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Homebrewing has many routes to the same result, but like anything in life, things get better when you put in more effort. Here are the 4 best ways to get started in homebrewing in ascending order of effort and quality.
Kit Beer Brewing
Kit beers are like buying a box of muffin mix – even if you’ve never baked, you’ll still get a decent muffin. They come with a just few pieces of equipment and the ingredients are measured out and ready to go. All you have to do is follow the steps and in a couple of weeks, you’ll be cracking your first homebrew. It’s a great soft introduction to the brewing process and it’ll definitely teach you the importance of good sanitation. Be sure to actually follow the instructions and not just wing it like I did on my first time. The downside is that there is not a whole lot of control. The malt extract is pre-hopped and you’re basically just mixing it with hot water and then tossing in the yeast. It’s quick and easy but it doesn’t give you much room for creativity.
Extract brewing is very similar to kit brewing in process and equipment but the malt extract is no longer pre-hopped. This gives you the ability to alter the base malt extract flavour by steeping specialty grains like Crystal, Amber or Chocolate malt in the liquid (wort). The fact that it’s not pre-hopped gives you the freedom to hop and dry-hop your beer, which enables you to control the final flavour of the brew.
Partial Mash Brewing
Much like the name implies, this method uses both malt and malt extract. Instead of just using specialty malts to add additional flavour, it enables you to tinker with the base malt flavours as well. This, in turn, adds flavour complexity as well as additional steps to the brewing process. Instead of getting all your fermentable sugars from the malt extract, you get a portion of them from the base malt. For this method, you’ll need to steep and boil the malt to extract the fermentable sugars. This means that you’ll need a vessel or large pot to handle the amount of malt and water needed. The same hopping freedom from Extract Brewing applies to this method.
All-grain brewing is the top of the mountain and it is how most breweries brew beer. It means you start from scratch with water, malted barley, hops, yeast, and no shortcuts. It’s the most complex way to brew beer but the extra time and effort produce the best results. All it requires is a few more vessels or large pots and the same equipment as the kit beer. As with anything, better equipment will make for a smoother process and better results, but that will come in time if you stick to your delicious, newfound hobby. All-grain gives you all the control and the world of beer styles is yours for the taking. It can be challenging as a lot more can go wrong but when it all goes right, the other methods don’t even come close.
The Handy Homebrew Shop Guide:
These guys will sort you out with everything you need for whichever homebrew route you choose.
Karl Tessendorf is one part of the duo that hosts ‘Beer Country’, South Africa’s first TV show dedicated to beer, braai and the open road.
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