Brewing Your Own Beer to Get Through Winter
Let’s face it, when the sun goes down at 5PM every day, the natural thing to do is open a beer and call it a night. By the time March rolls around, what you have to show for this season we call winter is a huge vat of bottles to recycle and possibly about 15 pounds of beer weight. Ick.
So, this winter, instead of merely drinking beer, how about trying your hand at brewing some? Right here in the IE we have one of the West Coast’s oldest home brew clubs, The Inland Empire Brewers, to offer their sage guidance in the art of ale.
According to their president, Brent Brubaker (an apt name if I’ve ever heard one), it takes about $100 to set up a basic “extract” brewing system (meaning you buy your ingredients—extract—in a sort of kit form, rather than the more complicated “all grain” brewing) and from there it’ll cost between $30-40/per batch of beer. Doing the math, that’s five gallons or 50 bottles per batch, meaning about $.70 cents per beer. Nice! And each bottle comes with that “I did it myself” ego-boost. What could be more flavorful? “Most brewers will talk about their first batch being the best,” says Brubaker. Beginner’s luck? Maybe, but who cares . . . knowing that after all your effort you will end up with real, alcohol-filled beer makes it worthwhile, eh?
Don’t let the use of the word “math” in the above paragraph fool you into thinking this is super-complicated, though. “Anybody can make extract beer,” Brubaker assures me, “it’s really about temperature.” And cleanliness—it’s sort of like cooking after all. Oh, and patience, which in the case of brewing beer is definitely a virtue.
There are two basic steps to brewing: one where you mix up that extract and let it ferment (about two weeks) to make the alcohol. Then you transfer that mix to bottles and wait another two weeks (or a little longer, depending on the type of beer you’re brewing) for carbonation to develop. Bottle conditioning, they call it, proving that, as with any new hobby, the bonus is a fresh set of lingo to learn. Approximately one month later and voila—your own premise-brewed beer!
Here are a few options to get you started on tripping the light brew-tastic: Beer, Beer & More Beer in Riverside carries all the supplies you need to get set up, plus a few nifty shirts, books and other gear, including, oddly, coffee pots—but I guess if it brews it brews. BB&MB also offers brewing demonstrations on the first and third Saturdays of each month.
The Inland Empire Brewers meet monthly to “evaluate” beer. Some might call this “quaffing” or “imbibing” but they of course view this process a little more professionally. Each month they check out a different style—porters, stouts, pilsners, English ales, Hefs, you name it—in either commercial examples or the fruits of their own labor, all while sharing brewing tips and recipes. They also have monthly brew days because, you know, the club that brews together stays together!
If you need more incentive, the club also hosts a festival in May and a home brew competition June 21–22 at Main Street Brewery in Corona, which leaves just enough time to brew a few test batches before being ready to compete.
Brubaker has three refrigerators full of his own beer and makes a Riverside Imperial Stout with “a deep tan color, a lacey head and about 11% alcohol—it’s really a sipper beer.” And how—anything more than sipping on that kind of potency and you’ll likely end up at a karaoke bar. However, for a beer connoisseur, it does sound like a good item to try. Maybe he’ll give me the recipe . . . (Red Vaughn)
Inland Empire Brewers, HYPERLINK "http://www.hopheads.com" www.hopheads.com
Beer, Beer & More Beer, 1506 Columbia Ave Suite 12, Riverside, (951) 779-9971; www.morebeer.com/riverside