||This beer mug was a present from
You may click on it for a larger (125 KB) image.
Q: How is American Beer similar to making
love in a canoe?
A: Both are fucking close to water!
That little joke (yes, ``stolen'' from Monty Python's ``Live at the
Hollywood Bowl'') reflected the truth to a sad and even frightening
degree until relatively recently (the early 1990s), when micro breweries
finally began to reappear in the United States in numbers to revive
the art of brewing a great variety of quality beers, often for no more
than local consumption.
- A Brief History of Brewing Beer
- Common Questions About Home Brewing
- Some of my Brews
- Walrus Geyser Stout
- Walrus Icebreaker Ale
- Walrus Tusk Porter
- Walrus Hoppy I.P.A.
- Walrus Titanic Icebreaker Ale
- Walrus Bitter
- Walrus Hoppy I.P.A. ('96)
- Better Baby Bitter Brew
- Chocolate-Nut Imperial Stout
- Steel Hammer Wheat
- Rocky Raccoon's Crystal Honey. . .
- The Unix-to-Unix Beer Protocol (UUBP)
- Links to Other Resources
A Brief History of Brewing Beer
(With a focus on the United States of America)
The brewing of beer is a tradition begun by the Babylonians over
6000 years ago. We know this because the Babylonians left us a beer
recipe. The art of brewing eventually resulted in thousands and thousands
of delicious variations of beer across the world, each style reflective
of the brewer, the drinker, the region, and the ingredients found there.
Beer is intimately tied to the very nature of our planet-wide culture.
Alas, ever since the days of the Prohibition, when a great
idiocy bubbled up and swept this Land of the Free, the brewing
of beer by individuals was and remained illegal (because of an omission
from the documents that repealed Prohibition) until February 1979 when
President Jimmy Carter signed a Congressional bill from November 1978
into law. Still, because brewing beer had been illegal for nearly sixty
years it was difficult for home brewers to obtain quality ingredients.
It took about fifteen years for the situation to change sufficiently
that the phrase I brew my own beer at a party no longer caused
raised eyebrows and a surprised question Is that legal?
Yes, in the United States, it is legal to brew your own beer. You
definitely cannot sell it (you'd need an alcohol license for that) but
you can have your friends and neighbors over and share it. For each
adult in a household you may brew up to 100 U.S. gallons (387.5 liters)
of beer each year. That amounts to about three bottles per day per adult.
Common Questions About Home Brewing
- Is it legal to brew your own beer at home?
- Absolutely! So long as you're old enough to legally buy beer,
you can brew up to 100 U.S. gallons (387.5 liters) of beer per year.
That's twenty 5 U.S. gallon (~19 liter) batches of homebrew. You'd
be brewing a new batch every 2½ weeks. That's a lot of beer!
- Does homebrewed beer actually taste good?
- Better than you may imagine! Your first batch may not be the delight
and envy of all your friends (although my first one did earn me
praises) but much as with fine cooking, you get better with it the
more you brew, and you'll be surprised how truly good your
beer can be, how fresh and how tasty real beer can be!
- How difficult is it to learn brewing beer?
- Once you get past any possible mystique, it's not difficult at all.
It's a lot like cooking, in fact. The only really important thing
about brewing beer is that once you are finished boiling the wort
(the ``pre-beer'' that comes out of your brew pot) you have to be
careful about sanitation.
- What does it cost to get started?
- The startup costs for the equipment can run you anywhere from US$30
to US$120 depending how serious you consider yourself to be, and
how much trouble you want to avoid from the start. I spent about
US$100 on equipment. I could have done with US$70 but chose to get
a few extras to make my life easier.
- And what does each batch of beer cost to brew?
- It depends greatly on the type of beer you want to brew. I tend
to spend between US$20 and US$30 on a batch of beer. That gets me
just about two cases (each 24 bottles of 355 ml) of beer. If you
brew exotic fruit beers, you could spend much more. If you go all-grain
you might only spend US$10 to US$15 on a batch of beer.
- How long does it take to brew?
