Saturday, February 15, 2014

Expect to hear these 6 commonly asked questions from non-Homebrewers

Homebrewing is a great hobby to take up. Trust me, I do it and I love it. It's especially fun if you can get your friends to help you out or encourage your brewing. There are a lot of thing that everyday Joe doesn't know about brewing,  so you'll be bound to answer their every little question about your brew. I've had to answer plenty of questions, and many of them being the same from person to person. Here is my list of  6 commonly asked questions about homebrewing.
Jimmy Carter
Homebrewing is Jimmy Carter's favorite hobby

You brewed yesterday? Let's go to your place and try it.
I drink the day I brew
A one day old beer would taste rather sweet
Beer will never be ready the day it is brewed. It needs time for the yeast to ferment, which could take anywhere from 3 - 14 days (or even longer). If you were to try to drink the beer (it's still wort at this stage), it would be more malt then anything. Patience is required to be a homebrewer. Now with many people in this millennium having lifestyles focused on instant gratification, homebrewing is a good change of pace.

You're moonshining huh? How do you know it won't kill you or make you go blind?
Homebrewing is not moonshining
Homebrewing is now legal in all 50 states!
Commonly, people who do not know the process behind alcohol production will confuse making beer with hard liquor (they'll call you a moonshiner erroneously). Although the two production processes are similar in they require fermentation, liquor is produced by distilling the wash (our beer is their wash). In this step, any methanol (our blinding agent) produced during fermentation will be boiled off first. In this concentrated form, the methanol can be dangerous. Luckily in beer making, even though there is some methanol, the concentration is not great enough to cause harm. Plus the ethanol in beer prevents any methanol from interacting in your body (the cure to methanol poisoning is ethanol). And if they are concerned that your beer might be infected, just tell them that you'd know if the beer was unfit to drink before bottling. Also, homedistilling has been illegal since George Washington's time, because the government likes its tax money. We have Jimmy Carter to thank for legalizing homebrewing.

How do you know how much alcohol is in it?
Hydrometer Reading
The density of water at 70°F is 62.4 lb/ft³
A quick answer I give to people is "I use a hydrometer", and most of the time they ask where I get one. Other times the follow up question is "what's that?", so then you must explain the concepts of density to them. A hydrometer measures the specific gravity of the fluid it is in, which is equal to the density of the liquid divided by the density of water. With this information, you know how much fermentable sugar is in wort. By taking two readings, one before and one after fermentation, you can figure out ABV by subtracting the two and multiplying that result by 131.
(If you really want to look like a magician, tell them you drank a few and can natually tell the %ABV like that)
How do you get it in bottles/get the cap on?

The short answer to this question is to use a bottle capper (which can be found at every homebrew store like every other piece of homebrewing equipment). It isn't difficult to understand how the device works: you place an unused bottle cap on the bottle and crimp it down to and make the container airtight. But that is only one part of the bottling process. I cover this subject in more detail in my article "Beginners Guide to Bottling Homebrew"

Are you going to sell it? Why don't you start a brewery?
Stovetop Brewing
Consistency is key for a large production brewery
First off, it is illegal to sell homebrew in the United States under federal law. The government likes its tax dollars a lot, especially those obtained from "sinful" purchases (alcohol). Plus you'd be in a lot of hot water if someone who drank your homebrew got really sick because of poor quality control. The key to running a good brewery is batch consistency, something hard to replicate on a homebrewing setup.
If I did want to start a brewery, I'd need quite a bit of capital to pay for all the equipment and advertising, a good staff, and a good lawyer to get me through all of red tape (> $200,000). I know many states have made it easier to start up a microbrewery/brew pub in the last decade, but it doesn't mean it is economically feasible to do so when the entire market has been saturated. Nearly 1000 new breweries have opened in the United States since the year 2000. If anything, it might be worthwhile to start a brewery when many of them start to fail and the market for cheap used equipment grows larger.

Can I get some free beer?
IPA foam
Enjoy your beer alone... or with friends!
Sharing is caring. And although it can be expensive to make a batch, and although you cannot legally sell your homebrew to your friends, you can enjoy a bottle with them comfortably at home. Just have them cover (or or help you brew!) the next round.
What are questions your friends have asked you about homebrewing?

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