Amber Waves

The Kitchen

    In our honey show, Comb Alone, I said that bees were the only critters that manufactured human food. I also suggested that bee keeping was a really swell hobby. Well, I've had time to think about it and, um, I was wrong. You know, bees don't want you to take their honey, okay? And even if you manage to do so, what are you going to do with it all? You just can't go through it that fast. I was also wrong about bees being the only critters that make food, okay? Because yeasts make food and yeasts are critters. Well, they're fungi which means they're kind of like an insect, kind of like a plant. But they're definitely alive and they are very adept at converting grain into beer ... and they don't have stingers.
    Sure, home brewing your own beer is a little bit of work. It takes some unusual tools and some rather new and exotic ingredients, but it's not hard to do. In fact, it's a lot like setting up your own aquarium. [opens a beer bottle] Aaah. It's about creating an environment where yeast can grow and eat and raise little baby yeasts and otherwise live out their amazingly short little life spans. [pours his beer into a glass] Mmm.
    Now, I know honey is indeed a golden elixir. But hey, when's the last time a pint of it made you lick your lips, huh? That is good eats. [takes a sip which stings his bee stung lip] Ow. Darn it. Stinkin' bees.

Brewing 101: Find A Brew Shop
Marietta Homebrew Supply: Marietta, GA - 11:42 am

GUESTS: Chris Foster, Brewmaster
              Austin Powers

    Two things to keep in mind about a brew supply shop. One, it should be completely lacking in decor. Never trust a well decorated brewer supply shop. Number two, the shop is only as good as the brain that's running it, okay? Now if you are uncertain as to the quality of the gray matter you are going to meet, give it a test.

AB: Hello, my good man. I am in need of brewer's yeast.
CHRIS FOSTER: Ale or lager?
AB: Meaning?
CF: Meaning do you want it top-fermenting or bottom-fermenting.
AB: Ah. Excuse me just a moment.

    Come here. Come here. Here's the deal. There are two major branches in the beer family tree: the lagers and the ales. Now ales, despite the fact that there's a lot of variation here, all basically have the same characteristics.

AUSTIN POWERS: They're robust and full bodied, baby, with complex flavor, aroma and a sassy bite, yeah!

    ------------------ BEER -----------------
  /                                                      \
  |                                                      |
ALE                                               LAGER
  |                                                      |
BARLEYWINE                     PALE-AMERICAN
  |                                    DARK          |
  |                                                      |
  |          FLANDERS      HELLESBOCK    |
  |          LAMBIC          WEIZENBOCK    |
  |          TRAPPIST                              |
  |                                     LIGHT-GERMAN
BITTER-ORDINARY              DARK         |
  |         SPECIAL                                 |
  |         X-SPECIAL                OKTOBERFEST
  |                                                     |
BROWN ALE                                  PILSNER
  |                                                     |
PALE ALE                                 RAUCHBIER
  |                                                     |
PORTER                              VIENNA LAGER
  |         SWEET

    Ales are produced by top-fermenting yeast, that is, the yeast like to live on top of the fermenting beer. They also like to work with warm temperatures and they work relatively quickly.
    Lager on the other hand is a whole other ball game.

GERMAN: Lagers are light, crisp, refreshing and mellow. And since Germans invented the American beer industry, most American beers are actually German lagers, ja.

    Lagers are produced by bottom-fermenting yeast, that is, the  yeast that like to live and work on the bottom of the fermenting beer. They also prefer cooler temperatures and they work rather slowly.

AB: Since I don't have a refrigerator that'll hold five gallons of lagering beer, I think I'll go with the ale yeast.
CF: All right. Well since we have quite a selection, let's go to the yeast refrigerator.
AB: Excellent. After you.

    I think we've got a live one here, folks.

AB: Wow. Some yeast you got there. What do I need?
CF: When are you going to be brewing?
AB: I'm brewing today.

CF: Then we'll give you a liquid pitch-able yeast.
AB: Pitch-able? Meaning ... ?
CF: Meaning it's already in there and ready to go.

Liquid Yeast

AB: Awake. Alive. The whole nine yards, huh.
CF: Just keep it refrigerated. When you're ready to brew, pull it out, set it on your kitchen counter, and when you're ready to pitch it, just shake it up real good, get it in suspension, and open it slowly like a carbonated soda bottle.
AB: Carbonated, of course. So, what do they like to eat?
CF: Any kind of grain will do, but they really like the barley.
AB: Barley.

    [voice over] Like its cereal cousins wheat and rye, barley stores energy as starch in its kernels. Yeast can't eat this starch until it's been broken down into simple sugars through malting. To malt barley, the harvested kernels are kept warm and moist until they germinate. The germ produces enzymes which break the starches down into simple sugars. The kernels are then roasted producing malted barley.

