Beer is pretty simple, really. Just four basic ingredients – water, malt, hops, and yeast – will, with a little time, transform from an unremarkable, dirty liquid into a clear, refreshing, amber nectar, savoured by humans for as long as civilisation has existed. Yet, in spite of this simplicity, the resulting variety is astounding. The 2016 World Beer Cup considered 96 different style categories, with a total of 6,596 entries across the competition. And this doesn’t even begin to cover the broad range of beers bubbling away in the garden sheds and under the stairs of thousands of keen amateurs all over the world. So naturally, with all this competition, I had to give brewing a go.
It doesn’t take a lot to get started. My current set up consists of the “BEER BEGINNERS EQUIPMENT STARTER KIT” featured on art-of-brewing.co.uk, which covers the bare necessities: fermenting barrel, stirrer, siphon, and so on. Barely remembered chemistry lectures compelled me to throw in a hydrometer. With that, a bottle capper, and a beer kit, I was ready to go.
As I write this I am preparing for my next brew. By that, I mean I am enduring the tedious and laborious process of sterilising my bottles and equipment. Any hint of bacteria in the brewing environment can cause the beer to sour, ruining the flavour with microscopic germ poop. So my fermenting bucket is now filled to the brim with warm disinfectant and empty bottles, and soon I’ll be ready to set all that aside and get started on the fun part: mixing up the beer itself.
My hands have started to itch and peel. I should probably wear gloves for this bit next time.