Variety Is The Spice

There are several great lies about beer. One of those is that it makes you funnier. It doesn’t, it only makes other people more likely to laugh at your jokes, and they need to be drinking too. Another, and a more serious one, is that all beer tastes the same. This line is so untrue that there should be disclaimers issued on national TV every time someone says it. One can only wonder how many people are sitting in bars, drinking just to get drunk, who have only ever tasted a couple of beers and don’t really like them.

When you brew your own beer, you come to appreciate just how much variety there is in the process of making certain beers and in the taste of the end result. Many home brewers never make two batches that taste exactly alike. One small change to the brewing process can lead to vastly different results. It might not be a change you enjoy, but it will certainly be different.

There are so many different kinds of beer that the idea of them all tasting the same is flawed right from the get-go. You have light, crisp lagers and heavy, dark ales. You have thick stouts and sharp white beers, and these are just a few of the options out there. That is before we even get to the stage of adding flavors, experimenting with strengths and other variations that can produce incredible results. All beers taste the same? No. No, they don’t.

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Mixing Your Drinks

Brewing beer is difficult, but worthwhile. The last decade or so has seen a massive rise in the different ways that beer is created and flavored, and in recent times we have seen a new arrival in the market – beer that is flavored with another alcoholic drink. Among the most well-known of these beers are the ones flavored with tequila, but there are other beers on the market that have vodka and whisky added at a certain stage in the brewing process. To some, that is brave and to others it is insane – but these brews are flying off the shelves.

If you are interested in brewing this kind of beer yourself, the most important advice is to be careful, and it is widely agreed that if you are going to add another alcoholic drink into the mix then it should be done at a late stage in the brewing process – otherwise you risk ruining the taste of the drink and potentially making it dangerous to drink. However, if you can master it this is another string to your bow and makes for a very interesting flavor.

The other thing to be aware of is just how much of the other drink you add to the mix. In this case the watchword seems to be “less is more” – adding a lot risks making the beer undrinkable when what you are really looking for is a “hint” of the new flavor rather than an overpowering taste of it. If you want to drink something that tastes like neat whisky, then neat whisky is a far preferable option.

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The Delicate Balance

Brewing your own beer is not an easy process. From start to finish it can take weeks, and it is obvious that the longer it takes to do something, the more chance there is that that something can go wrong. Therefore you need to be practically parental in the way you bring along your home brew. It is something that rewards careful planning and cautious management. How well you have done will only be confirmed when you first taste your newly-brewed beer.

The fact is that there are some aspects of the process that are beyond your control. You can buy the best equipment, recommended by experts and talented amateurs, you can follow the recipes right down to the last miligram and final punctuation mark. However, there is still the chance for something to be not quite right, and this is where you will find yourself calling on people who have been there and done that.

It has been seen on several different home brewing forums that a person goes from start to finish in brewing their beer, bottles it and leaves it for drinking and when they come to it, sometimes months later, it doesn’t taste right. Asking around to see what the problem is, they are asked by someone who has been brewing for more than a decade: “What kind of water did you use?”. And something as basic as the pH balance of the water used can interfere with the quality of a beer. Don’t be discouraged if something small knocks your brew off – put it down to experience and learn.

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Better Than The Real Thing?

Anyone who brews their own beer is sure to be asked the question every once in a while – “Do you really drink that stuff? It can’t be anything like as good as the real stuff, can it?”. This is a hard one to answer, as it is a matter of personal taste. Early on in your home brewing experiments you may be forced to admit that your efforts fall somewhat short of what you would like them to be. But the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of people who brew, and drink, their own beer because they like the taste and enjoy the process.

Whether the beer is better than commercial branded beer is a subjective matter. Some people will definitely prefer home brewed beer while others will swear that if it isn’t a global name it isn’t worth drinking. But for people who like to have a modicum of control and a bit of a change once in a while, home brewing has an obvious advantage. If you buy a crate of any commercial beer then the first can or bottle of it will taste the same as the 24th. And the next crate you buy will taste the same again.

When you brew your own, you can make changes with every new batch you brew. You just need to buy the ingredients – which can be less than a dollar if you are just looking to add a fruity flavor to the beer – and make the necessary changes to the brewing process. The more you brew, the better you will get, and as long as you like the taste, nothing else really matters.

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It’s Not Just About Beer

The words “home brewing” send just about every mind off in the same direction. Beer, and probably fairly dark beer at that. But variety in home brewing isn’t just about making a drinkable lager, or amping up the darkness and producing a stout. In reality, there is a lot more you could be doing if you are prepared to diversify your portfolio (and, in some cases, invest in more equipment). It might not be advisable to try making hard liquor (the margin of error is narrower and getting it wrong could blind you) but there is more you can do.

A good change-up from beer is cider. It is, of course, an entirely different drink and some of the ingredients are completely changed. The most obvious is the central ingredient. Beer is made with hops, cider is usually made with apples. And indeed, for your first few efforts you should not make cider with anything else. Get the hang of apples and you can then look at brewing more interesting ciders – there is a fashion in a few countries right now for pear cider (otherwise known as “perry”), as well as other, sweeter flavors.

