Making Beer in Plain Language

“The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.”
-Guggenheim Fellowship-winning professor of rhetoric and comparative literature Judith Butler via the Bad Writing Contest

Huh? At least the terminology surrounding beer making ain’t that obtuse, but it certainly could use some simplification. For novice home brewers, such as us here at Homegrown Evolution, the terminology creates an unnecessary barrier as impenetrable as a graduate school seminar in the humanities. Let’s see, there’s a mash, a mash tun, a wort, some sparging, malting, all the while specific gravities are measured and hopsing schedules followed. We’ve made beer using kits from a home brew shop and found the process relatively simple, but the thought of making an all grain batch (extracting our own fermentable sugars from the grain rather than using the extracted syrup in a kit) seemed intimidating. Thankfully comrades Ben, Scott and Eddie showed us how to do an all grain batch a few weeks ago. Here, in plain language and crappy pictures is how it works. To the possible horror of beer aficionados, we’ll substitute plain English in the interest of encouraging more folks to try this:

1. Slightly sprouted and roasted grains from a home brew shop (they’ve been sprouted and roasted for you) are soaked in hot water.

2. Music, courtesy of Triple Chicken Foot, kills some time while the grain steeps.

3. After soaking, the liquid is drained off and more hot water is added. The liquid pouring into the pot on the ground contains sugar from the grains.

4. The extracted sugars are boiled with some hops for an hour.

5. After boiling for an hour you cool down the liquid as rapidly as possible. Here comrade Ben uses ice and a coil of copper tubing with water from a garden hose flowing through it, to bring that temperature down.

6. The cooled liquid is poured into a glass carboy and yeast is added. After a week or so this will be transferred with a tube into a second carboy. After about two to three weeks of fermentation some additional sugar is added (for carbonation) and the beer is bottled. After bottling I’ve discovered that it’s best to wait for at least three weeks, to let the carbonation happen and the flavors mellow, before sitting down with a post-structuralist theory tome and popping open a cool one.

From the pictures you can see that brewing from scratch like this takes some special equipment. You can build these items yourself, or you can skip the equipment and brew with an extract kit from your local home brew shop with little more than a large pot and a carboy. Remember that if prisoners can make wine behind bars (recipe for prison “Pruno” here), we all can certainly make an acceptable beer in our kitchens.

For detailed info on how to brew beer and make your own brewing equipment see John Palmer’s free ebook How to Brew.

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  1. For the Beginning Home brewer Hopped Malt Extract is the way to go but brewing from grain is the way the that Breweries Do it and its cheaper once you have all the equipment and you have more control of what goes into your beer , but keep in mind it takes about 5-8 hours to brew a Beer from Malted Barley (or any other Malted Grain).

    If you want a Basic Starter Kit get the Coppers “Microbrewery” Kit this will give you all the basic Equipment and you can make some beer in less than 1/2 an hour >Coopers Kits are like the Betty Crocker of Home brewing.Nice and easy but you get that guilty feeling of I didn’t really make this myself.

    If you can go to your local Homebrew Store to get better equipment ,ingeedients and information .

    If your Looking online try Seven Bridges Cooperative who supply Organic Brewing Ingredients to Homebrewers and Microbreweries .Seven Bridges has all sorts of organic brewing Ingredients.

    Also if you are looking to Grow something related to Beer try Hops which are in short supply to the Homebrew trade and where reaching prices of $25/LB to the Brewing trade in 2008.

    Also Visit your local microbrewery and have a chat with the Brewer if you can and make sure you drink plenty of his beer :p.

  2. That looks like fun! I’ve made wine and mead before, but trying to keep my hooch at a stable temperature for six months to a year in LA has been challenging. I’m either digging a wine cellar or switching to beer.

  3. That’s very interesting. I’m a home vegetable fermenter, but have never brewed. Makes me want to give it a whirl. I’d like it if fiddlers showed up during the slow moments.

  4. Ilex,

    Yes, LA is very frustrating for so many reasons! You never know when you’ll get a 80 degree day in December. Beer making is easier than wine and mead since the fermentation time is a lot shorter. We do our beer making in the winter since our house gets really hot in the summer time. If one of those hot days looms we’ll keep the carboy in a big tub of water.

  5. Hey all. We were brewing a all grain robust porter. 1 week before bottling we’ll add fresh vanilla pod. Then at bottling will have 1.5 cups of bourbon added. Then we’ll keg it for a square dance in late January! woo hoo!

  6. I don’t remember exactly what I searched for in order to find your site, but I have found it informative. I’m curious, however, why the repeated use of the term ‘comrade’ when referring to people? Are you trying to emphasize and even thrust a Marxist philosophy in the face of the reader, or what?

  7. Rufus,
    I’m no Marxist–more of a left leaning libertarian, I suppose, if you want to classify things (and I don’t–personally I wish we could all move beyond politics and just do good things!). “Friend” has been co-opted by Facebook. “Brother and sister” doesn’t seem right. “Dude” seems too Southern California. That leaves “comrade” unless you can all think of something else.

  8. Doing good things, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and no matter your belief system, a good thing to all if it is done by your own will and own hand. Left leaning people, however, command that others join their party (or is that Party?) and that just seems fascist. You can pay anyone for whatever you want; demand that I pay for it with my taxes is fascism, marxism, and just wrong, ‘comrade’ or not.

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