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Old 01-31-2012, 03:30 PM   #1
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Default Brewing in China. No hops, no shops, no anything. I need help!

Hello, everyone. I am new to brewing and look forward to being helped by and eventually helping the other members of this community. I have been reading this forum quite a lot over the last few weeks and it has inspired me to brew my first batch of beer! Now, here is the problem:

I live in China.

There are no brew shops that I know of anywhere in this entire country (great business opportunity, I know) and on top of that I can not find a place to buy hops nor even brewers yeast! Luckily, from what my wife has told me, they do have barley here. What I have decided to do is as follows:

1. Harvest a wild strain of yeast locally.
2. Buy barley seed and make my own malt.
3. Find a substitute for hops or wait until spring when I can find it growing outdoors and harvest my own come fall.
4. Sit back proudly and drink that beer which has taken so much effort for me to bring into existence.

I am at step one right now. I read through various posts and guides to try and find ways of getting my hands on some acceptable yeast. The common method seems to be finding fruit, putting it into a malt bath and letting it steep until it seems to have fermented. After that, if all smells and looks well, throw it into your mash and hope for the best. Another thing I had read into was extracting a specific yeast strain from a starter and making your own yeast bank. I decided to combine the two.

What I had planned to do was find some fruit, pitch it into sterile test tubes with growing medium and then, after fermentation, smell test them to find which seemed best. From there, I would use syringes to extract samples from various parts of the substrate and inoculate Petri dishes using a streaking method. I would then sterilize my test tubes and syringes. Afterwards, I would use the syringes to extract single colonies from the Petri plates and once again inoculate the test tubes but this time with something more beer mash-like. Finally, whichever test tube looked and smelled the best would be used as a slant for making the beer when I finally found some hops.

Here is where I am at now.

I made a substrate by boiling some potatoes with sucrose and flour. While that was boiling, I popped my test tubes and rubber stops into the pressure cooker to sterilize. After they were finished, I filtered the broth through a tea pot into the test tubes and once again put them back into the pressure cooker to sterilize:



I bought rubber stops for the test tubes so that I could use a syringe to inoculate them without contamination when it comes time for making slants.



Once the test tubes with substrate were done sterilizing, I quickly popped their rubber stops into them. I hope nothing bad got in there while I was doing this.



It is in the depths of winter at the moment here in China. I was a little worried about being able to find any fruit out and about. When to go buy the equipment I was looking at the old vines that cover the city, wondering if any of them would turn out to be hops when summer came, when I noticed some shrivelled little fruits hanging from some of them. I figured, hey, any yeast that would survive winter on these little guys would probably be able to survive my novice attempts at cultivation.



Finally, when the tubes had cooled, I popped the lids once more and threw in the fruit. I had one remaining tube so I put in the stems.



Now, I guess all that is left is to wait and see what will happen. I am so excited to be making my first brew but really have no idea what I am doing. I have tried to piece it all together and come up with a plan but, hell, the truth is that I don't even know where to get the hops.

I look forward to brewing with all of you and hope that my first experiment with all this works out ok. If you have any suggestions, criticisms, advice or anything at all, please, feel more than free to reply to this post. I welcome all the help in this that I can get!

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Old 02-01-2012, 01:06 AM   #2
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I hope it is ok if I give this thread a bump. I really am looking forward to discussing my first brew with some of you guys and the thread fell to the back of the list with only one view so far.

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Old 02-01-2012, 02:26 AM   #3
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Wow, sounds like quite the challenge! This sounds very interesting and I wish you luck! You are combining a lot of advanced techniques to create your first beer. While it may be expensive, couldn't you order ingredients online to a least get a feel for the process for the first time? Then work your way up to the "from nothing" challenge?

One red flag I see is that you mentioned adding your wild yeast to the mash. The mash is the process of soaking you grain in hot water get fermentable sugars. You then seperate the grain from the wort, and boil the wort and add hops during the boil. After cooling the wort to fermentation temps ( typically under 70f depending on yeast) is when you add the yeast.

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Old 02-01-2012, 02:31 AM   #4
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wow. pretty interesting. you must be very dedicated to brewing beer.

how about harvesting yeast from unfiltered beer? Here's a comprehensive list of beers that you can harvest yeast from. I'm not sure if any of these are available to you or if any of the Chinese beers can be harvested.

or, how about ordering dry yeast from the US?

