Article By Hector Herrera
Most everyone who has been in China for an extended period of time has that moment where inertia finally loses its appeal; maybe it’s a job you’re not satisfied with or some other point of frustration, but it can be very easy to give in to that disquieting mindset. I hit that point recently, but with the help of my friends, I found an outlet to vent all of those feelings. That outlet was brewing beer.
Homebrewing may not take the same importance in your life as it did in mine, but it’s still an interesting and fulfilling hobby that could turn into a career if you’re serious enough about it. In this article I’d like to give you a short primer to get you on your way to a successful brew right in your very own home.
The first thing you need is a pot. In my book, bigger is better, but a 10L Pot would save you a mess and space in the kitchen. Next, find a cheese cloth bag to make rinsing easier. Temperature control is key when it comes to beer, so a thermometer is necessary. The same is true for sanitation, so you might want to buy some iodine and/or sanitizer pills. Lastly, you’ll need a bucket or bottle for fermentation, with food-grade plastic tubes with a bottle of water or an airlock.
Get yourself around 5kg of Malt, which can be bought easily on Taobao. Use a flat roller and a towel to mill the grains or, if accessible, a 70RMB Corona Mill. Heat the water to 75 degrees Celsius and throw in your milled malt, cover the pot and set a timer for 60 minutes. During the steep, the ideal temperature should be around 66 to 70 degrees. After 60 minutes you can squeeze the bag or use a sieve/siphon to get your “wort” out without any husk or grain in it and get it to a boil.
This is where it gets interesting. This process will determine a great deal of the overall taste of your beer. At this point you will need Hops, and you can even add some seasonings (stuff like orange peels, cinnamon, even chili peppers!) if you’re brave enough. Around 30 grams of hops should suffice for this task. You can distribute them like so:
1. Bittering hops added in the beginning of the 60 minutes for overall bitterness
2. Aroma Hops that provide the scent and hop character of the beer; mostly after 30 minutes, in intervals of between 5 to 30 minutes
When the 60 minute boil is done you want to get the wort to around 20 degrees to pitch the beer yeast for it will only be active at around this temperature, pitch it and seal it up real tight in your fermentor, making sure to have those airlocks in place to release the CO2 from the yeast, so the sugars can be converted without letting any oxygen in. Allow the beer to ferment for about 7 days then store it in the fridge for another 7.
By the end of the cool conditioning, you’ll most likely have a bit of excess protein and hops (we call it “sediment”) on the bottom of your fermentation vessel, so find the best way to get that beer out of the vessel without any of that sediment. Store your new brew in well washed and sanitized bottles (glass preferably) with a swing top cap, or, if you have the extra cash, use caps and a capping machine to cap em’. Before capping, add a bit of water diluted with sugar into the bottle, which will provide the carbonation. Let it rest at around 22 degrees for another week for carbonation (second fermentation) to kick in then set in the fridge for around another week.
It sounds like a long time for just some home made beer but believe me this, after those 3-4 weeks of wait, opening a bottle of something you so carefully created and crafted will be one of the best experiences of your life. The fact that with so little money and materials I can make something I’ve been paying a fortune for in the past and potentially brew something that tastes just like or even better than something I picked off a shelf in a local beer market is something I would definitely suggest to everyone with a bit of time, patience and space that needs to be put in good use.
A group of us (the Shaanxi Homebrewers Association) get together at Near Wall Bar every Tuesday from 2:00 p.m. to around 6 p.m. to brew whatever comes to minds. On Mondays we drink up whatever experiment we have ready from the weeks before. If you want a better look and more details on how it can be done, come on down.