Ready, Set, Brew

Brewing beer has become a lost art with the rise of massive, international breweries whose products are shipped and readily available at any part of the globe. For a true beer lover, why not ditch the mass-produced and mediocre brews of these huge corporations and concoct your very own, unique blend in your very own properly sanitized kitchen? That’s exactly what my roommate and I have set out to do, to try our hand at the simple and creative combination of water, yeast, malt, and hops, all while doing it in the most environmentally and economically conscious way possible. College student or not, you can still harness your ingenuity and conduct your brew process in a sustainable way as you acquire your equipment and prepare to brew.

The most essential things we needed were:
-6 gallon stainless steel stock pot
-an excessively large stainless steel spoon
-thermometer
-2 five gallon food grade plastic buckets (one fitted with a spigot)
airlock
hydrometer
siphon hose (simple plastic tubing)
-bottle filler
-50 brown glass 12oz bottles, and caps
-sanitizer

Most likely you can find some of these things already around your kitchen, or in someone’s kitchen you can steal from. But if for whatever reason you don’t have a hydrometer lying around, you will have to get equipment from somewhere else. The most essential bits of equipment we needed to start our first batch were bought online as a complete kit, costing $119.29 from Midwest Supplies, shipping out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1,222 miles away from us in Albuquerque. It wouldn’t have been difficult to have pieced our equipment together from more local sources. Southwest Grape and Grain, on Eubank and Candelaria, is a great, local brew store full to the brim with any equipment you will ever need to brew on your own. The staff are all friendly and extremely knowledgeable, able to answer any question that is sure to arise while giving your first home brew a shot. They also sell starter kits at comparable prices to what we found online.

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Brown glass beer bottles are definitely not something you need to invest in. They are probably everywhere you look, abundant in every college student’s house, just waiting to be recycled. Ask all your beer-drinking buddies if they wouldn’t mind saving their bottles for you, and let them know you will happily take them off their hands. Most people jump at the idea of getting their recycling hauled away for them, and if they need a little encouragement, you have 5 gallons of beer in the making that you can barter with. Use it wisely.

If after ransacking your friends recycling bins you are still short, you can do what we did and go to a recycling drop-off center and rummage around for what you need. Be aware that twist off bottles won’t work. The grooves on the mouth of the bottle won’t allow your caps to seal airtight, so make sure you only scrounge for the pop tops.

Our next step was to sanitize and get all the labels off of our bounty. Sanitation is key during every step of the brewing process, but because we collected these bottles from recycling bins, we wanted to be extra thorough. We filled our bathtub with warm water and soap, enough to submerge most of them, and let the scrubbing begin. Some labels come off without much fuss, and some can be more difficult. We found copper wool to work well on the tough ones. After 50 bottles had been scrubbed of their labels, they were ready to go to the dishwasher, for good and sanitary measure.

These repurposed bottles were filled with our first attempt at home brewing, which turned out much better than anyone had expected. In a month and a half, we had created something that looked like beer, tasted like beer, and acted like beer, all without venturing too far away from our own kitchen. We invited friends to share in our successful first try and hosted a “beer-tasting party.” Good food and drink have an unparalleled way of bringing people together, and providing people with something you’ve made yourself makes the process as well as the end product all the more special. Cheers!

-Posted by Takeo

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