Living in West Michigan, it’s hard to not be a beer person. My hometown, Grand Rapids, has been named Beer City USA, and my current town, Kalamazoo, is home to Bell’s Brewery, which makes the Best Beer in America.
So it was only a matter of time until Sean and I started brewing our own, right?
I put it on my 101 in 1001 list back in 2018, but it took a pandemic for us to finally prioritize it.
Sean did a bunch of research and found a beer-making kit from MoreBeer.com. It arrived in a giant box with everything we need for our first batch—a giant pot, one of those crazy copper coils to cool the beer down, a fermentor container, etc. I was super intimidated the first time we brewed beer, but it’s gotten easier ever since!
It takes about a full day to brew beer, so we’ve been doing that on Saturdays. Luckily you’re not actively brewing beer the whole time… it’s a lot of waiting for water to heat up. We have a 5 gallon kit, which means we need to boil 5 gallons of water at once on our stove, which takes… a while.
Once the water heats up, you’re pretty much just steeping grain and hops in the water for a while, and then adding in malt. The types, amounts, and quantities vary per recipe, which is why we’re sticking to pre-packaged beer kits for now! We’re no where near ready to say “let’s try this grain and these hops and this malt and see how it tastes!”
Our starter set came with an American Ale kit, which is the only beer we’ve tasted so far. Once you’re done on your Brew Day, the beer ferments for two weeks. After it’s done fermenting, you bottle it, and it sits in bottles for another two weeks while it carbonates. Then it’s ready to enjoy! (That’s why we aren’t ready to make our own yet—it’s a very long process and you won’t know until a month later if you’ve failed miserably!)
A week and a half ago, it was finally time to try our first beer. I was really pleased with it! We like IPAs a lot (blame it on the abundance of Two Hearted and All Day IPA in our area), and I was worried the American Ale would be too light, but it definitely held its own.
Bell’s Brewery sells their own clone kits of their most popular beers (they’re not going to give you the recipe to their best-selling beers, but they’re supposedly pretty close). We’re currently working our way through their kits, because we can order it online and pick it up the next day right at the brewery! We’ve got a Two Hearted clone in bottles (they’ll be done this weekend!) and an Official Hazy IPA clone in the fermentor, ready to be bottled in a few days. Once that’s done, we’ll start the final Bell’s kit that we want to try: Hopslam!
I’m so excited for all of them.
Now that we’ve got our whole setup, we’re planning to brew a new batch of beer every two weeks, so we always have something going! It’s been really fun, and I’m excited to learn more about all of the different processes and types of beer.
Plus, I’m setting some of each batch aside so once this whole pandemic is over, we can do a beer tasting event with all of our friends. 😂