The popularity of beer in New Zealand could easily lead a visitor to these shores to consider it our national drink. Whether it’s a crisp cold lager on a summer afternoon or a pint of real ale in winter, beer is a drink that adds liquid enjoyment to almost any occasion. Having the mates around to watch the 2010 FIFA World CUP? It’s dead cert you’ll be downing a glass or ten of the amber nectar.
But in these days of tightened family budgets, the best beer isn’t cheap, particularly if you’re planning to play host to a bunch of thirsty football fans. The solution? Make your own!
Easier than You Think
You’ve walked past brewing supplies shops and seen all that intricate equipment, you might have heard beer nuts explaining their latest esoteric brewing process…and you’re thinking that making your own beer has got to be too expensive and too difficult to bother with. Not so. The quick, down and dirty beer making method outlined below is simple, cheap and requires an absolute minimum amount of equipment.
What You’ll Need
- A 10 gallon (approx 40 litre) drum with lid. This should be made of food-grade plastic and can be purchased from hardware or brewing supplies shops.
- 2 – 3 meters of plastic tubing, also food-grade and around 1 cm in diameter, for siphoning.
- A hose clamp
- Another length of plastic tubing (about 2 meters) for use as an airlock (explained later).
- A large saucepan for heating water.
- 12 x 2 litre plastic bottles with screwtop lids (you can reuse old Coke bottles).
- A 1.2 litre can of malt extract (from a brewing supplies shop).
- A sachet of brewer’s yeast (from a brewing supplies shop).
- 7 cups of sugar.
Before you start the beer making process you need to understand that anything coming into contact with the beer solution, at any point in the process must be sterilised. If you try to skip sterilisation undesirable bacterial will enter the brew. At the very least this will spoil its taste, at worst is could pose a serious health threat.
The easiest way to sterilise your equipment and bottles is to rinse them in a solution of 1 tablespoon household bleach to 4 litres of water. After using the bleach solution, rinse in clean water.
Making Your Beer
- Bring 7 litres of water to a boil.
- Add the malt extract and simmer for 20 minutes. Watch the solution carefully as it is prone to boiling over.
- Add the sugar and stir till dissolved.
- Place 10 litres of cold water in your brewing drum.
- Tip in the hot malt extract/sugar solution.
- Add another 3 – 5 litres of cold water – this additional water makes up the correct volume, but it also cools the solution to the right temperature for your yeast to propagate. The solution (also known as the “wort”) should be at room temperature before you add your yeast. If the sides of your drum feel warm, the solution is still too hot – leave it to cool.
- Add the yeast to the solution and stir thoroughly.
Sealing Your Fermenting Drum
If you really want to minimise your beer-making effort, you can cover your fermenting drum by loosely putting its lid in place. Don’t seal it tightly - your beer is going to produce a whole lot of carbon dioxide as it ferments and this needs to be able to escape or your drum will explode.
While the above method will work well enough, the drawback is that outside air can enter the fermenting drum, carrying with it undesirable bacteria. A better method is to make a simple airlock and seal the lid of your drum tightly.
To make a simple airlock, prepare the lid of your drum (before you start making your beer) by boring a hole in it to the diameter of your plastic hose. Insert one end of your hose a couple of centimetres into the hole and seal with adhesive tape or silicone caulking.
When you’ve made your beer solution, seal your drum tightly and place the other end of the hose in a large container of water. Carbon dioxide can now escape from the drum by bubbling up through the water, but air can’t get in.
Place your fermentation drum in a cool dark place where it won’t be disturbed and leave for 7 to10 days – it’ll take this long for the yeast to convert all the sugar into alcohol.
Fermentation, though it brews your beer, doesn’t produce the final product. Your solution now contains alcohol, but it won’t have beer’s characteristic fizz. To carbonate the beer you need to give the yeast that still exists in the solution a little more food to work on – this process is called “priming”.
The easiest way to prime your beer is to add 2 level teaspoons of sugar to each bottle that will hold your precious brew.
Using your plastic hose and hose clamp, siphon the beer into your plastic (sugar-containing) bottles. To siphon effectively your fermenting drum should be higher than your bottles – placing the drum on a table and your bottles on the floor works well.
When siphoning, make sure not to suck up any sediment from the floor of the drum.
Only fill your bottles 4/5ths full (your beer will produce more carbon dioxide in the bottle and this needs room to expand). Cap tightly and shake a couple of times to mix the sugar.
Allow your beer to age in the bottle for a week in a cool place – don’t put it in the fridge during this time as the low temperature will stop the yeast working and the beer won’t carbonate.
There you have it. For minimal financial outlay and a little work you’ve made around 20 litres of good honest New Zealand beer. Next time it’ll be even cheaper because you already have all the equipment.
So, when the 2010 FIFA World Cup hits our screens, you and your mates will be able to enjoy the tournament with liquid refreshment at a fraction of the cost of commercially brewed beers.How to Make Beer the Cheapest, Easiest Way,