Five Questions with a Home Brewer

I had the opportunity to interview Zach C, a beer enthusiast and home beer brewer. Zach, like many Oregonian millennials, enjoys the artisanal beer culture and dreamed of making his own custom beer. Zach decided to go for it, and with help of his best friend, has found satisfaction in creating their own product.

  1. What got you interested in making beer?

Zach: During the summer we went on a trip to Bend Oregon. We went to a lot of local breweries there like Boneyard and Rathole. We got to see and try a lot of different beers. It got us interested in finding out if we could do that ourselves. We watched a lot of videos on YouTube and we just got excited about it and we just bought some equipment and tried it. Our first batch was actually pretty good, so we’re pretty happy with it.

2) What does a typical brewing day look like?

Zach: So usually we go and pick out our ingredients. You need hops and we do extract brewing, which you need malt extract instead of doing a mash. We buy it pre made (the malt extract) because it’s a lot easier and you need less equipment. You choose your malt extract and your hops and you need yeast. So pick a yeast that is specific to the style of beer you’re making. Then you need specialty grains too. You pick out, y’know, if you’re making a porter you need chocolate malt. So then what you do is in your boiling pot you basically steep the grains and it’s kinda like making tea just to get that specific flavor to the beer you’re making. You have to make sure that it’s less than 170 degrees to prevent extracting tannins from the grains because it will create an unwanted bitterness in the beer. You steep the grains in a bag for a half hour then remove the bag. After that you bring it to a boil and remove from heat to add malt extract, then put it back on the heat. This it to prevent burning the malt extract. So you add the malt extract, which looks like a syrup, and basically that is for the sugars which the yeast eats to ferment and create alcohol. Normally you boil it for about 60 minutes and you introduce the hops at certain points. You then have to cool the mixture down because you don’t want the yeast to be killed if it is too hot. It has to cool below 100 degrees. We use a wort chiller, which is like a spiral copper coil to cool it down. It’s really important that everything is sanitized so as to not introduce unwanted bacteria that could ruin a batch. After it’s cool, you put it into another bucket or carboy. That is when you add the yeast. You just close the lid. You put an air lock on it with sanitized water in it and just leave it alone for about a week. Then you wait a week for the primary fermentation to be done, and the you transfer it to a secondary bucket or carboy for a secondary fermentation. The purpose of this is to clarify the beer so that it has a nice look. You usually do that for one to two weeks. After that you bottle it. When bottling you put sugar in the bottles so that when you put the beer in there it has something to eat a little bit and ferment even more. Yeast when it ferments also creates CO2 which carbonates the beer. Finally you cap it and wait another week, and that’s pretty much it.

3) What’s the hardest part of making beer at home?

Zach: I would say the hardest part is making sure everything is sanitary. It’s very easy ruin a beer from it being not sanitary. You have to be very meticulous and it’s easy to forget. That’s definitely the hardest part.

4) Is beer making a pastime or a passion?

Zach: I think it’s probably somewhere in-between. It’s definitely not my focus in life or anything, but I really do like making beer. It’s really exciting to try something new and people like to try it (the beer). You get to be in control of your own product. It’s that challenge of making a better beer each time that makes it fun.

5) What’s your favorite type of beer?

Zach: Definitely porters. I think I like porters the best. That is what we made for our very first batch. We actually made it with coffee grounds for the grains. I think it turned out the best. I like the way it tastes because it’s not very bitter. They taste more chocolatey, and I like that flavor the best in my beers.