Brewing is an old craft, and while it can be a complex and nuanced hobby, in the end it’s all about four simple ingredients: hops, grains (and/or malt extract), water, and yeast. Using these simple elements, the brewer can create beer styles that have origins from all around the world.
The most important step in brewing is sanitation. First, thoroughly clean all equipment with warm, lightly soapy water and rinse well to remove any residual soap. Then sanitize with household bleach (1 tablespoon per gallon of water) or no-rinse acid sanitizer like StarSan.
Once sanitized, heat about 3 gallons of water until just below boiling and add your hops (if not included in the malt extract you’re using). Stir to dissolve the extract and bring the water back to a boil.
When the wort is boiling, turn off the burner and remove the pot from the heat. Allow the wort to cool to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit and then transfer it to your fermentation vessel.
At this point you can add your choice of spices and sugar to the wort as per your recipe. If you’re making an all-grain batch, the next step is mashing. Then you’ll mix the crushed malt with hot water inside a large vessel called a mash tun. The mashing process activates enzymes that break down the malt’s starches into simple sugars. The resulting liquid is known as mash wort and it’s the base for your beer.