AB: Well, Chris, I guess you need to set me up with some barley.
CF: Well, are we going to go all grain or are we going to use some of the malt extract?
AB: What's the difference?
CF: Well, if we go all grain then you actually have to convert the starches on your own.
AB: What's wrong with that?
CF: Well, you're looking at about a day long project.
AB: [disappointed] Oh. What's the option then?
CF: Well, if we go with the malt extract over here, the starch is already converted so it's pretty much ready to go for you.
AB: Really? All right. I'll go with this.
CF: Well, we could do that, but ...
AB: But what, Chris?
CF: ... but if we use just that, it's going to come out kind of bland. We've got to use some of these specialty grains to give it some flavor, give it some body. Think of it this way: this [malt extract] is our chicken over here, this [specialty grain] is our "Bam!"
AB: [laughs] Bam! Thanks, Chris.
CF: If you need anything, let me know.
AB: I will.

    I got to hand it to him. He knows his stuff. Bam. The last thing we're going to need, by the way: hops. Let's take a trip.

Hops Vine

    A hop is a pinecone-like flower which grows on a vine-like member of the cannabis family, a botanical plant well known for its, shall we say, chemical complexity. Now each one of these little flowers contains glands and these glands secrete a witch's brew of essential oils, acids and bitter resins which, when added to brewing beer, provide a perfect counterpoint to barley's sweet nature. They also help to preserve beer, okay, in the days before refrigeration, this was a pretty big innovation. I mean, imagine you were a brewer in Dresden in, say, I don't know, 1125. If you wanted your beer to have any shelf life at all, you had to make it very, very high in alcohol. Which is no problem until you consider the fact that most Europeans cities didn't have a decent water supply so people drank beer morning, noon and night, the average Joe maybe two liters a day. No wonder they called it the dark ages. Nobody remembered anything.
    You usually add hops twice during brewing: once for flavor early on and then at the end just for aroma.

The Reinheitsgebot, a law passed in 1516, stated that German
beer could only contain water, malted barley, hops and yeast.

The Kitchen

    Today I'm going to use two different hops. I'm going to use Cascade hops which come from the Cascade region of the United States and, also, Kent Goldings hops which come from the Kent region of England.

Cascade Hops
Kent Goldings Hops

CF: And here's your grain for you.
AB: Ah, thank you very much. Hey, what'd you do to it?
CF: I milled it for you.
AB: Milled it? Why?
CF: Well, it's kind of like coffee. You have to crack it to get all the flavor out of it.
AB: Good answer.

Milled Crystal Grain

Harry's / Whole Foods: Alpharetta, GA - 10:26 am

    Since the stuff that comes out of my kitchen faucet tastes and smells like a public pool, I do my brewing with bottled water, okay? It always tastes the same, it's relatively cheap, it's sterile and it's pre-measured. But, I never ever use mineral water. And I never ever use distilled water, okay? I go with just spring water or plain old drinking water. Now I'm going to need five gallons of water total and I'm only going to use four of these [gallon jugs] plus one pint. That means I'm about 7 pounds light.

Distilled Water

Spring Water

4 Gallons + 1 Pint Spring Water

    [picks up a bag of ice] What do you know, seven pounds. The cold will come in handy.

7 lb. Bag of Ice

Finely ground malt is mixed with dry milk to
make malted milk, the stuff in malted milk balls.

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Microbes #1, #2, #3 and #4

    At this point in your brewing career, your hardware needs are relatively few, some stuff you may even have laying around the house already. In the order of use:


a pot that can hold three gallons of water with room to spare,


one probe thermometer,


a colander that will fit inside


a mesh strainer with a handle long enough to securely rest on the lid of


a seven gallon fermenter. Yes, we've moved into specialty land here.


Note the airtight lid with a small hole that can receive


an air lock or bubbler which allows CO2 to escape without letting germ-laden air back in.


Also note the spigot. And you're going to need two of these, by the way ... at least the bucket part.


Next, six feet of plastic tubing that can fit onto the spigot.


You're going to need a bottling tube. See this valve? Push that down into the bottle, makes filling a snap.


Speaking of bottles, you can use standard beer bottles but you'll have to cap them. And let's face it, that's not a single serving. [holds up a bigger bottle] That's a single serving. That's a 20 ouncer with a little bound-up stopper that you can use over and over again. They're a little more expensive but they're very convenient. Oh, make sure you'll have enough bottles by dividing 640 ounces by the number of ounces in the bottle of your choice.


If you're going to use bottles, you're going to have to have a bottle brush, okay?

