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The First Year of Brewing All Grain Beer

There are hobbies and then there are hobbies that get your drunk, I guess. I’m a big fan of making slow booze. It creates a different relationship and experience around alcohol in the same way baking a cake is way different than buying something from a bakery. Just be cautious… booze is highly caloric and I hear a little whisper that it might just be a little bad for you.

My hobby of making fermented beverages went a step further this year with (a) the gift of a grain mill last Christmas, and (b) the almost immediate purchase in late January of a 95 litre brew kettle and the other items I needed to produce all grain beer in our back yard. Since then I’ve made ten batches of various beers of varying sizes using a technique called Brew in a Bag.

Brew in a Bag is a method of all grain brewing that only requires a brew kettle and a fine mesh bag pegged inside the pot for mashing in the grain. Mashing in is just a fancy word for throwing your grain into a specific temperature water where you use a paddle to moosh it all into a porridge. It gets left an hour and voila… remove the bag & the sugar you need to make beer remains in the kettle. You have unboiled wort.

It’s not hard at all to make beer. Even in a big pot with a kick arse burner and a shiny old mash paddle. However, making good beer is a lot harder than you’d think. I’ve learned a lot about the chemistry and processes of making good beer over the last year and at times it’s been challenging. Ten all grain batches through that large pot and I’ve had some lovely beer and some ordinary ones. And it’s hard work to make beer from grain, water, hops and yeast. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

I’ve made a couple of British Golden Ales, a not so great Stout, Dusseldorf Altbier that I’ll try to make every year, a lot of nice IPA (an Apricot Rye IPA was particularly nice). I did ditch an Old Ale when I should have kept it because I mixed up my Starsan sanitiser spray with another spray bottle… a lesson learned hard. And at the moment I have three beers in production – an Apricot Rye IPA is being bottle conditioned; a Wee Heavy (Scotch Ale) is nearly ready to be bottled; a Roggenbier fermenting in the basement at full steam with a White Labs Hefeweizen yeast. It’s been an interesting year. Somehow I lost weight, too.

My advice to people interested in slow booze, those potential makers amongst us, is to be patient. And curious. It’s not hard to make beer; it’s just hard to make good beer. And over time and with experience and knowledge you’ll realise the good beer is more than a recipe. And it’s fun. There is just something really down to earth about drinking something you crafted with your own hands. There’s a place for beer that magics itself into a bottle at your local hotel, of course. But, man, making it from scratch is the boss.

Brewing pot and rig for making all grain beer

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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