If you fancy an even bigger change, then it is possible to make wine at home too. Indeed, this is a pretty common practice in France. Even some of the wines on sale in stores close to you were not made from grapes grown in a giant vineyard – some of them are from true family businesses in California, France and elsewhere. Obviously, the fresher the grapes the more delicate the wine will be – but if you can grow your own or find good fresh ones nearby it is worth the effort.

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The Grand Tasting

For any home brewing buff, the moment of truth is always the tasting. You will not get a real idea for how good or otherwise your beer is when the brewing is complete. Even at this late stage, there is more that needs to happen before it is what it will be. You will put your beer into bottles still not being sure that it is quite right – and this is enough to send a lot of home brewers crazy with impatience. And the thing is that there’s more to it than that. Even once you have left the beer long enough to carbonate completely it may still have time to go.

To clarify, the time that you are advised to leave your brew before drinking it is the “ready to drink” time. Now, there is a world of difference between “ready to drink” and “worth drinking”. Many beers benefit from being left a little (or a lot) longer in the bottle before you drink them, during which time they get to settle, to broaden in terms of taste, and to do any number of other things that will turn them into highly drinkable beer.

The reason for this is down to countless small influences that can affect a lot of things to do with the beer. You cannot expect a perfect beer after the minimum “ready to drink” time, just as people who make their own wine will not expect it to mature to its highest quality within weeks. Some of the best wines around have been in the bottle for years – and it is not just wines for which that is true.

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Brewing Safely

There is an almost endless stream of jokes to be made about home brewing beer, and most of them center around the idea of cutting out the middleman and just getting drunk without anyone else’s help. However, there is a certain seriousness behind those jokes, and one that needs to be taken note of by anyone planning to home brew beer.

Beer contains alcohol, which is an intoxicant. We all know that. When you home brew beer, this gives you an important responsibility. First of all, you need to make sure that what you are brewing is safely drinkable. Too high an alcohol level and it could make you or anyone who drinks it ill. Bear in mind also that the critical capabilities drop after a few drinks, so if you break into the home brew after polishing off a supply of store-bought beer you may not be in a position to judge if it is “right”.

Aside from that, there is also the fact that to brew properly, you will at times need to heat the mix to boiling point, and stir it when it is hot. For this reason, you should always be sober when you are treating the home brew mixture. Just having easy access to beer is not a green light to drink it all the time. Although beer is fun, brewing it is serious and you don’t want to be the one who spoils the party. Be careful and observe best practice if you want to brew at home.

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An Exchange Of Information

The entire world has changed with the advent of the Internet. You can talk live to people living as far away from you as it is possible to get, you can buy items from a Mom’n'Pop store in a village in another country, and you can watch sporting events taking place in front of a few hundred people in a country you’ve never been to. Everything has been touched by the Internet, and home brewing is no exception.

The Internet has exploded in no small part due to its social aspect. We have social networking (which takes up so much of people’s time it has been dubbed “social not working”), blogs and online forums that allow people to share information, debate and request help. And for a first time brewer, there is a real advantage to having this capability. You will surely take a couple of attempts to get your home brew just right, and you may wonder what you are doing wrong – the Internet is your friend.

Many people on Internet forums devoted to brewing will have had the exact same problems you have when you first home brew a batch of beer. They will know how they got around the problem and will be able to share this information with you. As most home brewers are non-commercial, they will not see you as a competitor in a serious sense and will be glad to help out. In the early days, this can make all the difference to a new brewer.

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A Throwback To Prohibition?

During the 1920s and some of the 1930s, the making and sale of alcoholic beverages was banned in the United States. It seems astonishing to think it now, but the law was in place for close to 13 years, and although it reduced the amount of public drunkenness it had the side-effect of increasing the amount of organised crime as alcoholic beverages continued to be made and sold on the black market through “speakeasy” bars and similar watering holes. Although the law has long since been repealed, there are those who consider home brewers to be the product of that time.

It is unquestionable that brewing your own beer brings with it a certain amount of freedom, and with that freedom comes responsibility. When the era of prohibition was in full swing, much of the black market alcohol available was made using less rigorous safety standards, and on occasion was so contaminated that it caused serious health problems and even death. Although this is rarely the case now, it is sensible to make sure that you follow safety standards in making your beer.

The practice of good safety standards is something that becomes second nature before too long. Apart from anything, if you have got the beer wrong it will taste wrong. At least in this case you can go out and buy regular beer that has passed stringent testing, whereas in the days of prohibition anyone who wanted to carry on drinking took their life in their own hands.

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Home Brewing 101: FAQs

Four weeks ago I bottled a new batch of beer and set it out in the garden shed. I opened one today and it doesn’t taste right. What’s up?

The chances are that it’s nothing you’ve done in the brewing process. Remember, brewing is a temperamental process and the most likely reason for your beer not coming out right is that you moved it from somewhere warm to somewhere cold. It is probably that the yeast you used needs to be at brewing temperature – that is, in the same room where you are brewing – in order to carbonate your beer. Leave it in the brewing room for two weeks before moving it outside next time.

