Liquid bread. That’s what some have called beer. It’s a drink with life sustaining calories. Just ask Clifton Vial, who survived -17 degree temperatures by eating canfuls of frozen beer when his truck went into a snow drift near Nome, Alaska last December. If that doesn’t sound impressive enough, consider that our ancestors have been brewing for the past 10,000 years, in an effort to create a consumable item that lasted longer than other foods and provided a drinking source in which no human pathogens can survive.
Since ancient times, people have recognized that the consumption of alcoholic drinks was a way of avoiding water-borne diseases such as cholera. Beer was also frequently used on wounds as a disinfectant, and even as a sterile bath water for baby’s first bath. Sounds nice.
Most of the beer that is commonly consumed in modern times is lager, which can be very flavorful, but it requires a long, cold fermentation. For home brewing purposes, Ale will be much easier to create. Ale is a type of beer that is fermented at room temperature by strains of yeast that like warmer temperatures. This warmth can also cause a full fermentation in half the time of lager.
To Make An Ale
At the very least, you will need malt, clean water, ale yeast, hops, a container to ferment in, and an air lock.
Virtually any malts or similar sugars can be used for ale. They can be of barley, wheat or other grain origin. They can be syrup malt or dried spray malt powder. Or you could use both. Some additional malt sugars (and more importantly, flavor) can come from some roasted malt grain that you steep in your brewing water for a richer flavor. Just place these whole grains in a cloth bag and soak them in the water like a tea bag, according to the recipe or your best judgment. A wide variety of malts are available at home brew shops.
This is a pretty obvious ingredient. Your water doesn’t have to come from a special place. But it’s best if it tastes ok, and doesn’t have chlorine in it. If you are brewing in the city, you may want to get a few jugs of spring water, or at least use filtered water. Chlorine commonly causes a plastic bandage taste in the finished beer.
Ale yeast comes in a plethora of choices. Some are capable of producing specific esters and compounds for unique flavors like butterscotch, caramel and other nice flavors. These ferment best around 70 degrees F. If you are making very strong ale with a high alcohol content, make sure the yeast strain can handle the job. Never use bread yeast, as your beer will taste doughy.
Many different varieties of hops are available for your ale. Follow a recipe, or your instincts. More hops generally means more bitterness, but the right hops can give you floral notes or a citrus bite. Hops aren’t just there in your ale because someone thought bitter was a good flavor. They serve a greater purpose. Hops create an acidic environment in your fermenting ale that benefits the yeast. Hops also act as a preservative for your finished ale.
Amber American Ale Recipe (1 gallon recipe)
-1 pound of dried amber malt extract
-¼ ounce of Cascade hops pellets
-1 package of ale yeast, any style will work
-1 ounce of corn sugar to carbonate the ale, and bottles to handle the pressure of carbonation
-Cheap vodka to sanitize your kitchen equipment and bottles.
In a multi-gallon stainless steel or enamel pot, boil 1 gallon of water with the malt extract and the Cascade hops for exactly 60 minutes. (Watch that it doesn’t boil over.)
Cool and strain the gallon of brew into a clean 1-gallon jug. Let the brew cool to room temperature, as it needs to be below 80 F before you add the yeast.
Add the dried yeast to the brew.
Add the sanitized fermentation lock to the fermentation vessel. These little air traps are available at home brew shops, or you can make your own. Watch your jug carefully for a few days. If bubbling (fermentation) doesn’t occur in 12 to 24 hours, your yeast was dead, or your brew was too hot and the heat killed the yeast. Add more yeast to save the beer.
Set your gallon jug in a sink for the first few days of fermentation, as the malt and hops combination are usually very foamy and will bubble over. After a bubbly first week, clean the airlock and put it back on the jug. After another three weeks, the sediment should be thick at the bottom of the vessel, the bubbling should have stopped and the ale should be starting to clear a bit.
Carefully pour the flat beer into a clean container, leaving the sediment in the original jug. Add the 1 ounce of corn sugar and mix with a sanitized spoon. Prepare a small funnel, and sanitized bottles and caps for bottling. Bottle into sanitized bottles and cap them. Soda bottles are fine if you don’t have beer bottles. Use new caps and a special tool to cap the bottles. You’ll need about ten bottles (12-ounce size) and caps for one gallon of ale. Keep the beer at room temp for two weeks as the remaining yeast in the beer eats up the corn sugar and carbonates your ale. Chill the beer and enjoy it, after the two week carbonation period.
Total fermentation and carbonation time — 6 weeks.