After attending culinary school and working with food for an occupation for around seven years now, it’s pretty safe to say that I enjoy cooking (just don’t talk to me about pastry). To complement my culinary studies before culinary school, I got into the basics of wine and pairing it with food. Then the craft beer craze came along a few years back so naturally, I was inclined to learn all about the intricate flavors of the many styles of beer out there and their pairing possibilities. Needless to say, I got hooked and still am a craft beer fanatic.
This year, I decided to add onto this breadth of beer knowledge. I knew what ingredients went into beer and how it’s supposed to taste, but wondered how it really it all comes together to make “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.
And then I stumbled upon the beer making starter kit by Brooklyn Brew Shop (brooklynbrewshop.com) which had everything I needed to make a gallon of craft beer and it attracted me immediately.
I swear that they made this an unofficial ‘Brewing for Dummies’ package because if you know how to heat up water on the stove, then you can make these beer recipes. 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 are just about everything you need to make the beer: grains, hops, yeast, the fermenting jug, tubing, chambered airlock, a thermometer, racking cane, and even equipment sanitizer. The only other items needed are a large pot, decent-sized strainer, a large bowl, funnel and bottling vessels (e.g.: beer bottles and a capper). The starter kits ($40) come in one- and five-gallon kits in a range of flavors like Smoked Wheat (my first batch), Bruxelles Black, 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 just overjoyed that I didn’t screw it up — and so were the friends with whom I shared it.
Here’s some advice 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 standing over the stove during the entire process, but it does mean you can’t just walk away and not supervise it (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 for it.
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 they do 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 as to how the whole process works. I assure you that years of brewing experience or a culinary degree is not necessary to make one great batch of beer.
**The items mentioned were purchased and tested by the author (me). All views and opinions are solely hers (Katie). All photos courtesy of Brooklyn Brew Shop.**