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William Bostwick (the writer) and Jessi Rymill (the designer) met working on various book projects for publishing houses like Phaidon and Chronicle. And like all truly independent thinkers, they eventually decided to band together and create their own books. Since they were brewing a lot of beer together at home but missing the definitive DIY guidebook, they figured they’d drive from Brooklyn to San Francisco and interview their favorite brewers along the way. After a six week sojourn, they settled in the City by the Bay with the makings of a great how-to on stovetop brewing.
But how do you go from a bunch of raw interview material to a beautifully mapped out guide to making your own beer? For William and Jessi, a lot of the initial visual (and organizational) inspiration came from an old cookbook they found laying around their first San Fransisco sublet.
“When we first moved to San Francisco, all we had with us was a carload of stuff, and most of it was beer and brewing equipment. We got a sublet in a treehouse apartment from a couple great folks who were setting out on their own roadtrip. They’re big estate sale and flea market shoppers, and their apartment was full of gems, like a hand-built pump organ that folded up into a suitcase. One of our favorites was this weird old book. We were writing and designing our homebrewing book, Beer Craft, at the time, and we got a lot of inspiration from this thing — like the table of contents on the cover, and the blueprint-like diagrams. When we moved out into our own apartment, our friends gave it to us. We’ve never cooked anything out of it, though. We’re not too keen on jellied meatloaf and cabbages cooked in milk.”
And neither are we! But we sure did get interested in making our own beer after hanging out a bit with these guys, and checking out the fruit of their labor, Beer Craft, which comes out this week. So interested, in fact, that we asked them to give us a few tips on how we might get started on our own beer making journey. And like the true visually minded people that they are, the answer came back to us in the form of a chart (of course!)
The Basics of Brewing
But if you’re not into chart-reading, especially at this resolution, here are the six primary steps for home brewing, according to William and Jessi, in plain old list form.
Step 1 = Mash
Beer starts as a sugary, grain-flavored tea called wort. Make your wort by filling a mesh bag with malted grains and steeping it in hot water for an hour. You’re converting starches in the grains into fermentable sugars that yeast will be able to digest into alcohol. This is called mashing.
Step 2 = Sparge
Sparging, or rinsing your grains with hot water, extracts every last drop of sugary wort. Lift your grain bag out of the stockpot, let it drain, and dunk it in a second pot of hot water to rinse it. Then mix this water in with your wort.
Step 3 = Boil
Hops balance wort’s malty sweetness. The longer they’re boiled in wort, the more bitter they’ll make the beer. Typically, you’ll add hops three times during an hour-long boil, for bitterness, flavor, and aroma.
Step 4 = Chill
Chill your wort down to room temperature to make it a safe new home for yeast. Most beer yeasts will quit working—or even die—above 80°F and will hibernate below 60°F. Make sure everything that touches your beer from this point forward is sanitized!
Step 5 = Ferment
It’s time to put your yeast to work. Strain the chilled wort into your fermenter. Add your yeast and plug the fermenter with the stopper and tube, submerging the other end of the tube in a bowl of sanitizer. This will catch foam that will spew out when the yeast starts working. After a day, replace the tube with an airlock and wait.
Step 6 = Bottle
Yeast creates carbon dioxide as well as alcohol, and will naturally pressurize your bottles. Siphon your beer into a stockpot, leaving any sediment behind, and mix in a corn sugar solution. Siphon the sugared beer into bottles, cap them, and let them sit for 1 week. Then label, refrigerate, and enjoy!
Of course, you’ll need a bit more detail to actually get this going at home, but at least now we all have a good idea of what actually goes into making beer and have hopefully decided to get our own little breweries going ASAP!
Want all the details? Learn more about the book and it’s authors at beercraft.com. You can get straight to it and buy the book from an indie bookseller via indiebound. Or better yet, if you’re in or around Williamsburg, Brooklyn tomorrow (Tuesday 10 May) meet William and Jessi in the flesh at their book launch party!
Beer Craft launch party
Tuesday, May 10 from 7 to 10 pm
359 Metropolitan Ave (near Havemeyer)