Watery Bud Light may still be the most popular beer in America, but anyone who’s been to a bar or beverage center lately has to have noticed that craft beers are catching up, gaining more taps and shelf space. And with the proliferation of brewpubs and small craft brewers, there are more breweries in operation today than before the start of Prohibition. Beer is back, with craft brewing leading the way. And home brewing is part of the trend, as more beer lovers are finding that making their own is as easy as following a recipe. The beer is as good as any you can buy, and once you’ve purchased the equipment, you can actually save a little money doing it.
Two-fisted brewer Tony Galea empties liquid malt extract into his brew pot with one hand while preparing to add more water with the other.
Malted barley grains for Tony Galea's beer. Varying colors reflect the degree to which the grains have been malted, with the darkest ones rendering chocolate notes in the finished product.
Home brewer Tony Galea rinses sugar from steeped grains prior to boil.
Leaf hops that will provide the bitterness for Tony Galea's India pale ale must be carefully weighed.
Leaf hops provide the bitterness for Tony Galea's India pale ale. Most brewers use a processed, more concentrated form of hops, pellets.
Good to the last drop - Tony Galea squeezes the last ounce of liquid malt extract into his brew pot. The syrup will provide about 80 percent of the fermentable sugar in his beer. Steeped grains will provide the rest.
Tony Galea practices a little watchful waiting while his batch of India pale ale bubbles away at left. Pot on right contains heated water to top up his brewpot with.
Tony Galea keeps his brew pot topped up with water to extract maximum flavor from his ingredients.
Drew Schmidt is master of the Van Dyck's Brewhouse. The kettle at left is where his grains are steeped and the beer is boiled; the kettle at right is where the grains are rinsed after the steep to extract maximum sugar from them.
Water is sprayed over grains in the Van Dyck Brewhouse to rinse sugars created during a 152-degree steep. The water containing the sugars will be transferred to the brew kettle, while the spent grains will be recycled with a local pig farmer as feed.
Brewing at the pro level is more complicated and technical, with fancy hardware and the terminology to go with it. These valves help the brewer control the brew kettle water, moving it into the rinsing kettle and back before it is boiled, then through the heat exchanger and into the fermenting tank.
Head Van Dyck brewer Drew Schmidt stands in front of stainless steel fermenting tanks. The smaller ones hold 10 barrels (310 gallons), the larger ones twice as much.