Thursday, February 10, 2011

Arlo's First Home Brew

It took me the majority of the winter but I finally convinced my buddy Arlo of the necessity of taking up home brewing. Sometimes it can be a difficult argument. Things have changed dramatically in the last thirty years and home brewing is no longer the only way to drink quality, fresh beer of an interesting nature made without preservatives or adjuncts. Now there is a selection of products both local and foreign, that meet all these requirements no further away than your local specialty liquor store. Indeed, the selection could be better at times, particularly that of quality foreign beers, but that is the topic for gentlemenly discussion of another day. My point boils down to this question: if so much great beer is available no more than a short stroll down the street, as it often is in Victoria, then why home brew?

The reason that probably jumps to mind first is cost. There are no two ways about it, home brewing is cheap. You can cruise down to your local brewing supply store and pick up pretty much everything you will ever need for home brewing, including your first batch, for around $150. If you don't want all the bells and whistles you can probably trim this down under a $100. This will make you roughly 10 six packs, which even the most ruggedly cheap commercial beer would cost around $80 to buy. From then on its 25 bucks for a new kit and another 60 beer, and if you want to get into grain brewing, things only get cheaper. However, despite the fact affordability converts many to home brewing, due to the time and effort involved only the most determined cost-cutters stay with it for this reason alone.

In the world of the home brewer anything is possible. Traditional ingredients, style guidelines, and popular opinion have no meaning, unless you say they do. You are free to experiment, to explore, to learn from your mistakes, and to glory in your triumphs. Brewing is the ultimate fusion of science and art. It will reward a mind that is logical, methodical and observant but it will equally reward one that is artistic, creative and sensitive to the surrounding world. Most of all it will reward the mind that can balance these two sides equally. There is nothing quite like the feeling after several batches that were good but not great, of finally striking pay dirt. It is a special moment when you watch someone else try your beer and see their eyes light up and speak those words of surprise that every brewer craves to hear: "You made this?" Anyways, probably time I reel myself in before I start getting emotional and tearing up. What I'm trying to say is it's the satisfaction that comes from the creation involved in home brewing and the ability to control that creation that keeps one engaged with the hobby.

With this in mind we emarked on the maiden voyage of Arlo's home brew career. There would be plenty of time in the future for using extracts and grains and learning how to sparge and mash; for now we would keep it nice and simple. We would start with a basic, but high quality India Pale Ale beer kit from Brew House that we would jazz up with an extra dose of liquid yeast I had in my fridge, and some pellet hops to give it some more bitterness and hop character. The whole process probably took us around an hour and a half, including time for malted refreshments. The following pictures should give you a sense for how the session unfolded.

Cracking open the kit

Brewing up some hop tea

Pouring in the yeast

And just like that we're done, time to let it ferment


  1. You should have told Arlo that resistance is futile! He very excitedly showed me the carboy as soon as I got there last night. You've made a real apprentice out of him. Well done! :D

  2. We tried his IPA when we transferred it and its already tasting pretty good with a nice long, bitter finish. I think he'll make a fine brewer indeed!