Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi How To Home Brew

By Dennis Domrzalski

OCTOBER 5, 1998:  No matter how you drink your beer, whether you slam down a 12-pack of the cheap stuff while reading a comic book or whether you sip the high-priced versions while perusing a leather-bound classic, remember the most incredible thing about what you are doing: You are enthusiastically ingesting yeast piss and yeast farts.

It's true. Yeast wastes are what gives beer its alcohol and its fizz. And with a little effort and money, you, in your own kitchen, can engage in the centuries-old custom of making and bottling yeast urine and yeast gas for your own consumption.

Real beer has only four ingredients: water, yeast, barley malt and hops. Barley malt is loaded with sugar. Mix it with water and hops, the small, dried flowers of a weed-like vine, and you have flavored sugar water. Throw the yeasters into a vat of sugar water and they come alive. They're in heaven, and they do the one and only thing they live to do: eat sugar.

Like every other living thing, yeasters digest their food. When they're done with the sugar it comes out of their tiny bodies as alcohol and carbon dioxide. Put that mixture in a bottle, cap it, let it sit for a few weeks and you've got beer.

There are two ways of making beer in your house:

  • From scratch, meaning you grind your own barley malt and mash it, that is you turn it into sugar water, and then mix it with the hops and later the yeast. This requires quite a bit of work and time and easily takes up an entire Saturday. The time is worth it, though, as this is the best beer you can make. It also give you an excuse not to read books, to put off fixing the house and to drink heavily all day long. Because when you make beer, you should drink beer. And the beauty of beer making is that, unlike other hobbies such as brain surgery or nuclear weapons fabrication, you don't have to be sober when you do it.

  • From cans of sticky, syrup-like concentrated barley malt. This is almost as easy as making Kool Aid. It takes less time than making beer from scratch, and the beers still come out good. If you've never made beer before, this is the best way to get started.

For either method, you'll need several large-capacity (20 or more quarts) stainless steel pots, a stainless steel, sieve-like mixing spoon, a seven-gallon, food-grade plastic fermentation vessel complete with a lid and a little plastic device called a fermentation lock, a second plastic vessel, five or six feet of clear plastic tubing, a standard kitchen food strainer, a brewer's thermometer, a bottle capper, bottle caps and enough clean, sterile beer bottles in which to put your beer. Use bottles that have a crown and can take a standard cap.

You can buy the fermentation tubs, plastic hosing and fermentation locks at the home-brewing supply stores in town. The stores will sell you starter kits for about $50. If you're a heavy boozer, you should have no problem with stockpiling enough bottles. Otherwise, you can buy empties from taverns or buy boxes of 22-ounce bottles from the brewing stores or brew supply catalogues.

Making The Beer

How this came about I don't know, but the standard home brew batch is five gallons, or about 53 12-ounce bottles. Go to the home brew store and buy two cans of malt concentrate (6.6 pounds), two ounces of dried hops and a couple of packages of yeast--ale or lager, depending on what kind of beer you like.

Put two gallons of water in your stainless steel brew pot and turn on the stove. Open the cans, pour the concentrate into the pot. Wait for it to boil. Add an ounce of hops. Boil for about an hour. Take the hops out and strain them with hot water. Put the second ounce of hops in. Boil for about 15 minutes. Strain them. Fill your seven-gallon fermentation container with three gallons of cold water. Pour the boiled concentrate into the cold water. What you need now is to get the whole mixture cool enough so that you can put the yeasters into it. If it's too hot, the yeasters will burn up and die. Not only will this not give you alcohol, but in today's hyper-sensitive world, it might get the social workers after you.

Put the lid on the fermentation vessel, put the fermentation lock into the lid and carry the whole thing into a bathtub filled with cold water. In about an hour the batch should be down to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the vessel to where you are going to let it sit for a week to 10 days. It should be in a cool place in the house or garage. Take off the lid. Put in the yeast. Put the lid back on. Put water in the fermentation lock. Put the lock in the hole in the lid, and wait for the yeasters to work.

Beer must be fermented at cool temperatures. It'll turn sour and raunchy if fermented at high temperatures, and you will throw up if you drink it. That's why the home-brewing season in Albuquerque begins at the end of September or early October.

If all went well, in about 24 hours you should see bubbles streaming up through the water in the fermentation lock. That's the carbon dioxide that the yeasters are farting out. This is good. It means that the yeasters are eating the sugar. Hopefully they don't have colon cancer or urinary tract infections. In about seven days the farting and the bubbles will stop. This means that the yeasters have eaten up all the sugar and have nothing else left to eat. Now you have to bottle the beer.


Get your second plastic vessel. Make sure it's clean and sterilized. Get about a cup of dried malt or a cup of corn sugar, mix it with two cups of water and boil it. Take the mixture to where the beer has been fermenting. Get out your clean, sterilized plastic hose and siphon the beer from the fermentation vessel into the second plastic container. When that's done, pour the two cups of malt or corn sugar mixture into the beer. Mix it around with your clean, sterilized stainless steel mixing spoon. Put a lid or plastic garbage bag on top of the second container. You don't want dust or dog or cat hair getting into your beer. Put the container up on a chair. Put the plastic tubing into it and begin siphoning the beer into bottles. Put caps on the bottles, seal them with the capper and then put them in a cool place. You should be able to drink the beer in about two weeks.

What you've done in this last step is added a little more sugar to the mixture. This will induce a secondary fermentation inside the bottle. It means a little more alcohol and carbon dioxide is being made. Because you've capped the bottles, the CO2 can't escape. The gas disperses into the liquid and carbonates your beer. When the beer is opened, the CO2 bubbles out of the liquid, giving the beer all those little bubbles and its foamy head.

Farts never smelled so sweet.

Happy brewing. May your liver regenerate quickly.

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