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Old 02-01-2012, 02:48 AM   #5
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Another way to get some yeast is to find a locally-available bottle-conditioned beer and harvest the yeast from it.

Pour the beer into a glass, leaving about 1 or 2 cc in the bottom of the bottle. Set that aside for later enjoyment. Swirl the remaining beer in the bottom of the bottle to loosen up the yeast and then pour it into one of your tubes for cultivation.

I am sure there is a supplier of malt extract somewhere near you (it isn't only used for beer - it's used for a lot of food-related applications). Using that as a base, you can then step up the growth of your yeast until you have a viable bank.

Also, as mentioned, a packet of dry yeast from the states or Europe shouldn't be too costly to obtain. Then you can just keep harvesting and re-culturing it as needed.

Here's one video describing the process:

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Old 02-01-2012, 02:54 AM   #6
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Bduane,

Originally, I was hoping to be able to order a kit online and have everything available to me. The problem was that I couldn't find any brewing sites that accepted Alipay, the Chinese equivalent to Paypal. Paypal is suppose to be coming to China eventually, but, I'm not holding my breath for it.

Sorry, I'm new to all these terms. So the wort is the final product before fermentation. I will keep reading as I get to each phase to try and work it all out. I have a general idea but there are so many details in each step that I still have a lot to learn.


A4J,

Yes, beer has such a long and complex history. I want to be part of that experience. And, hell, who am I kidding, I also just want to brew a great beer to drink!

I doubt if any speciality beers are readily available around here. Most of what I drink is TsingTao, they have western beer here but it is only the most commercial varieties from the most commercial brands.

Prrriiide,

That sounds like a great method but I don't think I will be able to find a bottle conditioned beer here. China has absolutely no small brew nor home brew culture. It is a shame that a society that drinks as much beer as we do here would be oblivious as to how it is made.


I think I will be able to get the yeast out ok, I hope. I just do not know what to do about the hops. My wife suggested we use Puer tea, a fermented tea that has a mellow earthy taste. I would still prefer actual hops though, if I can ever find them.

Hey, thanks for the replies. I really appreciated them.

Oh, one last thing, I can't see videos posted on popular video sharing sites nor pictures posted on popular photo hosting sites. China blocks a lot of internet traffic here.

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Old 02-01-2012, 02:56 AM   #7
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I agree! I am looking forward to seeing what happens with this wild yeast experiment.

The topic of wild yeast is something I don't know a lot about. What made you decide to go with attempting to harvest yeast from the fruit?

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Old 02-01-2012, 03:03 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xier View Post
I doubt if any speciality beers are readily available around here. Most of what I drink is TsingTao, they have western beer here but it is only the most commercial varieties from the most commercial brands.
Are you sure? Isn't TsingTao from Qingdao in Shandong province? That's where they have the Qingdao International Beer Festival where they supposedly bring in beer from all over the world.
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Old 02-01-2012, 03:17 AM   #9
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With all the things standing in your way you are quite resilient in your desire to make beer! I'm definitely interested to hear how it all goes. This is a long shot, but are there any breweries in China that you might be able to get a yeast sample from?

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Old 02-01-2012, 03:34 AM   #10
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BrickHomestead,

I figured fruit would be the best choice as people have been making ciders and such for aeons by simply putting fruit in a container and letting the yeasts covering them go to work. The only thing I don't like about using this yeast directly is that it is a complex ecosystem and not a single strain, it could easily turn on me. That's why I added all the additional steps to isolate single cultures.

A4J, I never knew of that festival. It sounds like something that I would really like to attend. Still, even there I wouldn't expect unpasteurized beer. It seems these companies from all over the world typically consist of international breweries.

The Chinese LOVE to drink beer. The problem is that they don't savour the beer. They drink it to get drunk and sing karaoke or build guanxi.

Bwomp313,

Yes, I am determined. In China they have a lot of local baijiu breweries. The problem is that they don't exactly use yeast to brew. They use fungus cakes to inoculate rice and then distil it into hard liquor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiuqu

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