    Now all of this stuff is available in a kit, okay? If you decide to go that way, you're probably going to get some extras. This is called a racking cane. It's used to siphon liquids to and fro. I don't use it. You'll get a capper which is good to have around but, again, I don't use them very often. A hydrometer: this is used to measure the specific gravity of liquids. It's how you figure out how much alcohol is in your beer. It's good to know how to use this, but we're not going to use it today. Oh, you'll also need a large bucket or bus tub to sanitize things in.
    Speaking of sanitation, our mission here is to create an environment where our yeast can be fruitful and multiply. The problem is there are rogue microbes around everywhere that would be more than happy to muscle in on that neighborhood. You don't believe me? Go ask them.

[zoom in on counter top]

MICROBE #1: Mmmm. Plah. Plah. Plah. Yeah, I'd like to go live in a bucket of beer. I'm tired of this old biscuit batter.

[zoom in on drapes]

MICROBE #2: I say, I'm tired of living up on these dreary old drapes. A beer would be a lovely change. Gerald, what do you think?
MICROBE #3: Well, yes. I think a bottle of beer would just be smashing.

[zoom in on AB's face]

MICROBE #4: Did you say beer? I'll go pack.

    If you allow such unsavories to colonize your beer, it could end up tasting like you filtered it through the back end of a skunk. To prevent this, we're going to mix two ounces—that's four tablespoons—of plain old, unscented, household bleach with five gallons of water, okay? And make sure that the bucket's clean first and make sure that all of this other stuff's clean because the next step is that everything goes in the fermenter. Everything. Right down in there: the bubbler, the colander, the strainer, and last but not least the lid. Don't worry, it will bend. And don't worry about overflow. The edges need to be sanitized, too. The spigot we'll sanitize when we drain it. And don't worry about the bottles. We'll sanitize those later when we bottle. I'll just let that sit during the brewing period which begins now.

2 oz. Unscented Bleach
5 Gallons Water

    Step one: two gallons of the bottled water go into the large pot. Then our barley, half a pound goes into the water. Turn the heat to high. There.

2 Gallons Spring Water

1/2 lb. Milled Barley

    Next step, we're going to take the probe from our probe thermometer, we're going to wrap it around the handle once so that it doesn't hit the bottom and into the water. Set your thermometer to go off at 150 degrees. Okay, when that happens you want to turn the heat down and let the water temperature coast up to 155 degrees. Then use your timer and set it for half an hour. The whole thing is to have the water stay at 155 for half an hour. Why? Because we need to activate the enzymes in the barley so that they'll start to convert starch into sugar that the yeast can eat. Now this process is called 'mashing' by brewers. And the resulting liquid is called 'mash'.

Bring to 155° For 1/2 Hour

1/2 Hour Later

    Next up, we add one more gallon of the bottled water and then the malt extract. Now this is a standard seven pound container of malt extract. Since it's a syrup, you'll want to heat it up before you try adding it to the pot. It makes extraction easier. I like to do this in just a pot of hot water, but I put a towel down in the bottom so that the plastic won't melt on the bottom of the pan.

1 Gallon Spring Water

7 lbs. Malt Extract

    Meanwhile, go ahead and turn the heat all the way up to high. We're going to bring this to a boil and we're definitely going to do this uncovered, okay? Because there is now a lot of starch in this water, kind of like pasta water, so it's going to want to foam up. In fact if I were you, I wouldn't leave the room. When it starts to foam up too much, just turn down the heat until the foam subsides and then turn the heat up again.

10 mins. Later

    Reduce the heat to a simmer but always keep your eye on this pot from here on because it could foam up at any time.

    Speaking of time, time to add the first dose of hops, the flavoring hops. One ounce of the Cascade and three quarters ounce of the Goldings. We'll hold back on the rest of the Goldings and add as a aroma addition later on. Let this cook for 10 minutes.

1 oz. Cascade Hops
3/4 oz. Kent Goldings Hops

10 mins. Later

    Last but not least, the final dose of Goldings, one ounce. Now this is called dry-hopping and its sole purpose is to produce aroma in the finished beer. Now, kill the heat, cover, and wait five minutes.

1 oz. Kent Goldings Hops

Turn Off Heat &
Cover 5 mins.

An enzyme is like a chemical crowbar that
breaks down other chemical compounds.

The Kitchen

    Now, seven pounds of ice goes into the fermenter along with the pint bottle of water, refrigerated, and the final gallon of water, also refrigerated. Why the ice? Well, yeast will die in hot environments, right? And if we just let all this liquid cool down to room temperature naturally it could take hours and you-know-who might move in. So the strategy is, get everything down as quickly as possible, temperature-wise, so that our fungi can move right in. The way I see it, ice water mixed with that mash should come out to about 80 degrees.