- I tend to spend about 4 hours on a batch of beer, including the
time to cool the wort and pitch the yeast to get fermentation
going. After that it stays in the fermenter for a week or two, goes
into the bottles (perhaps 1 hour of work) and is usually ready to
drink one to four weeks after that (depends on the beer). All in
all, five hours of your time and two to three weeks, perhaps more,
to enjoy your first bottle of homebrewed beer.
- How long can I store beer?
- If you keep beer at relatively cool temperatures, let's say 50-60°F
(10-16°C), the beer will stay fresh for many months. Some people
report finding a six-pack in the garage after years and discovering
it to be superb! Homebrew will continue to age in the bottles (yes,
like wine!) and some styles can take many months, even years(!)
before coming into their prime!
Just yesterday (Jan
14, 2001) I found a last bottle of a beer I had brewed in the Summer
of 1996 (my ``Titanic Icebreaker Ale'', which wasn't all that good
back then): while still my worst brew ever, it was a drinkable beer
and had certainly improved(!) since the time when I brewed it, well
over fifty months ago. Imagine that!
As a rule of thumb:
alcohol and hops act as natural preservatives in beer. The more
of each your beer has the better it is likely to do in storage.
And don't fear your ``old'' home brew: it may have ripened into
an enviable beer; at worst it will no longer taste good. Never throw
away a bottle of home brew that you found, covered with dust and cobwebs.
- Can I make money with my beer?
- No! Unless you have a license to sell alcohol, you cannot sell homebrew.
Of course, you can share your homebrewed beer with friends, give
some bottles as a gift, or trade your brew against theirs.
Some of my Brews
I began home brewing in late 1993 when my friend David Wooden introduced
me to this hobby. I spent about $100 on equipment and together we proceeded
to turn my kitchen into a disaster area. ;-) Let's just say that the
old proverb is right: ``A Watched Pot Never Boils''.
There were about three years (1997-1999) when I did not brew any
beer. I had never given up home brewing; I simply had other things going
on and brewing was not a priority during that time.
What follows is a list of the beers I've brewed, along with some
comments that serve me as a record and which may be helpful in some
way to you, the interested reader:
Walrus Geyser Stout
Named for a violent over-boil during brewing
My first beer was based on Charlie Papazian's ``Toad Spit
Stout''. I ``messed up'' and got Wheat Malt Extract Syrup instead
of Dark Malt. . .
I worried needlessly: the stuff came out wonderful! Good
body, nice head, and in some ways surprisingly close to how
I remember Guinness Extra Stout from my last trip to Ireland.
And this one is still my mom's favorite, too. She waxes poetic
over this one, and judges every one of my beers by its memory.
Let's see if my
Chocolate-Nut Imperial Stout can beat
||Walrus Icebreaker Ale
Named for its strength (6% alc. by vol.)
Based on Papazian's ``Holiday Cheer'' recipe, this one is
brewed with fresh ginger, cinnamon, orange peel, etc. When I
first tried it the ginger was overpowering, but as the beer
is supposed to age for many months (brew it in the summer, enjoy
it during the end-of-year holidays) that was no surprise.
I served this beer in April 1995 on a first date with Kristy
(now my wife). She joked for a long time after that the love
potion was beginning to wear off and I had better brew again soon. :)
Drank the last two bottles in June 1996, 20 months after
brewing. It remains at the very top of my favorite home brews!!
||Walrus Tusk Porter
Named mostly in an attempt to remain with the ``Walrus Theme''
My third beer is a significant variation on Papazian's ``Sparrowhawk
Porter'', and thereby my first attempt to deviate a lot from
a beer recipe. I exprimented with four different hops for bittering,
aroma, and bouquet.
The beer came out of the fermenter almost perfectly enjoyable
and within days began rounding out quite nicely. I had a great
difficulty restraining myself from drinking a bottle or two
every night. Needless to say it was gone before I knew it.
||Walrus Hoppy I.P.A.
(say it aloud!)
I said the name to myself so many times it became silly. . .
This beer is a bitter and highly hopped I.P.A. (India Pale
Ale) wich has been behaving a little ``funny'' in the fermenter,
but smells quite wonderful. I've experimented with dry hopping
and a long secondary fermentation before bottling.
When I first bottled it the smell of hops was almost overwhelming.
