Kicking back with friends and a delicious microbrew is a great way to unwind. Even better than a well-advertised store-bought beer, however, is the satisfaction that comes from drinking your own concoction. With the rising popularity of small-batch, unique and unconventional beers, home brewing is a great hobby for rookies and connoisseurs alike. Remember to source some quality drink labels if you decide to join the swathes of home brewers.
Brewing is an ideal hobby for dental students because it combines two things that many of us are already passionate about: art and science. The science of brewing dictates most of the preparation. How much water will be used? How will the malt combine with the flavor of the hops? How long will it take for the yeast to completely ferment the sugars into alcohol? The art makes it unique. You can keep it simple, or you can be adventurous and create a combination of flavors that has never been done before.
Now I won’t exaggerate, I’ve only done one home brew. While it was a lot of fun, there is certainly some technique involved. My roommate and fellow UNE dental student Keris Flynn and I encountered some hurdles while making our flagship brew. Hopefully the knowledge I can pass on may be of some use in your home brewing endeavors to avoid making the same mistakes we did.
- Take a class. They give you free beer to sample and tell you a thing or two about hops, grain vs. extract, the brewing process and the necessary equipment. They’ll also give some nice recommendations, like a good first brew. We attempted an oatmeal stout, which in retrospect may have been a little too advanced. Start with a pale ale.
- Get some supplies. Look at a local craft brewing store, or visit homebrewing.com. “] Hops come in many varieties and can be found anywhere that sells home brewing supplies.[/caption] These stores will have all necessary equipment for brewing, as well as packs of the brewing ingredients. We purchased a kit from a local craft brewing store that had everything we needed, except a pot. And that’s an important part. Make sure you have a 5 gallon pot, and be sure it’s 5 gallons to avoid overflowing. Burnt extract caked to the stove is hard to clean up.
- When you’re opening your box of supplies, don’t break anything. Like a couple of kids on Christmas, we ripped open our box and broke our glass hydrometer. A hydrometer is a somewhat important tool for home-brewing, as it calculates your percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Unless you want your beer to be dangerously potent, or nonalcoholic, you want a hydrometer. Luckily, our third roommate generously agreed to take part in a controlled experiment comparing our finished beer and a 4.5% ABV Miller Lite to determine our relative ABV.
- Filter twice. And sanitize everything more than necessary.
We did not sufficiently filter. If you looked really closely at the bottom of the bottles once our beer was finished, there was a slight remnant of yeast patty. It wouldn’t hurt anyone, but it’s not a pretty sight to see after finishing the entire beer.
Luckily, the kits you can purchase have a detailed step-by-step guide on how to successfully brew. Combine that with some insight from our first attempt, and you should be well on your way to sharing your new hobby with friends with a home-brew tasting event. Happy brewing!
~ Ava Lindert, New England ’17