7 lbs. ice +
1 Gallon & 1 pint
Refrigerated Spring Water

    Now it's time to strain or sparge our mash so the colander goes on top of the strainer securely. I like to use a colander over a strainer because the colander catches the big stuff while the strainer catches the little stuff.

    Once it is strained, this liquid is a wort, just another word for 'young beer'.


    Now I'm going to take its temperature and make sure that you sanitize your thermometer before you do this. Eighty-seven degrees. I think that's safe. Time to pitch the yeast.

Ideal temperature for storage is about 70°.

    Pitch is just a beer term for 'throw it in'. Since the yeast has kind of settled out on the bottom of the test tube, I'm going to give it a good shake. This is kind of like shaking up a soda, too, so always open it away from you. There. Now try not to spill a drop. Simply pour it in, and then walk away. Do not touch it. Nothing goes in there. There's no stirring, no shaking. Until the brewing process is over, that area stays empty.
    I'm going to go ahead and grab the top to the fermenter as well as the air lock. And this is going to take a little bit of muscle work. There. Secure. Now this little bubbler is designed to let gas out but not let any in. In order to do that, it's got to have a little bit of water in it, right up to the little line on the side. There. Make sure that is secure. From here on out ... make sure the handle's up ... from here on out, it is up to the yeast.

The Bathroom

    [voice over] Stash your fermenter some place where the temperature is on the cool side and the light is low: a closet, your basement, even a spare bathroom will do. In just a few hours, the air lock is going to start to gurgle and burp. It's a sure sign of fermentation inside. Now in seven days or so, the alcohol content and the acidity will rise to the point where the yeast won't be able to survive any longer. They'll die and sink to the bottom. The gurgling will slow. If on the seventh day the gurgles are more than a minute a part, the yeasts are mostly dead and the wort is beer.

Belgian wheat beer spontaneously fermented by
wild yeast is referred to as "lambic" beer.

    There is one thing missing, though: bubbles. If you want your beer to have fizz, you're going to have to prime it with some sugars so that you get a second fermentation in the bottle. Remember, the beer in here [the bucket] is flat. All the gas came out right there [at the air lock]. Of course, table sugar is a double sugar, a disaccharide, and yeasts can't eat it. But if we boiled this with a little bit of water, this bond right here will break and we'll have two monosaccharides, instant yeast chow.

    The big problem is, is if you get too much sugar, you'll wake up in the middle of the night, about a week after bottling to the sounds of [bottles breaking]. No, not a drive-by shooting, exploding bottles. Too much sugar equals too much CO2 equals broken glass.

    So, bring to a boil three quarters of a cup and only three quarters of a cup of sugar with a pint of water. Let it cook for 5 minutes and then move it directly to your second fermenting bucket. And you did remember to sanitize that and all these bottles and stoppers and the plastic hose and the bottling wand in sanitizing solution, right? For half an hour, right? Good. Because you know, sanitation is the first ingredient of good beer.

Boil 3/4 cup of sugar with a pint of water.

Mexican lagers are sometimes bottled with whole chiles inside.

The Kitchen & Bathroom

    [voice over] Place the fermenter on a high surface and connect the six feet of clean sanitized plastic tubing to the spigot. Pull the air lock out so that you don't create a vacuum, open the spigot and let the golden goodness flow into the second bucket.

Because his work proved the existence of yeast,
Louis Pasteur is called the father of modern brewing.

    Since the spigot is a couple of inches off the bottom of the fermenter, you can see the old, leftover, dead yeast remain behind, out of the beer; and that's good.
    Move the second bucket, the one containing the strained beer, up to the elevated position, attach the plastic tubing with the bottling wand and fill the bottles. Just make sure they're sanitized and in their boxes. That's the way I do it, at least. Open the spigot and then press the tube into the bottom of the bottle, okay, to open the valve. Now if you fill it all the way to the top, when you pull out the wand, you should have the perfect amount of headroom or air space left in each bottle. If you get a little over the sides, don't worry about it. You can clean it up later. Later is the key word. Don't try to clean the bottles now.
    Snap down the lids—I like to use latex gloves for this, prevents cross-contamination, of course—and then move them back into the cool spot. Now the bottles need to just sit. The beer has to age for about 7 more days in order for the second fermentation to take place. To tell you the truth, though, 14 days would be better.

The Back Porch

    Behold, the perfect pour. Mmm. Usually you leave just a little bit in the bottom because there's generally sediment in homebrew. Something you don't get in commercial beer.
    Now is home brewing really worth it? Is it worth the work? Is it worth the investment, albeit small investment? Is it worth the thought and is it worth the patience? Well ... [takes a sip]. You know, I think I'm going to let you decide for yourself. See you next time on Good Eats.

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Proofreading help by Sue Libretti

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010