Brewing is a fascinating combination of science and art. It starts with a cereal grain, most often barley but sometimes wheat or rye. The seeds are run through a process called malting. This causes the seeds to germinate, acting like they are growing and releasing enzymes that break down the starches in the grains into sugars that yeast can turn into alcohol. It is this process of combining grains, hops and yeast that allows for the wide variety of styles. For some brewers, this means steadfastly upholding Reinheitsgebot (the German purity law) and sticking to traditional ingredients, while for others it is about going off script, inventing new equipment and taking flavors to the next level.
Whether you’re an old school purist or someone who wants to experiment with different flavours, there’s always something to enjoy about craft beer. It’s an inclusive drink with a huge culture around it, including breweries, beer clubs and subscriptions. It also offers a great way to try ingredients that commercial breweries wouldn’t use, due to the cost of mass production and the fact they need to appeal to a broad customer base.
There are many ways to make your own craft beer, from buying a kit that includes everything you need (typically a can of malt extract with hop oils and a sachet of yeast) to home brewing, which involves preparing a large vessel at home, known as a mash tun, with hot water and letting the ingredients do their thing for up to two weeks before fermentation. Whatever you decide to do, there are some essential things to remember to make sure your brewing experience is as successful as possible.