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Home brewing guide (part 2): The brewing process

Insights 12 June 2020

Greenland’s Ram Quarter development in Wandsworth is the site of Britain’s longest continuously running brewery, with an unbroken history of beer making which dates back to the early 16th century – a tradition which is today maintained by on-site brewer John Hatch.  In celebration of Beer Day Britain on 15 June, John gives advice to budding home brewers.  In this second part, he talks you through the process of brewing at home, as well as some of the pitfalls!

When you’ve chosen and prepared your ingredients, you’re ready to start brewing.  Recreating the brewing process at home is easier than it sounds.

When I first attempted to homebrew as a student (very soon after my student grant had run out!), it was with a tin of ‘sludge’ bought from the local pharmacy.  The sludge was a can of malt extract blended with hop extracts, so all I had to do was add water, get it to the right temperature, and add yeast.  It sounds simple, but a combination of using the wrong water and fermenting my beer by a radiator (far too hot for ale) meant that my first attempt was a disaster!

Homebrewing has since moved on, and the easiest method is now a brew-in-a-bag system.  You will need to buy a decent thermometer to get your preferred mashing temperature accurate.  This guide is based on a 13-litre fermentation – generally your saucepan should be double your fermentation size, so use a 30-litre pot if you can get one.  Here’s how to do it.

1.            Start by heating 21 litres of liquor (your prepared water) in a large saucepan on the hob to approximately 71° C (or to 4-5° C warmer than the mash temperature which will usually be between 64-70° C.)

2.            Turn off the heat. Get a muslin / nylon bag and fill it with your chosen grain and lower it into the hot liquor.

3.            Give the “mash” a good stir inside the bag, breaking any clumps and leave it to rest so the enzymes can break down the proteins and starches. Keep the mash temperature stable as set out in your recipe and leave to rest for 60-90 mins.

4.            Carefully lift out the bag, allowing any residual liquid (now known as wort) to drain into the saucepan. Then turn up the heat and boil the wort, adding hops of your choice – which hops you use and when you add them will change the aroma and taste of the beer.

5.            Cool the boiled wort by leaving it covered (to avoid contamination) for a few hours.

6.            Once cooled, add the yeast and let nature do the rest. Your chosen yeast will have a recommended temperature to ferment it at, but room temperature is ideal for most.  After fermentation, put the beer into bottles and leave it to settle for a secondary fermentation for around two weeks in a cool, dark place.

7.            Enjoy your home-brewed beer!

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