Brewing Beer Concise Guide

If making beer for the first time, simplicity is the keynote and the instructions and suggestions given here are based on this assumption. Beermaking kits containing ingredients, equipment and instructions also make a good introduction to the hobby and, if you find you enjoy it, there are lots of ways to experiment and add variety to your beers. However you begin, try to buy from a good home-brewing supplier.


Light and pale ales and bitters Pale gold in colour and have a dry and bitter taste. They are made from light malts and have a relatively high hop content.

Brown ales Made with darker malts, contain fewer hops and are generally sweeter than bitters.

Stout Almost black in colour and is made from very dark malt. It has a high hop content so is bitter but some varieties are sweetened to give a smoother flavour.

Lager Originated in Europe, is pale in colour and has a light, fresh taste. It is produced by a different fermentation process to British beers.

BASIC INGREDIENTS Malted barley Varies in colour from light to dark depending upon the degree of roasting. Before use it needs to be cracked and then mashed by steeping it in hot water for a time at a controlled temperature to convert the starch to sugar; the resultant liquid is known as the ‘wort’. Alternatively, light or dark malt extract in syrup or powder form may be used as the basis for the wort. It may be combined with small quantities of malted barley or crystal malt (crack them with a rolling pin or in an electric blender and boil them with the hops) or other cereals to vary the flavour. Hops Add aroma and bitterness to beer and also act as a preservative. Different varieties are available like the aromatic yellow Goldings or the more bitter, green Fuggles hops. Imported hops such as Saaz are used for lagers. Hop extract and ready-hopped concentrated worts are also available.

Sugar Adds sweetness and will increase the alcohol content of the finished beer; plain white is ideal. Since beer is a long drink, it should not be overly alcoholic and 3-6 per cent alcohol content is normal. Moist brown sugar or glucose chips may be used instead of sugar to vary the flavour, and glucose adds extra body. Sugar is also used to prime beer after bottling to cause a secondary fermentation and produce a sparkling brew. Add 1-2 ml (¼-½ teaspoon) sugar per bottle (the more sugar the more fizz), using a small funnel and then seal.

Water Hard water is particularly good for making bitters and light and pale ales, while soft water is best for milds and stouts. Tap water may be treated with small amounts of water-treatment chemical to make it soft or hard.

Yeast Brewers’ yeast is available in liquid or powder form and should be added when the wort is between 18— 21°C (65-70°F). This temperature should be maintained throughout fermentation which lasts for about one week. Beers are generally made with a top fermenting

yeast which should form a thick head after 24 hours and last for 2-3 days. Scum should be skimmed off and discarded. The beer will then ‘simmer’ with small bubbles rising to the top. This stage should stop after 5-6 days when fermentation will have ceased; a hydrometer will help determine this point. The beer is then ready for bottling.

Irish moss Boiled with the wort acts as a clearing agent. Beer finings may be added to clear a finished beer but are not generally necessary when the beer is to be bottled.


Make sure that all nylon, plastic or polythene items are white or clear in colour and of good quality. Never use strongly-coloured items. All equipment must be sterilized with boiling water before use. Saucepan Use large aluminium, stainless steel or unchipped enamel pans to boil the hops. An old Burco boiler is ideal or you can use any electric boiler.

Strainer Used to strain the hopped liquid into the fermentation bin. Fermentation bin A wide-necked lidded polythene bin roomy enough to allow for vigorous fermentation; a small plastic dustbin will do. Mark any ‘topping up’ levels on the outside before you begin.

Spoon Long-handled wood or plastic for stirring and skimming.

Thermometer To check the temperature of the wort before and during fermentation.

Hydrometer Measures the the specific gravity of a liquid and will indicate how much sugar is in the wort and therefore the potential alcohol content of the brew. It should give a reading of 1006 or lower when beer fermentation has finished. If the reading is higher, leave the beer for another day and test again.

Polythene tubing About 2 m (6 ft) and a glass u-tube for siphoning beer into bottles. Storage Containers Beer or cider bottles are ideal and can be collected easily. Bottles may be sealed with crown corks or polythene stoppers. The advantage of the latter is that they can be fitted by hand and can be reused. Crown corks need to be fitted with a crown-corking machine. Beer may also be stored in bulk in a pressurized container.


(makes 23 litres, 5 gallons)

1.8 kg (4 Pb) malt extract (light) 5 ml (1 teaspoon) Irish moss

5 ml (1 teaspoon) water-treatment crystals for pale ale

85 g (3 oz) hops (Go!dings) 0.90 kg (2 Pb) sugar (white or soft brown) 14 g (½ oz) beer yeast

Dissolve the malt extract in 13.6 litres (3 gallons) of warm water and boil for about 30 minutes with the Irish moss and water-treatment crystals. Add hops and boil for about 30 minutes more. Strain this hopped wort into the fermentation bin and rinse (sparge) the hops with a kettleful of hot water. Add the sugar and stir well. Top up to 22.5 litres (5 gallons) with cold water and add the yeast when wort is 18-21°C (65-70°F). Stir and cover and leave in a warm place. Check that fermentation is progressing and skim as necessary. When fermentation is complete, siphon the beer into bottles, filling them to within about 2.5 cm (1 in) of the top. Prime the beer by adding 1-2 ml (¼-½ teaspoon) sugar per bottle and then seal, and keep in a warm place for 2 days to allow secondary fermentation to begin. Store in a cool dark place for about 2 weeks before tasting — if you can wait! The beer will improve for up to about 3 months.