European nations are still undisputed world champions when it comes to drinking the most beer possible.
Seven of them feature in the top ten list of countries‘ beer consumption per capita, with thirsty Czechs drinking an average 143 pints a year to take the number one spot.
While we’re not advocating consuming as much as that, taking the time to become a beer-brewing maestro will make you the toast of the town with all your mates.
Hops and malt are the two key ingredients for a good beer, with yeast and water the only additions allowed if you stick to the purists’ advice. However, a few specialist utensils are required to get your brew tasting as good as it should: a beer spindle hydrometer for measuring the original wort (unfermented beer) content, iodine for the starch test, two large buckets, a cooking thermometer, a large cloth or a sieve, a large pot and – of course – plenty of empty beer bottles, preferably with a flip-top closure. 20 bottles is an ideal number to start sharing with friends as soon as it’s ready.
Malt is nothing more than dried grain – usually barley or wheat. For light beer, it is dried at about 80 degrees Celsius. The higher the drying temperature, the darker the malt and the beer it produces, so be sure to get the right variety for the end product you’re aiming for.
Four kilos of malt is sufficient for 20 litres of beer. Gradually add it to 20 litres of water that you’ve heated to 55 degrees Celsius, and stir. The temperature of the water will lower slightly as the malt is poured in; try to keep it at a constant 53 degrees, so that the starch that results starts to cling together to form small lumps. After a quarter of an hour, heat the mixture up to 64 degrees and continue stirring for about 20 minutes. The longer it brews, the stronger your beer will taste at the end.
The starch from the grain is transformed into a type of sugar called maltose by this process. With the iodine, you can check whether this has actually occurred: just squeeze in a few drops, and if the sample turns into reddish-blue you’ll need to continue brewing. Finally, heat the mixture to 72 to 76 degrees and stir.
Filter the wort
The boiled malt must now be separated from the liquid. To do this, pour the mixture through a sieve or a cloth. Squeeze any remaining liquid out of the malt grains, discard, and what you are left with is the wort. Now you can measure the wort with the beer spindle hydrometer - a pilsner should contain about 11 per cent malt, a bock (a rich, malty, low-hops) beer 16 per cent or more. If the value is too high for the beer you’re aiming to produce, pass the wort through the sieve or cloth again. If the value is too low, allow more water to evaporate in the next step.
Add the hops
The fruits of the hops plant give beer its flavour. There are different varieties for a tarter or more savoury beer. Add around 15g of your chosen hops to the wort and brew together for about 50 minutes, then add another 15g and brew for a further 10 minutes. Now filter the mixture through the sieve or cloth again, so that a clear, dark liquid remains. Now the wort is sterile, so take care that it stays that way.
Now comes the yeast
Yeast will ferment the wort and convert the sugars in it into alcohol and carbon dioxide (the beer’s bubbles). To begin this process, cool the wort down to six to twelve degrees and add 40g of brewer’s yeast to it. Stir the yeast in as it is added, then cover the pot so that the yeast can take effect and leave it in a cool, dark place at room temperature. The main fermentation period should last about six to 14 days until the layer of foam that has formed on top of the wort breaks open and no more bubbles appear. Now pour your fledgeling beer into the bottles, where it will mature for another two to five weeks. Your beer should last for two months and who wouldn’t raise a glass to that?