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Brewing for dummies

Brooklyn Brew Shop simplifies brewing craft beer at home.

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After culinary school and seven years working in food, it’s safe to say I enjoy cooking. To complement my culinary studies before school, I got into the basics of wine and pairing it with food. Then the craft beer craze came along, and I started learning about the intricate flavors and many styles of beer and their pairing possibilities. Needless to say, I got hooked, and I’m still a craft beer fanatic.

This year, I decided to expand my beer knowledge. I knew what ingredients went into beer and how it’s supposed to taste, but wondered how everything comes together to produce “the perfect pint." How do hops, grain, water and yeast marry to create a sudsy love child of deliciousness? And as far as I knew, home brewing required lots of large equipment and space, which I don’t have in my small, one-bedroom apartment.

Then I stumbled upon the beer-making starter kit by Brooklyn Brew Shop (brooklynbrewshop.com). As long as you can heat water on the stove, you can make beer with this kit.

My first experience with the BBS kit was fun and very easy — they provide extremely detailed directions (with pictures and timelines) on their website and even have step-by-step videos for almost every flavor they have available. Included in the starter kits is just about everything you need to make the beer: grains, hops, yeast, the fermenting jug, tubing, chambered airlock, a thermometer, racking cane, and even an equipment sanitizer. The only other items needed are a large pot, decent-sized strainer, a large bowl, funnel and bottles (e.g.: a few empty growlers or beer bottles and capper). The starter kits ($40) come in one- and five-gallon sizes in a range of flavors like Smoked Wheat (my first batch), Bruxelles Blonde, Chocolate Maple Porter and Everyday IPA, to name a few.

The result of my first crack at being a bona fide homebrewer? Palatable success. The smoked wheat actually tasted like a smoked wheat beer! It was light, with just the right amount of carbonation and a hint of smoked malts. I was overjoyed that I didn’t screw it up — and so were the friends with whom I shared it.

Here’s some advice for first-time home brewing and using the Brooklyn Brew Shop kits. It’s an enjoyable project, but it does take time; give yourself around three hours to complete the cooking portion. It doesn’t mean you have to stand over the stove during the entire process, but it does mean you can’t just walk away and not supervise (keeping the temperature at the right level is key). Also, read all of the instructions before starting, even the “additional items needed” section. You can’t stop in the middle of cooking the mash to go grab that honey you forgot to buy.

With the starter kit under my belt, I went ahead and bought four more flavor packs ($15 a piece) on the BBS website. All of their flavors are available in the one-gallon mixes (three available in 5-gallon mixes) and come with the grains, hops, yeast and spices (if needed). There are both standard flavors available year-round (Everyday IPA, Smoked Wheat, Chocolate Maple Porter, etc.) and seasonal ones (like Grapefruit Honey Ale and Summer Wheat). My only criticism of the flavor packs is that they didn’t come with the necessary sanitizer packets that the starter kits do, though BBS does sell them on their website. (I ultimately went to a homebrewing shop for it.)

As a craft beer fan, I highly recommend this brewing kit for first-time brewers and those just curious about how the whole process works. I assure you that years of brewing experience and a culinary degree are not necessary to make one great batch of beer.

The items mentioned were purchased and tested by the author. All views and opinions are solely hers. Need more tasty inspiration? Visit CulinaryPirate.com for more from Katie Machol.

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