It's bitter and sweet at the same time. A really powerful combination.
The toasted malt gives it a very intense red colour. Two weeks
after bottling it had settled into a delicious, but not overpowering
hoppiness. I never had such a hoppy brew. Incredible!
Look, ma! I'm a hophead now!
||Walrus Titanic Icebreaker
The ill-fated remake of the '94 Icebreaker
Boiled over twice (the stove was an unmitigated disaster
afterwards, hence the ``Titanic'' in the name), but it never
boiled long enough to achieve a definitive hotbreak.
Had a lot of precipitate, even in the bottles. A rather thick,
heavy, and sweet concoction that reminded me of some Barley Wines.
Needless to say it turned out very different from what I
had intended, but if the previous version
was any indication then its character will continue to evolve.
I found a last remaining bottle of this brew in January 2001.
It had still not become a terribly good beer, but it had mellowed
and rounded a lot. There remained a distinct edge to the taste
that was at first unpleasant, but after about half of that liter
was gone I found it increasingly enjoyable.
I'm now convinced that I screwed up with sanitation: the
odd taste resulted from bacteria influencing the taste.
Don't worry about bacteria in your beer, though: the alcohol
that the yeast produces from the fermentables in the wort will
effectively kill the bacteria. The only reminder of those critters
is from the off-taste. :-/
A variation on an English Bitter
When I put the bittering hops into the brewpot the smell
of hops exploded through the kitchen. In a happy daze I rushed
to the refrigerator and took out another ounze of hops. Before
I knew what I had done there were at least 50% more bittering
hops in the beer than the recipe (an English Bitter)
had called for.
When I first tried it, about a week or so after bottling,
it was so bitter as to make my cheeks pucker! I'm glad that
I did not write this beer off, however, as it only required
about three weeks from bottling to become one of the most drinkable
and refreshing beers in memory.
This goes to show you: experimentation is a good thing. If
you keep the sanitation under control you cannot go wrong if
you remain in the realm of reason. :)
||Walrus Hoppy I.P.A.
A remake of my
'95 Hoppy I.P.A.
The only real difference from last year's version is the
fact that I did not dry hop this one. It didn't come out as
hoppy, therefore, but my friend ``Hoover'' from Germany loved
the stuff when he visited us, and he has since taken up home
brewing on his own (and that in a country where you can find
great commercial beer at every street corner!)
||Better Baby Bitter Brew
A ``Vild und Vacky Variant'' of the Walrus
I brewed this in preparation for the birth of our daughter
Veronika, and because Kristy didn't (shouldn't, mustn't) drink
during pregnancy and should have something special to enjoy
after the birth.
The beer was done fermenting after three or four days in
the primary but spent about two months in the fermenter (sitting
on the trub!) because the situation at work was crazy (70 hour
weeks, yuck!) and I simply had no time or mind to bottle this
stuff. Even so, this beer came out fantastic!
The secret? More hops, more hops! Can't get enough of those
hops (play a little jingle in your head as you continue. . .)
They preserve the beer, they make it fresh, then add bouquet,
they taste great, they do wonders for the beer overall. The
Bitter is a superb base for such a beer. Go crazy, knock
Chocolate-Nut Imperial Stout
Return to the Dark Side
It's been a few years since
I brewed a stout. With the cold winter
days finding no more homebrew in the cellar, and having had
a taste of Victoria Brewing Company's ``Storm King Imperial
Stout'' (see the resources section below), I decided that after
nearly seven years it was high time for a stout to come out
of my brewpot again.
Click here for
the recipe of the Chocolate-Nut Imperial Stout.
This one is based on 10 U.S. pounds (4.54 kg) of malt extracts,
1 pound of chocolate malt, and ½ pound of toasted malted barley
(for a hint of nut).
The beer achieved an original gravity of 1.072 and is expected
to reach an alcohol content of about 7%. It's still in the fermenter,
having spent about two days bubbling violently. I tasted some
of the (bitter) overflow and was delighted with the taste. More
information to come after bottling and tasting of the beer. . .
