This Week on BrewZasters: One Gallon Batches

You know that you would like to brew your own beer but:

  • You don’t have time to brew your own beer.
  • You don’t have the space (because you live in an apartment) to brew your own beer.
  • You don’t have the money to brew your own beer. All the extra equipment can really drain the wallet.
  • You live in an apartment, you don’t have room to store all that stuff to be able to brew your own beer.

As Charlie Papazian says, “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew,” perhaps, micro batch brewing may meet your needs. For our purposes, micro batches are one to three gallons in size. And, they can be as simple or complex as you wish to do, and some can be done in under an hour. It’s easy to make beer. People have been brewing their own beer for as long as they have been growing grains (there is evidence that it’s even longer than that). If you can make oatmeal, you can make beer (in beer’s case you’d throw away the oatmeal and keep the liquid). At its most basic, beer is made from water, malted barley, hops, yeast and, sometimes, other stuff.

Making beer involves three or four steps:

  1. You boil the batch
  2. You ferment the batch
  3. You bottle the batch
  4. (Optional) You drink the batch.

I’ve brewed three micro (one-gallon) batches of beer and have had good results using the following recipes:

15-Minute Pale Ale (15 minute Boil That is)

4.3 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (60.0 SRM)
1 lbs 3.1 oz Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM)
27 g Cascade hops [5.50 %] – Boil 15.0 min
11 g Cascade hops [5.50 %] – Boil 5.0 min
3 g Cascade hops [5.50 %] – Boil 0.0 min
0.5 pkg. Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)

See Ya Nevada Pale Ale

2.6 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (60.0 SRM)
1 lb. 1.6 oz Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM)
9.33 g German Perle [6.50 %]
7.01 g Cascade hops [5.50 %] – Boil 60.0 min
7.01 g Cascade hops [5.50 %] – Boil 10.0 min
9.39 g Cascade hops [5.50 %] – Boil 0.0 min
0.5 pkg. Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) Yeast

Observations from the 15th Northern California Homebewers’ Festival

NCHF 15 logo and theme, “Our Founding Fathers.” From left to right: Ken Grossman, Charlie Papazian, Michael Jackson, and Fritz Maytag

It’s ninety degrees in the shade, if there were any shade, and I’m carrying a four-ounce taste of beer and a paper hot dog carrier filled with pulled pork up a hill toward a wooden picnic table underneath some live oaks. There’s reggae music playing in the background behind me, and as I walk, on my right a guy wearing a kilt is talking on a smartphone, “Have you ever strapped on a kilt?” he calls into the phone; as though wearing a kilt is completely new to him and wants to know if someone else has had the same feeling that he is experiencing now.

I’m at the 15th annual Northern California Homebrewers’ Festival and the first I have ever attended. Though the first festival was held in Skyline Park in Napa in 1998,

it is now held yearly at the Francis Lake Resort in Dobbins, California on the autumnal equinox—a religious event, of sorts (that goes a long way toward explaining the chanting and drumming later on at midnight). The festival registrar, Paul Keefer, tells me this year’s attendance is around 500. There are 36 homebrew clubs, under an assortment of canopies, pouring homebrew and handing out food.

“Mary, the Queen of Beers” tells me, “If you can’t find something you like here, you may as well pack up your tent and hit the road.” She is of indeterminate age, somewhere between 50 and death. She wears bangles on her wrists and bottle caps serve as earrings. She is to this beer event what the Annie Savoy is to the movie Bull Durham—a true believer in beer. She has tried them all and the only one that satisfies her is the Church of Beer.

Mary is right. While many of the beers are styles that just don’t appeal to me–meads, bretts, sours, and the like–I found a lot to taste: American Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, lagers, etc.

