You don’t make your own beer to perfect the flavor, really. With more than 6,000 breweries in the U.S. alone, there’s a good chance someone’s already brewing something you enjoy. You make beer for one reason: because it’s fun. That you also get beer out of it is just a delicious bonus.
You don’t need fancy gadgets, says John LaPolla, cofounder of Bitter & Esters, a home-brew shop in Brooklyn, who’s been brewing since 1991 and still uses buckets. “Most people spend around $200 on equipment and ingredients,” LaPolla says. First, find a home-brewing-supply shop near you at homebrewersassociation.org.
The Easy Way: Buy a starter kit. A five-gallon setup from Bitter & Esters costs $150 and includes a recipe, ingredients, and all the gear except the kettle and the bottles.
You don’t need a brewery, a science lab, or even a garage. “I used to brew five gallons of cider in my kitchen cupboard. Then I graduated to the bottom of a utility shelf, then my closet,” says Douglas Amport, the other cofounder of Bitter & Esters.
Although there’s no ideal time of year for brewing, most beers do well between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In hotter climates, you can buy special yeast that works at up to 90 degrees, or put your fermenter in the fridge or a cooler filled with ice.
Yeast is an essential part of the beer process. These fungi feast on sugars, making alcohol as they go. The more yeast cells at work, the better the job they do at making alcohol. In this first step of the beer-making process, the yeast cells get a head start, hungrily dividing and populating as they feast on dry malt extract.
2 quarts water
6 ounces dry malt extract
1 package instant starter wort
First, heat the water and malt to a boil for 10 minutes and then cool to 60 degrees F. You can check the temperature with a thermometer or by rule of thumb (it should be about room temperature).
Sanitize the gallon container with a no-rinse sterilizer or by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Then, pitch the yeast by tossing in