Friday, May 31, 2013

It begins with a B.

I started brewing beer because it was cheap.

Beer is massively overpriced, and when you are an artist living on $300 per week you don't have much to spend on beer, even though you somehow always do.

I figured that i could help myself and my friends by brewing cheap beer that would be better than any of the cheapest beers at the bottle-store. To start with it wasn't better, but it was definitely cheaper and my friends appreciated it.

I lived with my older brother and his good friend about 4 years ago, and they had been brewing cheap Coopers kit extract beers for quite a while and had 3 plastic fermenters. Their main concern was cost. They would buy about $30 worth of extract and would end up with about 5-6 slabs of beer that was better than most low end beers from the store for about 1/5 of the price. Doing a few brews with them was fun, they liked to experiment and would often put things like chilies and coffee beans into the bottles after fermentation.

I really had no idea about how any of it worked, but i drank the beer, and it tasted good.

A couple of years later, after talking about brewing for a while, me and my flatmate went out and bought a coopers starter kit:

The plastic bottles didn't last.

We followed the instructions and made a beer:


It was ok. It was the first, so we weren't fussed. We had a bunch of cheap beer to drink, we were all happy.

It disappeared quickly.

Around this time my girlfriend had gotten a job at a craft beer bar and so i had started trying beers that i didn't understand. Hops and malt became apparent to me. I had been reborn in a world of hops, within a magical placenta of malt. I still didn't understand what they were, i knew malt was somehow one of the main ingredients in a popular chocolate treat, and i knew that hops smelt dank quite often and were a distant cousin of weed, but that was the extent of my knowledge.

The bar i'm talking about is called Deja Vu, and it does a $6 pint night. It is located in Melbourne near the corner of William/Lt Lonsdale. Go say hi to the bar staff on Wednesday and have a beer!

This is what it looks like:

I think...

So after a few standard coopers brews i wanted to brew something that tasted more like the beers at the bar. I decided that i would buy the Coopers IPA kit 'cause i liked IPA's a lot at the time.

Old man with epic beard = legit.

This also meant i had my first visit to a brew shop. It was glorious. Looking back, and having been back to this particular brew shop, i now see that it isn't very good, but at the time it was like being little toddler Satan in a high security prison. I found a little bag of hops that you can put into the fermenter to make it taste more like hops, so i bought that too.

Hamish bottling the IPA, me offering moral support.

It tasted ok. Still just ok. I didn't want ok anymore. I wanted amazing. I wanted to produce something that i could hand to a craft beer drinker and watch as his nose and tongue slide down his throat just so he can get more out of it.

I bought a book.

Graphic designers take note.

It was Christmas time and so i bought 3 of these from the book depository, one for me, one for my dad and one for my brother. It is a really good book. You can actually read the whole first edition online for free at .

This book really walks you through the brewing process. It also goes into some seriously scientific details near the end, down to how to make the water from your tap more suited to brewing by changing the PH and stuff, i dunno.

This book taught me these key steps in brewing beer: (skip if you know this stuff).

- Barley is farmed and then malted, malting is where the Barley is soaked and roasted so the sugars are at their prime.
- The Malted Barley (Malt) is then crushed and soaked in water at a certain temperature for a while to extract the sugars.
- It is then strained and the remaining liquid is boiled. 
- During the boil, hops are added at different intervals. Early is for bittering the beer, middle is for flavouring and the end is for aroma. 
- It is then cooled down to the required temperature, yeast is added, and then the yeast eats all of the sugar and poos out alcohol. During fermentation you can add more hops to give really fresh hop smell and taste. 
- It is then either put into kegs and force carbonated, or into bottles with some extra sugar that the yeast eat and that carbs it up.
- Then you drink it!

So i went out and bought a 32L pot.

Cause when do you NOT need a 32L pot?

I decided to make a beer using malt extract again (same as the coopers cans) but with an 'unhopped' extract. It was a simple pale ale recipe, but i really had no idea what i was buying.

3kg of Golden malt extract
500g of light crystal malt
Lots of random hops
And some yeast.

I was just excited to be able to brew something in that huge pot.

I actually felt like a wizard.

It was a pretty fun, especially adding all the hops. I was probably panicking the whole time, and it ended up tasting average, but i think that's because it was summer and the average temperature during fermentation was about 26 C. The yeast i used was meant to be kept at about 18 C.

Fan + wet tea towels. It doesn't actually work.

It ended up tasting pretty fruity, that's because when yeast is fermented at too high a temperature they have a weird kinda sauna orgy which makes Fusel alcohols which can taste like fruit and give you headaches.

Thanks for nothing.

From then on i became obsessed. My friend gave me a fridge he needed to get rid of, and that became my fermentation chamber, which i then hooked up to a temperature controller.

My ice-cream container of doom.

So now i had a way of making sure the yeast wasn't going to give me headaches or taste like bananas, now all i needed to do was make some real beer. What i needed was grain. So i went to another brewing store in town, and this place did grain in bulk.


First beer was a stout, a coffee stout actually. I made some espresso shots at work and used them in the fermenter. It ended up being under-carbonated , and the oils in the espresso ruined any chance at head retention. It kinda felt like drinking wine. 

This is how the brewing process felt:







The taste was good. It tasted like a dry stout with some coffee undertones.

This post is getting long. Although it was meant to be an introduction, and now that i've got all the learning and introducing out of the way i might as well start doing separate posts for each of the beers i brew. And i might put up a beer review now and then. Anyway, i hope you've enjoyed reading. 

Here is a picture of what me and my other brew friend James bought not long after making that Coffee Stout, and what led onto the making of my last few beers:

That is actually quite a lot of grain.

Stay tuned for more brewing action!

Smell you later!

Most photos taken by Becky Nosiara