It came out extremely tasty; full-bodied but not heavy; the
chocolatey taste is slightly more than a hint: noticable but
not overwhelming by any stretch of the imagination. Round and
full and so good that it's almost gone now! And at 6.5% it was
just the thing in front of the fire. . .
||Steel Hammer Wheat
Brewed on the same day as the
Chocolate-Nut Imperial Stout, this
beer is my most experimental one yet: Inspired by a conversation
with a friend at work who does all-grain brewing, I decided
to try my hand at a partial mash; my first attempt at temperature
controlled mashing finds me starting the mash at 70°C (158°F)
(by appropriately mixing two volumes of water at different temperatures)
and letting it go down from there on its own for 90 minutes.
I've no idea, really, how much of the starch conversion completed,
or just what portions, because not only did I not calculate
the effects on temperature of adding the grains to the mash,
but I also forgot to take the temperature after the 90 minutes
were over and could not plot a temperature-time scale to match
the various ranges where different conversions occur.
But I did taste the mash before I took out the grains and
brought the rest back up to a boil: It was very(!) tasty. The
only real question I have is ``how much of that tasty
wort was fermentable sugar?''
The recipe is entirely my own, based on 6 U.S. pounds (2.724
kg) of extra light DME, 3 pounds (1.362 kg) of white wheat,
and 1 pound (454 g) of munich malt. It achieved an original
gravity of 1.066 and is expected to reach up to 7.5% alcohol.
This is a ``wheat beer'' that will hit you like a hammer! More
to come when bottling and tasting time arrive. . .
At bottling time and in the weeks thereafter this beer turned
out to have a lot of ``weirdness'' in the taste, as a result
of me being tired after a long day brewing and in my haste and
inattention killing most of the yeast during rehydration. This
caused the yeast to take 48 hours to build up enough of a population
which gave various unnamed bacteria a chance at my beer. Enough
of really good taste came through, however, to tell me that
it was only for that one mistake that my beer was not what it
could have been.
End of May, about 100 days after bottling: all the ``weirdness''
is gone! This is one fine, fine wheat beer now, thoroughly refreshing
and possessed of a rather delightful combination of flavours
and nose. I'm definitely hanging on to this recipe to make another
version of it soon. Goes to show that no bad beer is ever a
waste until it has not improved even when given the chance.
||Rocky Raccoon's Crystal
Honey. . .
The original is a lager, but fermenting with ale yeast at
70°F (21°C) does not a lager make
The recipe calls this a lager, meaning that it ought to be
fermented with lager yeast and at lager fermenting temperatures.
But given that I have no refrigerator to keep the beer cool
(my wife would kill me if I usurped the one in the kitchen!)
I've decided to ferment with ale yeast at a slightly lower temperature
than what I usually do: the basement is somewhat cooler than
the rest of the house, so we'll see how that goes.
The Unix-to-Unix Beer Protocol (UUBP)
If you don't ``get it'', then you're obviously not a home brewer
with Unix experience.
UUBP(1) Homebrewer's Manual UUBP(1)
uubp - Unix-to-Unix beer protocol
uubp [acefghlqy] site
uubp allows the user to transfer beer, ale, or other fer-
mented grain beverages between network sites. Using
TCP/IP (telecommunications protocol for imbibing pil-
sners), uubp encodes beer from a local file system into
packets suitable for FTP (fermentation transfer protocol)
delivery at a remote IP site.
% uubp -c"AMBER" -f0.7 -y0 -q2 220.127.116.11
Sends two six-packs (-q2) of amber ale (-c"AMBER")
with a fizziness quotient of 70%, brewed using yeast
of type 0 (saccharo-myces cerevisiae) to IP address
18.104.22.168, which is the IP address for the
Both source and destination sites must be running uubp-
daemon. In addition, local restrictions exist in many
areas for the transportation of alcohol across state
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is currently involved
in litigation to ensure the ability to distribute beer
through the uubp protocol according to the 21st Amendment.
To support the SIG of EFF devoted to this cause, join the
Homebrewers of the Electronic Frontier Engaged in Winning
Electronic Independence and Zeroing Establishment Nonsense
(HEFEWEIZEN), or send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be
sure to include the entire text of this manual page.
8 Dec 1993 1
Links to Other Resources