Foodie’s First Beer


As far as cooking resolutions go, I think “try something new” is one every ES-er can agree to commit to. In my case I’m resolved to finally use the Smithwick’s home brewing kit that’s been sitting in my dining room for a few weeks now. (Aside: you can win one of these bad boys yourself by linking to Smithwick’s contest page on facebook.)

I’ve never brewed beer at home before, but I’m eager to try. Here’s the problem: showing restraint will never, ever be my New Year’s resolution, in the kitchen or anywhere else. Cooking for me is all about experimentation, and if I’m going to cross over and put in the many hours of wort chilling and yeast fermenting that it takes to brew beer at home, I want it to be significantly different from the sixer I can easily pick up at the corner bodega, right?

As usual, the veggie gf disagrees and has urged me to make my first homebrew a simple one, ensuring that I can make something that tastes good before I go for something that blows minds. She wants me to resist the temptation to brew up a pine nut and avocado lager or a cream cheese and bacon stout.

Fine, I get that. But I don’t want to make something that tastes like C-grade Miller Lite either. So what’s a crossover foodie to do? I know there are a lot of homebrewing enthusiasts out there, so feed a brother back:

1) What’s the craziest beer you’ve ever brewed / heard of someone home brewing?

2) What’s a good entry-level recipe for a home brewer who has absolutely no idea what he is doing but wants to make something unique?

(Photo: ilovebutter)

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  • Benito January 3, 2011  

    I’ve never done any home brewing, but there’s lots of cool, traditional stuff you can throw in beer, like blueberries or raspberries or pumpkin or any number of spices. Basically if you can incorporate it in bread, you can find some way to incorporate it in beer.

    If you want sheer craziness that will frighten the neighbors, a traditional Oyster Stout is a good choice. No idea how to do this safely at home, but throwing a bunch of shucked oysters in the pot with the other ingredients always struck me as a bit off:

    There are, occasional attempts at using an… unorthodox source of yeast. No links here because this is a nice family blog, but let’s just say that there’s an intersection of home brewing and modern feminism that isn’t going to be hitting the shelves anytime soon.

  • Nee Nee January 3, 2011  

    Good news for you. Lagers and Pilsners are some of the most difficult brews to do at home. The lagering process requires you to slowly, over the course of a couple weeks, lower the temperature of the beer. It would be hard for a home-brewer to do all that without an investment in chillers and other goods. Ales and wheat beers are very easy for homebrew, so there isn’t much of a chance that you’ll end up with anything Bud Light-like. Not sure about porters/stouts, as they don’t suit my fancy.

    Homebrew is a big science experiment. It’s all about sanitation and how different factors (i.e. temperature, yeast strain, point at which the ingredient was added, etc.)influence the outcome of your brew. For instance, wheat beer fermented at a higher temperature will result in a very banana-y beer. Fermented at a lower temp, and you’ll get more clove-y flavor.

    I started brewing on the very day that I got a wild hair to do it. I hadn’t studied anything about the brewing process, outside of a Coors brewery tour. After a long conversation with the brewer geek at the brew store, I picked up a pre-made box of ingredients for a hoppy American ale. It was a solid start and was a good jumping off point for me to learn the brewing process. Since we know more about the science of the process and our equipment limitations, we’re experimenting with our own recipes now.

    One piece of advice – start saving your bottles and bombers instead of sending them to recycling. A 5-gallon batch uses 60 bottles, I think. Why buy them at a brew store when you can get them for free? Be sure to rinse them before storage, as you don’t want to have to scrape the bottom of the bottle later. A sediment/debris-free bottle is essential to a non-skunky beer later.

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