We are an eclectic mix of geeks (the male/female ratio is about 60/40), who probably enjoy talking about beer and beer making as much as we do drinking our product. And, there is a lot of product. According to Mary, Queen of Beers, there are “278 different tastes on tap here.” She knows because she went around and counted them. One booth had a couple of low-alcohol session beers. The 2.8% ABV one tasted like a liquid pretzel, bready and delicious.  A friend loved the Kölschs and Milds and he said Berliner Weiss beers both straight as well as with the raspberry and woodruff syrups were delicious.

Tossing the keg competition

Tossing the keg competition

From the picnic table on the hill, I see a knot of people at the rustic resort’s baseball field. At first I think it could be a pickup game of softball but the spectators are ringed around the infield. I wander down to the field, stopping only to sample a few more beers and finger foods, to find that it is the brewers’ version of a caber toss from the highland games. Mostly guys, but some women too, are testing their strength and skill at tossing an empty 15-gallon beer keg as far as they can. At the time I checked, the farthest toss was 29 feet.

In addition to the keg toss there are other competitions. There is the club competition for historical beers (one of them used molasses and sunflower and pumpkin seeds) and one for beers using brown malt. A chalice filled with samples of all 278 beers sat on top of the trophy. After the finalists were announced someone was going to have to drink from it–whether that was the winner or the losers was not clear to me.

If you were at this or other NCHFs please leave a comment below. As always, regardless or whether you have experienced any NCHFs, your comments are appreciated.

For more on the Northern California Homebrewers’ Festival see their website (http://nchfinfo.org/)

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Making your own beer for fun not profit

One of Papazian's homebrewing books

One of Papazian’s homebrewing books (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I sent this to the Lake County Record-Bee in hopes of it becoming a regular feature called The Brew Note.

Making Your Own Beer for Fun not Profit

Hello ladies, how are you? Fantastic. Does your man look like me? No. Can he make beer like me? Yes. If your guy can make instant oatmeal, he can make you a beer with more flavor than chocolate. In fact, he can make you a beer with chocolate in it. Or, if you like, you can do it yourself and not break the bank.

If you are tired of the same-old same-old beer, you know what I mean: beer whose only taste is “fizzy.” Then you are ready for craft beer. And, one of the best things about craft beer is you can make great tasting handcrafted beer yourself. And you will gather friends to help you drink your beer.

Here are some reasons to brew your own beer:

  1. You can be creative. If you want chocolate and habañero chiles in your beer, you can make your beer with chocolate and habañero chiles. You can make light or dark…or pink beer, if that lights your candle.
  2. You will know exactly what is in your beer because you made it. Nothing you want left out is in and nothing you want in is left out.
  3. It is simple to do. We humans have been making beer for as long as we have been growing grains. When you brew, you connect with a tradition that is thousands of years old. That’s downright ennobling, ain’t it?
  4. It’s pretty cheap to make. No expensive high-tech equipment is needed. You need a pot to boil in and a container (such as a food-grade bucket with airtight lid and airlock) to ferment in.
  5. Beer is honest. Beer doesn’t lie to you (unless you drink too many—then it lies like a cheap rug). If your beer has a problem, it tells you (it never says, “If you don’t know what the problem is then I’m not going to tell you either!”). Homebrewed beer gives you honest feedback as to whether you did it correctly.
  6. When you homebrew, you will learn the secret handshake that all homebrewers around the world know that gets them free beer at all places that serve good beer. [Okay, I made that one up. But, I have told a brewpub’s waitstaff that I’m a homebrewer and have been invited back to see the brewing equipment and have been given samples to try.]
  7. Good people drink good beer. If you are interested in trying, there is help available for brewing. There is a club dedicated to brewing good beer here in Lake County that meets at 6pm on the third Monday of each month at Guido’s Pizza in Kelseyville. They love talking about beer and how to make it and how to make it better. They don’t talk politics, religion, gossip, or current events; it is all about the beer.

What does it take to get started brewing beer? That’s for next time. For now, “Relax,” as the Godfather of homebrewing, Charlie Papazian advises, “don’t worry, have a homebrew” (or a store-bought craft beer if there’s no homebrew around).