Not long after I met my partner I bought him a beer kit. This was in the mid-1990s, when microbreweries were starting to come into their own. I was still drinking Kokanee, but I would often pick up a six pack of Big Rock Traditional Ale as a diversion and because it was hip at the time.
When you grow up in a small town with few choices, beer-is-beer. Brewing our own beer at home changed that. All of sudden there was a wide range of beers we could make – spruce tip ale, porters, extra special bitters, raspberry beer, etc. Brewing our own beer would spawn a deep quest that would take over precious storage space and suitcase volume on vacation.
Some people brew their own beer to get suds you can’t buy locally, others to save a few bucks and others to learn the ancient art of brewing.
Most homebrewers start out making beer using a kit. The main ingredient will probably be a can of liquid malt extract, which is a really thick syrup. You put the liquid malt extract, corn sugar (because it’s cheap) and water in a large vessel, add dry yeast and leave it alone for a couple of weeks. Then you transfer the beer to another vessel, stir in a small amount of corn sugar, tap the beer into bottles and put caps on it. The corn sugar is eaten up by the yeast in the bottle and creates carbon dioxide after several weeks.
This method is the simplest one. It rarely results in really good beer, but it will result in something alcoholic that approximates beer.
I have had my share of nasty homebrew — cidery, over-carbonated stuff that tastes like “yuck.” But if you’re a poor student and somebody offers you a bottle of basement ale at an under-stocked party, you probably say yes. Taste and selectivity are the luxury of the financially secure.
As you become more sophisticated you will experiment with hops, malted grains, heating and cooling systems and other gadgets. But the single-most important variable to brew decent beer is sanitation. When you start brewing your own, you have to proceed as if there is an organ transplant being conducted in your kitchen.
You can buy beer kits in town, which usually come complete with bad instructions. If you need the basic brewing equipment try U-Brew Yukon. If you are intimidated by the brewing process, U-Brew will even brew the beer kit for you – all you have to do is add the yeast. After three weeks, they filter the beer, force-carbonate it and store it in their cooler until you bottle it.
A better option is to start brewing with a buddy and learn together. Beer kits are better if you buy the ones that don’t require the addition of corn sugar, or if you substitute the corn sugar in the recipe with malt extract.
There are a lot of resources on the internet to help you on your way. As with anything, read a lot, ask a lot of questions, but don’t be afraid to just dive right in.