“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein
Recently my brother Iceman ( his alias is CreamPea, but that’s another story ) had expressed an interest in brewing up some beer. He has long been a fan of beer and homebrew. He had helped a friend brew a beer before, and he said that it didn’t turn out all that great but wanted to try again. So I said I would set him up with what he needed and started looking at basic brewing essentials for the beginner. I’ve always been of the mind that homebrewing is only as complex as you want it to be. But it had been a while since I thought about brewing extract beers. Looking back at how I had learned to brew in those beginning days of ALBC, and the limited equipment I had to brew with, I came to the realization that there has to be an easier way for my brother to get started. What I mean by easier is – less complicated instructions, and less equipment required to execute a consistent good tasting beer in a manner that even slackers can do.
When I started out brewing, I was using a Mr. Beer kit I got as a gift. JMan had already been brewing for a year, and so I had a good sounding board for how “real” 5 gallon extract batches were done. For those who don’t know, the Mr. Beer fermentor is a small 2.5 gallon barrel with a spigot at the bottom. The lid is designed as its own sort of airlock. So the setup is very simple. You add finished wort to the fermentor, add yeast and let it go. Then after a few weeks when its ready to bottle, you simply sanitize your bottles, and instead of batch priming in a separate container, you add sugar or carbonation drops to each bottle. Then, you simply use the spigot to put beer into each bottle, then cap.
I soon grew tired of the Mr. Beer ingredients and wanted to branch out. But I liked the Mr. Beer bottling method and the 2.5 gallon batch sizes. Investing in all that equipment like a 5 gallon brewpot and buckets, carboys, tubing, hydrometer etc. seemed very expensive for a hobby I wasn’t sure I would continue with. So I decided to keep using the 2.5 gallon Mr. Beer fermentor, and started using recipes in books and other sources. I simply cut the recipe ingredients in half, or I would buy 5 gallon kits, and divide them in half. Pretty soon I was brewing quite often, bottling was a breeze. No siphoning, no carboys. Just bottling directly from the fermentor. I think JMan was skeptical of the whole thing, but I didn’t have equipment to do it the “real way”, and the beer was coming out good enough. I decided that I would stay with this plan for a year and If I was still brewing beer, I would go ahead and jump to 5 gallon equipment.
After the 1 year mark I made the jump and started brewing 5 gallons at a time. But now there was more work to brewing, and there was all this stuff! Previously, I brewed for a whole year before I even owned a hydrometer! Why would I need one? Well, quite simply, you don’t. Like the other things that come with a basic homebrewing kit. You just don’t need all of them. Period. The traditional homebrew community just screamed “Get Him!” and grabbed pitchforks. But seriously lets get real here. Brewing is not a cheap hobby. At some point you will spend money on equipment you don’t need and elaborate steps and procedures. But for my brother, I wanted to focus on what it is you really need to make good beer with limited equipment, time, and space. And the solution? Well, it’s nothing revolutionary. Copy the Mr. Beer fermentation and bottling procedure, but on a 5 gallon scale. This allows the brewer the ease of buying kits designed for 5 gallons as well as the unlimited recipes out there designed for 5 gallons without doing any other calculations. The bottling procedure is also tweaked to make the finished beer higher quality by reducing oxidation.
The fermentation equipment is quite simple.
- “Bottling bucket” with grommeted lid and spigot at the bottom.
- Bottling wand.
- Your choice of tubing length to attach the bottling wand to the spigot.
Beginners will also need the rest of the traditional extract brewing equipment, like a 4 or 5 gallon pot ( aluminum, stainless, enamel ), bottles, bottle capper, caps, sanitizer and a few other miscellaneous items. You also need to buy yourself good quality ingredients and kits with good instructions.
Currently we are in the process of writing up the instructions in a straightforward manner with some illustrations to make things easy. Stay tuned for more info as we refine the process, and as Iceman begins his homebrew slacker adventure.