Do the brew

A guide to brewing beer at home

My cousin asked if I still shower. A friend asked if it was poisonous. My dad asked if I was making meth.

While I might not be Walter White, I do have a little in common with Hank Schrader. No, it’s not because I have a rock — oh wait, I mean “mineral” collection — it is because I too am a homebrewer.

People have a lot of misconceptions when they find out that I homebrew. After all, Phil, a cousin of mine in his 40s, legitimately thought that I brewed in my bathtub. But maybe that’s just how they did it back in the Philippines when he was younger. Many, many others doubt the quality of my beer. They always ask, “But how does it taste?”

Pretty damn good, if you ask me.

Irresistable. Magical. Overwhelming. Radiant. Pathetic. Over the summer, my friends and I made our own, customized version of the board game “Apples to Apples,” a sort of circle jerk of in-jokes. Instead of using the supplied noun cards, we made our own.

One of the most sought after cards is “Derek in the beer aisle.” My love of beer has literally made me a punch line. I can’t even smell a beer without a snide comment. However, I was able to convert them into drinking beer from glasses instead of bottles, so all is not lost.

My love of beer covers the entire spectrum, from a chewy, roasty, chocolate-laced Russian Imperial Stout that pours like motor oil, to a crisp and refreshing saison with delicate notes of pepper and citrus. And my beer? You would be hard-pressed to pick it out of a mixed-six of craft beer.

Honestly, making good beer isn’t that hard. It definitely takes a lot of patience and attention to detail, but if you can follow a recipe and take the care to keep everything clean, you can have 5 gallons of delicious homebrew ready to drink in a month. And currently, I only spend about $25 on ingredients per batch.

Brewing has several basic steps. First, you mash grains to release sugars, then boil and add hops. Yeast is pitched and fermentation begins. After a couple of weeks, the beer can be bottled and carbonation takes another couple of weeks. Once carbonated, the beer is ready to drink.

Recipe formulation is one of the funnest aspects of homebrewing. In a very democratic fashion, many breweries release their recipes to the homebrewing community and it’s a great place to start. The esteemed Russian River, whose beers sit atop many top-10 lists, has not only released recipes, but it has collaborated with homebrewing supply stores to develop ingredient kits. The ability to customize a commercial beer recipe to better suit my palate is an amazing ability.

Drinking a bottle of my own creation may very well be one of the most satisfying experiences I have known. Imagine the feeling of eating a meal that you cooked from scratch, and it turned out great. Now imagine if you spent six hours making that meal, and you could only taste it a month later. It’s definitely a labor of love.

Becoming a homebrewer is like becoming a parent. The end result is that you may become an alcoholic. In all seriousness, if you brew, you will grow deeply attached to your beer. It happens to me every time. The first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do before turning in is check on my beer. Some nights I’ll leave the door to my closet open. To me, there is nothing more relaxing than falling asleep to the steady burp of beer fermenting.