As occasionally happens when you’re a writer at Sur La Table, a strange box showed up on my desk a few days ago, a box that towered above my standard clutter of food-shaped ornaments, inspiration cookbooks and arcane coffee-making apparatuses.
It was large, but not intimidating—the sort of box that I was reasonably confident I could carry home without throwing out my back (a list that grows depressingly smaller every year). Adorned with eye-catching, woodcut-style art, it also bore an irresistible message: Brew Your Own Beer.
I know that homebrew is a thing that people do, and do enthusiastically. It’s just not something that I do.
Still, this box—Craft-A-Brew’s American Pale Ale kit—made it look so inviting. (They also make Hefeweizen, IPA and Irish Stout kits.) “Your beer destiny is in your own hands,” it asserted, and while I hadn’t been aware that I even had a beer destiny, I was willing to take the box at its word. It had never lied to me before, and besides, that mustachioed gent on the side looked pretty trustworthy.
What’s in the Box?
Everything you need, from the racking cane, tubing and carboy (which is apparently a fancy synonym for “jug”) to the grains, hops and yeast is arranged in the box like a game of boozy Tetris. Seriously, the guys at Craft-A-Brew put some definite care into this. It’s like the end result of that time your dad spent an hour rearranging luggage for the annual trip to Grandma’s, only with (one hopes) a lot less cursing.
On top is the no-nonsense Guide to Craft Brewing. I don’t know what sorts of nonsense and shenanigans other craft brew kits get up to, but this one assures me that there will be none of that.
The guide is easy to follow and breaks down each part of the brewing process in clear, step-by-step instructions. There’s even a QR code that you can scan to watch some slickly produced videos. And while I’m still half convinced that beer is actually magic, the guide asserts that it’s simple science. Sugar + Yeast = (Alcohol + CO2). No nonsense here.
The process that the guide outlines sounds pretty simple: boil some grain, malt and hops in a large pot, pour it into a carboy, toss in some yeast and let it work its magic (sorry, I meant SCIENCE). Allow two weeks for fermentation to run its course, bottle up the resulting elixir and enjoy. Sounds simple, right? Right?
I aim to find out.
Stay tuned for Homebrew for Beginners Part 2, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Carboy.
All photographs by Naomi Parker.
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