With close to 10 microbreweries (and counting!) operating in the state, enjoying a refreshing, locally brewed craft beer isn’t hard to do here in Kentucky. However, some Kentuckians want to create and take ownership and pride in their own handiwork. Thus, many are transforming themselves into home brewmasters.
For my husband, and a sea of others like him, buying a six-pack at the grocery just won’t do anymore. Beer must be homebrewed.
He took up this hobby a few years ago. He’s always been drawn to do-it-yourself projects, and he definitely appreciates great beer. So when he announced he’d be brewing his first batch, I wasn’t surprised. He spent a month researching techniques, choosing recipes and gathering supplies. That first batch, a nut brown ale, went on to win the gold medal at a multi-state homebrew beer competition a few weeks later.
We have met many homebrewers at local brewing clubs, competitions and the homebrew supply aisle at our local liquor store here in the Bluegrass State. Some homebrewers, like my husband, see it merely as a hobby to pass a lazy Saturday afternoon. But for many Kentuckians, homebrewing beer is a craft that is honed and perfected, one batch at a time.
Liquid Gold Alchemy
Step-by-step beer-making instructions are lengthy, and hundreds of books and websites are devoted to the process of homebrewing. But the basics of beer making aren’t too difficult to grasp. Beer is typically a combination of malted barley, hops and water, which are cooked. Yeast is then added, and the concoction is left to ferment into the much-beloved beverage. In layman’s terms, here’s what you can expect the process to entail:
- Barley is heated to a specific temperature to extract the maximum amount of fermentable sugar from the grain.
- The wort—the name given to this barley-infused water—is boiled along with hops, which provide the bitter, herbal and sometimes even citrus and floral flavors associated with beer.
- Brewer’s yeast is added, and the liquid is left to ferment for a certain number of days.
- Once fermented, the beer is bottled or kegged.
- After a prescribed resting period, the fruits of one’s labor finally can be enjoyed.
There are different methods for crafting the frothy, malted, hoppy beverage, the two most popular being kit brewing and all-grain brewing. For a novice, brewing a batch from a pre-packaged kit of ingredients, which includes step-by-step instructions, will produce an almost foolproof end result. Below are a few tips to help ensure you’ll make a beer worth serving at your next tailgating party.
- Don’t shortcut on the sanitation process. Always sanitize equipment and keep your brewing area clean at all times.
- Have a backup hydrometer, thermometer and sanitizer, plus additional yeast and hops. There’s nothing worse than running out of, spilling or breaking one of these on brewing day.
- Do your homework. There are many websites, books, online forums and classes you can use to make homebrewing both enjoyable and successful.
- Write down and keep track of your recipes. Once you move from basic kit recipes, you can venture into creating your own signature brews. Just make sure to record the process and ingredients for future brewing experimentation.
- Have a green thumb? Consider growing your own hops this year in the garden. They are great climbers and are perfect for disguising a chain-link fence.
B. (Brew) Y.O.B. Resources
• Brewers of Central Kentucky (BOCK), bockbrew.com
• The Louisville Area Grain Extract Research Society (LAGERS), lagersclub.com
Homebrew Supply Locations:
• My Old Kentucky Homebrew, Louisville, myoldkentuckyhomebrew.com
• Lexington BeerWorks, lexingtonbeerworks.com
• Lore Brewing Company, Danville, lorebrew.com
• Liquor Barn select locations, liquorbarn.com
• Winemakers and Beermakers Supply Store, Louisville, winebeersupply.com
*Homebrewing beer in Kentucky is permitted. Kentucky does not have a statute pertaining to homebrewing beer and thus defaults to the federal law, which allows for home production of beer for personal or family use for those of the legal drinking age. Selling homebrew beer without proper permits and approvals is illegal.