I made this post for my friends on a truck board a few months ago to show how I make the beer I'm always giving away (so it's written from a "duh... now you hafta add yeast to make teh b00ze" point of view) - thought it might be of interest here.
I'm still fairly new, so I'm sure my technique isn't perfect - but so far I've managed to make a half dozen or so pretty good beers.
I decided to get a bunch of pictures of a brewing session... it's not terribly complicated, but it might make for an interesting photo essay.
The beer I was making in these pictures is a clone of North Coast Brewing Company's "Old Rasputin". It's a Russian Imperial Stout - a big big beer with nearly 10%ABV.
All of the beers I make have basically the same steps, this one just had a lot more of everything to put in at each step than most.
All the ingredients ready to go form the homebrew store. This beer cost me about $70 for what will turn into 5 gallons, which is about twice what most homebrew kits cost.
Oh - a note on the different kit options: The first step in making beer is to mill the grain and then put it in warm water. The grain starts to try to germinate (grow) and it releases enzymes which start to break down the starches into sugars. This is called malt extraction. Once your grain-water has turned into grain-sugar-water you can filter out the particulates and use this sugary water to make beer... this is the old-school hardcore way to start... kind of like baking bread by making your own flour first.
There are companies that do this and sell the resulting concentrated product as either a liquid (called Liquid Malt Extract, or LME) or as a powder (Dry Malt Extract, DME).
If you pick one of the homebrew store's recipe kits (as opposed to just asking them for specific ingredients, which you can also do), they will sell it to you as an all-grain kit , a mini-mash kit, or an extract kit. The all-grain kit is cheaper, but it involves the above process plus more equipment, more time etc. An extract kit, on the other hand, just uses a little bag of specialty grains on a short soak for flavoring and it gets most of its fermentable sugars from DME or LME. Mini-mash is somewhere in the middle.
I do extract brewing because it's simpler and easier, though more expensive.
Cleaning the brew pot
Warming up the liquid extract so it will pour easier when the time comes for that
Pouring 2 gallons of awesome Austin tap water into the brew pot and firing up the propane cooker. The net is to keep bugs and debris out... sometimes I just use the pot lid:
Putting the specialty flavoring grains into a nylon bag and soaking it like a teabag for 25 minutes at 155 degrees. After the soak, let the water drain from the bag and add another gallon of water to the pot (I chose to pour the new water through the grain bag to get some more flavor washed out of it)
Cranking the cooker back up to bring the contents to a boil.
Prepping and adding the liquid malt extract (10lbs of amber extract)
This beer calls for so much sugar they also gave me 2lbs of amber dry malt extract. In that goes!
Preparing the first batch of hops that will be put in the brew. Hops added at this stage in the brewing process are called bittering hops.
Okay, so the hops bags come in increments of 1oz and this recipe called for 3.5oz of Cluster hops for bittering... so I had a little bit left over and decided to eat a pellet. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS.
Brought to a boil (with a lot of stirring) after adding all the sugars, adding the bittering hops, and setting a timer for 1 hour:
Back inside to do some cleaning and sanitizing of the primary fermenter bucket and anything else that will touch the brew (called wort, pronounced wert) once it has cooled down
A look at the yeast we will be using. The strain of yeast used has a tremendous amount to do with the kind of beer you get. There are two vials here because this is such a high gravity beer - you need more yeast cells to be able to handle it properly. Another option is to start several days ahead of time and make a "starter" - you basically make a mini beer with no hops and let the yeast start multiplying. Buying two vials lets me skip making a starter, but it costs more as each vial is something like $7.
A glass of my Amber beer to help pass the time. As they say, RDWHAHB. Relax, don't worry! have a home brew!
The next opportunity to mess with the brew comes 15 minutes before the hour of boiling is up. If you add more hops at this stage, they are called flavor hops. This recipe does not call for any flavor hops.