A Beginner’s Guide to Homebrewing

Homebrewing sounds scary when you first think about it. I made my first beer with a friend’s uncle while we were in college, and it’s been a hobby ever since. But whenever I mention my homebrewing adventures to friends and passers-by, I’m met with a list of questions.

The questions that always come up are: 

  • What do I need to start? 
  • Where do I buy the ingredients? 
  • What if I mess the brew up?

And, of course:

  • Is it safe to make your own beer? 

So down below you’ll find my answers to these questions, as well as a few tips for anyone wanting to start brewing their own beer at home. 

Is it safe to make your own beer?

Let’s start with the most pressing question. The simple answer is yes. 

But like beer-making in general, it’s not as simple as you think. As you are working with yeast at the end of your brewing process its best to keep your workstation and equipment clean at all times, it will lead to less contamination. 

If any of your equipment becomes contaminated, you’ll end up with a spoiled beer that could be dangerous to drink.

You also want to follow the recipe and not try to add any weird substance. Don’t try and speed up the process of the beer’s fermentation or add any other alcohol to it – good, safe beer takes time and patience.

So is it safe to make your own beer? Yes, as long as you are careful about it. And drink responsibly.

What do I need to brew beer at home?

To get started, you will need some sort of kettle (not a Russell Hobbs or Kenway) you will need a boiling pot that can boil your delicious beer in. Start with a 10L kettle – for beginning stages that will be enough to give you about a 6 pack or even 12 if you’re lucky.

The kettle should be stainless steel. There are debates out there what is the best kettle to use but as you are beginning and probably don’t want to invest too much just yet. Go for stainless steel.

Here is a point list of the other equipment you will need for making your first batch of beer:

  1. Grain bag
  2. Thermometer
  3. Fermentation tank
  4. Siphon tube
  5. Airlock
  6. Iodophor (cleaning agent)
  7. Gloves (trust me if you’re sparging, you will need gloves)

Where do I buy the ingredients?

The next question is where do you buy the ingredients to make your own beer? I’ve looked at supermarkets but I don’t see hops. 

These ingredients don’t come from the corner shop and you probably want a professional to assist you with your choices.

There are two big places in Cape Town itself that sell all the stuff you will need to get started.

Beerquevara is known for their starter kits and their refill kits for their kits. They also have a range of grains and hops and yeast and they have the equipment to help you make the beer.

Beer lab another location can pop through to pick your grains and malts and other goodies. They even offer a beginner’s beer course if you are not sure what to or how to do it. 

These guys have online stores and are well priced and offer great services.

How do I start brewing?

Once you have all of the equipment, and the ingredients, you can start brewing. I do my brewing in our kitchen. 

The brewing process is usually explained with your recipe, and there are videos as well. The most important thing to remember is the sanitization beforehand, and leaving your beer to brew for a long enough time after it’s finished boiling. 

The process looks a little like this:

  • Stock up
  • Prepare equipment
  • Boil
  • Decant and ferment
  • Bottle
  • Drink and enjoy

What if I mess up?

I just spent all this money and now my beer is messed and it’s undrinkable.

Like everything in life, there is a learning curve and you will mess up from time to time. Nothing is ever done perfectly when you first do it by yourself. Even professional breweries have to throw away batches of beers and start again. 

So don’t stress if you mess up. It’s all a learning curve. The best way to learn from it is to see what you did wrong and correct it the next time you start brewing again.

There are plenty of forums out there that will help a brewer identify the problems of the beer-making and give homebrewing tips. 

At the end of the day, the best way to discover the enjoyment of homebrewing is to start. Get a few buddies around, crack open your favorite craft beer for inspiration, and start brewing. It creates memories and you get to share your hard work with those around you 

Have you tried homebrewing before? Get in touch and let me know how it went! And don’t be shy to reach out if you’d like tips and tricks from my own experience. 

 

Cheers!

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