The Craft Brewing Craze isn’t exactly a craze anymore. It has become a part of the beer dynamic that was once dominated by the major companies like Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), MillerCoors, and Pabst. Craft Breweries have popped up all over the United States bringing with them their own distinctive style and tastes to the industry instead of only a few select brands. It has been good for the economy as these Craft Breweries employ over 150,000 people according to brewersassociation.org.
So with all the interest in Craft Beer it is not surprising that so many have taken up brewing their own suds as a hobby. If you too are looking to get into the Craft brew biz or are just wanting to try it out for fun then we’ll let you know what you need and where to get it.
The Ingredients That Make The Beer
Hops. It’s all about Hops. So what exactly are Hops and why do you need them. According to allaboutbeer.com “Hops. The plant part used in brewing beer is the hop flower, a delicate, pale green, papery cone full of perishable resins. They give a beer bitterness when used early in the brewing process, and aroma when added at the end. As a bonus, hops are a preservative, and extend the life of beer.” There are of course other additives and ingredients that are added for flavor and taste but hops are a major component of Craft beer. Any beer actually.
So where can you, the novice beer maker, find these magical flowers. Well, the answer may be easier than you thought. Once upon a time it wasn’t so easy to get your hands on this stuff as it wasn’t a very prosperous industry outside the major beer companies. So you had a handful of specialty stores across the United States that would deal with home brewing supplies and some very basic home brewing kits that you could buy.
The Craft Brewing game changed all of that though with an assist going to the rise of internet shopping and e-commerce. As of 2017, the states of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon owned 98% of the hops farms in the United States. That is changing quickly though. In Michigan is where we have seen some of the most dynamic change in the industry. Grand Rapids, Michigan has been named Beer City, U.S.A. twice in the last 5 years. Michigan, as a whole, has increased their production of Hops by 153% in the last few years as well. So an industry typically dominated by the Pacific Northwest is now starting to see growth in other areas of the country. That means the product is more widely available than it used to be.
Another big development for home brewers is the rise of internet shopping. You can now “hop” online (get it?), to buy your brewing materials. You can buy Hops as well as everything else you would need like Yeast, Enzymes, Grains, Honey, Brewing equipment, and more. If you wanted to you could buy an entire set up online and have a home brewery basically shipped to your house. That’s ridiculous, of course, but you could if you wanted to do it.
They also have services where you can order a “lot” of hops. I don’t mean a large quantity. I mean a “lot” like in a “lot of land” or piece of land. You can basically buy a share in a Hops harvest. You can select the type of hops you want, how much and you can even take place in the harvest season if you wanted to do so.
How Many Kinds of Hops Are There?
There are about 80 types of Hops available in the United States. Yep, 80 different kinds. This changes as farmers develop and cross-breed to make new styles and varieties but as of right now there are about 80. That’s a lot to choose from, so we’ll go through the top choices for Hops by the numbers,
Cascade Hops – Named after the Cascade Mountain Range where they are grown, these hops are the most popular in the United States right now. This type gives the beers citrusy grapefruit notes, pine, and floral scents balanced out by a medium-strength flavor. Used in IPA’s, Porter’s, and Pale Ales.
Centennial Hops – This hop has a high acid content and adds that bitterness to your beers. It has a lemon flavor profile and floral aroma making it a very popular choice. Used in Stouts, Wheat Ales, and Blonde Ales.
Citra Hops – This is a cross-breed of two older hops that made for an extraordinary flavor and aroma profile. This Hop has a lemony taste profile, with grass and lightly sweet aromas. Used in American Pale Ales, American IPA’s, and Amber Ales
Mosaic Hops – Mosaic is a relatively new hop and is loved by IPA brewers. Has a full and intense yet fruity flavor, Mosaic hops are herbal, earthy, and tropical. Used in Brown Ales, IPA’s, and Rye Beers.
Chinook Hops – This is a very pine-heavy hop with light spiciness. It has some hints of citrusy grapefruit with mellow bitterness which allows for a smooth drinking beer. Used in Pale Ales, English-Style Ales, and IPA’s
So How Exactly Do you Brew A Beer? Asking For A Friend.
Craft Beers are awesome. I’ve had some great ones that are unlike anything that the major beer distributors have done. I’ve had a Peanuts and Cracker Jack Porter from The Mitten Brewing Company, Wheezin’ The Juice From Grand Armory Brewing, and a favorite among many the All Day IPA from Founder’s Brewing. The Porter was rich and flavorful with a very strong aromatic style to it. Wheezin’ The Juice, which is a play on one of my favorite comedians Pauly Shore, is packed with citrus flavor. All Day IPA is exactly what it sounds like, it’s an IPA that you can drink all day because it’s not overly bitter or powerful like many IPA’s.
The next questions some people have then is “How do I make something like this?” It’s a good question, but it’s one that will take you some time to truly figure out. Just like all good products, it takes a special artistry to make a good beer. You either have to have a knack for it or have a lot of practice. Just in case you wanted to give it a try I’ll give you a brief breakdown. Even if you don’t have any interest, the process is cool to learn about.
- Milling the Grain – Malts are crushed together to break up the grain in order to extract fermentable sugars. This is called Grist.
- Mash Conversion – The grist is then put into another bin where it is mixed with heated water to breakdown the malt into sugars
- Lautering – Next the mash is separated and a liquid known as wort, which is sweet, is separated from the grain husks.
- The Boil – The wort is then collected and brought to a boil before the hops are added
- Wort Separation – The wort is transferred to a whirlpool so that any malt or hop particles can be collected and removed. It is then cooled.
- Fermentation – Yeast is added to the liquid and it converts the wort into beer by producing alcohol. Flavor and carbon dioxide are later added
- Maturation – The beer needs to be matured in order for the flavors to develop
- Filtration, carbonation, and cellaring – The beer is filtered, carbonated, and then sits in the beer tank for 3 to 4 weeks before it is ready to be served or bottled.
So those are the steps to making beer. They also have simplified variations available to purchase for home use right on Amazon. You can check out this example here to see what they have to offer. I’ve heard it’s fun once you get the hang of it. Plus, you don’t have to go out and buy beer when you can make it at home!