“Give a man a beer, he’ll drink for a day. Teach a man to brew, he’ll be drunk the rest of his life.”
A 2.5 hour beer brewing course for two for only $40! Who could resist that?
It was all one click away on Living Social and click I did.
And this is how we find ourselves at Broadway Brewing on this rainy Thursday night. Owner Juhan greets us at the front of the shop and we’re asked to sign in before finding a seat in amongst the carboys of beer and wine that line the room. A pot of malt extract is boiling away on a nearby burner, filling the shop with a sweet, bakery like smell. Juan pours us a glass of wine (this is a beer event right?) and introduces himself. He’s a molecular biologist by training who happened into brewing 30 years ago and has been doing it ever since. We go around the room introducing ourselves and our beer preferences. The room is a pretty good mix of men and women in a variety of ages. Most of us prefer a lager, a few of us porters and one or two don’t drink beer at all. My IPA preference is met with much approval by owner Juhan, as he extols the beneficial antioxidant properties of this hop heavy beer.
With a molecular biologist brewer for a teacher there is plenty of historical and scientific trivia to follow (What are the 4 basic ingredients in beer? What is the significance of 1516? Why don’t grains ferment the way grapes do?). We have a look at some of the equipment required to home brew (large pot, tubing and clamp, fermenting bucket, airlock and stopper, thermometer, bottle filler, bottle capper, sanitizing solution etc) and Juhan demonstrates how to properly siphon your beer without using that dirty little germ hole otherwise known as your mouth.
We discuss the steps involved in beer making, including:
- Mashing – the process of creating a malt extract by cooking grains (typically barley) in water to allow the enzymes to break down the starches into sugar.
- Brewing – the malt extract and hops are boiled together with water for about an hour to sterilize the extract and release the bittering qualities of the hops.
- Cooling and Fermenting – the hot mixture (called wort) is cooled to room temperature and siphoned into a fermenter where water is added. Once the mixture drops to room temperature, yeast is added to start the fermentation process. An airlock is used to keep the fermenter sealed during fermentation since wort can easily be infected at this stage; so sanitation is very important. The beer then ferments for 1-2 weeks.
- Priming and Bottling – Once the beer is fully fermented, it’s siphoned into another container to prepare for bottling. Priming sugars are mixed in and then it’s siphoned into bottles and capped.
- Aging – Once the beer has been bottled it needs to age for 2-6 weeks. During aging the yeast will ferment the remaining sugar and create carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide will naturally carbonate the beer. Undesirable sediments such as excess yeast and proteins will drop out of the beer during aging, enhancing the flavour. Although it may take several months to reach peak flavour most homemade beer is drinkable within a month.
There is plenty to smell and taste, from samples of beer the previous class made (a modified red ale) which is now ready to prime and bottle, to the leaf hops (deliciously astringent!) that we add to the pot of beer brewing away on the stove. We end the class by cleaning, filling and capping our own bottle of beer to take home.
All in all, the class was a good value and a pleasant experience. While I wouldn’t say I’m ready to embark on home brewing I do have a better sense of what’s involved and I was more than happy to sit in a delicious smelling room while a man with impressive forearms complimented my taste in beer and plied me with alcoholic samples. I imagine Emrys was similarly impressed, although his recollection of the evening might vary.