This is the first batch I’ve brewed and it actually tastes OK but … it’s a little watery. What does it sound like I did wrong?

Just one thing, and it’s easily remedied. What you need to do is use blended sugars – something more attuned to the brewing process. What you have described sounds to me a lot like you have used white sugars in the brewing process. What comes out of that normally tastes a bit like cider – as you say, it doesn’t taste horrible, it just doesn’t taste like beer.

My first brew is really cloudy, having been in the keg for three weeks. I would have expected it to be mostly, if not totally clear by now. What’s happened?

It sounds like you have done things pretty much right, but to avoid this happening you could try leaving it in the fermentation vessel for four or five more days next time.

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A Brand New Flavor

Home brewing beer is a science. To get it right you need to be scientific in your approach, and it is often noted that science isn’t all about knowing everything. In fact, science by its very definition is about the fact that we do not, and cannot, know everything so we have to settle for finding out everything that we can and applying that knowledge as best we can. And that can be applied to home brewing, because brewing is a process that ensures you learn something new every time. The moment you stop learning is the moment it becomes a chore.

The brewing of flavored beers is a popular way to make home brewing more interesting. If you have never tasted a flavored beer, maybe now is the time to give it a go and see how enjoyable it can be – some of the more popular ones on the market are Belgian fruit beers which contain elements of cherry and raspberry. Technically, however, there are few limits to the fruits that you can add in the brewing process, and the effects that they can have on the taste.

That’s not to say that it will all be good. You have to make sure that what you are adding goes in at the right time, is added in the right form, and does not conflict with the other ingredients you have added. Finding the right mix is something that may take more than a few attempts. It’s not just a matter of trying new fruit flavors, either. The addition of spices or of other ingredients can turn out a fantastic beer, so it is worth continuing to experiment with different additions and seeing where they take you.

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Happy Accidents

It is an interesting fact that Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin by accident, and that Isaac Newton discovered gravity as a result of an apple falling from a tree and hitting him. In the same way – though admittedly on a smaller scale – some brewing mistakes and happy accidents can lead to a different and unique taste in a brew that makes for a worthwhile addition to your rotation. Admittedly, more accidents go wrong than right, but it is worth noting that the process can work in your favor even when mistakes are made.

This kind of happy accident can have the most unexpected results. If you add too much of something, too little of something else, add something at the wrong time or leave too much or too little time for something to happen, all of this can change the taste of the finished product quite markedly. As a result you can end up with something that you are happy to drink for the rest of your time as a home brewer. For this reason as well as many others, it is a good idea to keep a notebook detailing what you do during the brewing process.

Of course, people are slow to admit to mistakes, especially when the results are such that the mistake turns out to be a winning move. So we will never know how many of the beers out there on the market were the result of clever research and sound practice, and how many resulted from one person’s slip up. And maybe that would destroy the magic.

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I want to know what is the best home beer making kit availible.?

I’m going to start brewing my own beer at home and I want to find the best starter kit out there. I’ve seen the Mr. Beer microbrewery kit, but is it really the best thing out there. Any and all suggestions are welcome.

Budweiser the best beer on the market?

I live in Canada.
I like Molson and Budweiser prolly like my two favourites.

But I’m just curious what are some other great beers that are available in North American market.

How come when I drink craft beer, I don’t get a hangover?

I went to this bar last night with some people from work and all they sold was craft beer….First time ever drinking a craft beer…I woke the next day and I was shocked that I slept in after a night of drinking and I had no hangover…..Does anybody no why? Is it something on the ingredients?

What store sells swing top beer bottles?

I’m doing a home brew and cannot find a store other than online that sells swing top beer bottles. I’ve looked in Walmart grocery stores and target and lowes but they don’t have them. Any ideas where else to look?

What store sells swing top beer bottles?

I’m doing a home brew and cannot find a store other than online that sells swing top beer bottles. I’ve looked in Walmart grocery stores and target and lowes but they don’t have them. Any ideas where else to look?

What store sells swing top beer bottles?

I’m doing a home brew and cannot find a store other than online that sells swing top beer bottles. I’ve looked in Walmart grocery stores and target and lowes but they don’t have them. Any ideas where else to look?

is there anything to do with leftover malts after making beer?

i’m brewing beer at home, is there anything to do with the malts after extracting the sugars from the malts?

Do u think its fair that a Muslim Malaysian woman will be caned for drinking beer?

KARAI, Malaysia – Malaysia abruptly granted a Ramadan reprieve to the first Muslim Malay woman to be sentenced to caning for drinking beer, but insisted Monday the thrashing would still take place after the Islamic holy month of fasting.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32-year-old mother of two, had been en route to a women’s prison for the caning when Islamic officials who took her into custody drove her back home and released her.

How can I make myself like beer?

I hate the taste of beer and even wine and most alcohol, but I don’t feel very manly when people offer me alcoholic beverage and I tell them I only drink sissy drinks like wine coolers or hard lemonade…

I’d like to be able to “kick back a few with the boys”

How can I remedy this?


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