops get added to the kettle. The hops added at this point provide the bitterness to the beer. (When we add hops in later it’s for the flavors and aroma). Our beer has 2 oz of Chinook bittering hops. In the last 10 minutes of the hour-long boil we added 1 oz of Simcoe hops for a citrusy-floral aroma and flavor.
Once the wort is cooled down it’s time to pitch (add) the yeast. The yeast is what turns the unfermented sugars into alcohol. For this beer, the American Ale yeast allows for stronger hop and malt characteristics, without a yeasty flavor. Now all you do is wait for the beer to ferment for at least a month.
It may seem like a lot of ingredients and steps but each grain and hop adds to the beer giving it a big roasty flavor and huge 9 percent ABV. If you’re just starting out homebrewing, don’t be afraid to experiment. Honestly once you get the hang of it, it’s as easy as baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Speaking of cookies, they will pair perfectly with our full-bodied stout!
We bottled the stout two weeks ago, and I can’t wait to share what this beer will taste like when we get to crack open a bottle next week.
P.S. If you’d like to try this stout, I’m happy to share the full recipe!