12 Easy Steps to Brewing Your Own Beer

Greg Cristallo is the co-founder of #FREEDOM Craft Brewery in Buchanan. Considering his brewery’s signature beer, The Berry Amendment, traces its origins back to his and Co-Founder Barry Hansen Jr.’s explorations in home brewing, he knows a thing or two about whipping up a few gallons in your kitchen. He lent us his 13-step insight into how to achieve the perfect home brew so that you, too, can maximize your kitchen-born craft.

1. Love Beer

“I think this is probably the most important of all the steps. Brewing beer, far and away, is a labor of love—not something that you can whip up in five minutes. It’s something that you have to invest time in, and anytime there’s a commitment like that, it has to be something that you’re passionate about.”

2. Pick a recipe

“There are some great websites out there for recipes. I used northernbrewer.com when I first started, but a lot of places sell kits with pre-selected extract [see step 3] so that you know what you’re brewing. My favorite is brown ale, so I went through the inventory and looked for brown ale – anything that piqued my fancy. Go through your personal taste, see what you want to brew and what you know you’ll drink, and that’s a great way to start.”

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3.Pick an extract

“This goes along with the recipe you select. If you want to brew a pale ale, they’ll sell a pale ale extract, and there are variations depending on your taste preferences. It might even tell you which beer (Sam Adam’s, etc.) the extract is similar to.”

4. Boil

“Boil three gallons of water (or however many the instructions say, usually anywhere from three to five) and dissolve the extract in the water. In most recipes, the boil lasts an hour. This is when you start your hop additions…”

5. Hop additions

“(Boiling is the step where the chemistry of the hops is used to the advantage of the brewer. In general terms, the longer the hops are boiling, the more bitterness—and less aroma—you get from them. So, hops that you add during the earlier stages of the boil should be selected based on the bitterness you are trying to achieve, while hops that you add later should be selected based on the aroma you’re gunning for.)

Usually there are multiple stages of hop additions. In the beginning, if you ad hops, it won’t affect your aroma but it will increase the bitterness. If you add them later, it’s more about the aroma. So a brown ale and an amber ale, which aren’t that bitter or aromatic, won’t have that many hops through the boil, but for a pale ale you’ll have a lot of hops, both bitter and aromatic.”

6. Chill

“In general terms, the faster you cool your brew, the better your beer will turn out. You don’t want the heat to stay because if it’s still hot, you’re still extracting oil from the residual hop—if you really want them to be in there for 15 minutes, and you keep your pot hot, suddenly they’re in there for 45, so the hops you put in for aroma become bitter. To cool, surround the pot with ice. Some people will put ice directly into it: If you have a four-gallon boil, but you want five, throw in a gallon of ice. You can also get yourself a chilling coil.”

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Craft brewer Greg Cristallo

7. Pitch

“Add yeast as directed by the package with a focus on getting a lot of oxygen involved and making sure temperature is as advised in the directions. There are a couple of different yeast variants; the classic example is the dry yeast that comes in powdery form, similar to baker’s yeast. Pitch it beforehand so that it’s actively growing (there will be instructions on how to do that… and Youtube is the greatest asset ever for the brewer).”

8. Ferment

“Generally takes about 10-12 days. Yeast eats the sugar, excretes CO2, and then it dies and falls to the bottom…”

9. Rack

“(Not a required step, but helps with clarity.)

Move beer from one fermenter to another. In the process, get rid of all the sediment that’s fallen. This increases the clarity by allowing for more sediment to fall to the bottom. Sediment, by the way, comprises hop particles and yeast. You can leave it racked for about a week, week and a half, depending on your desired clarity.”

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10. Bottle (or keg)

“The key with home brewing, and this is 99% of home brewing, is that it’s naturally carbonated from the yeast. So after fermentation, you prime the beer in a bottling bucket by adding a little bit of sugar water (minimizing air contact because it kills the flavor) so that when you put it into the bottle, fermentation will start again—not enough fermentation to change the alcohol content, but enough to carbonate the beer.”

11. Wait

“…Typically two weeks. The beer will carbonate, there’s still some settling (when you drink a home brew, there’s a thin layer of sediment at the bottom, which is standard), and the flavors begin to mature and develop into what they should be.”

12. Enjoy

For more on craft brewing, visit our Craft Beer Guide. You can keep up with Greg and the crew @FREEDOMbrew, on Facebook, or at freedombrew.us.

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