Everything is more expensive nowadays. Beer, grain, bread, beer, food, gas, and beer. The important things in life it seems. How can we rectify this situation?
We should conserve food, water, and grain by combining them into beer. But how do we make the jump cheaply without buying one of those $100 beer brewing kits and a bunch of pots and pans?
Inside, the secrets of cheap beer!
The first thing you need: Throw out any preconceived notions of style or brand. We’re going to make the AK47 of beers – cheap, reliable, and works with sand in it. If you say “MAN I LIKE SAM ADAMS SHOW ME HOW TO MAKE THAT FOR $10 ‘CAUSE I SPENT MY OTHER $5 ON THIS ACCOUNT”, this guide isn’t for you. This is for someone who wants to get into the hobby on the cheap and see what the homemade beer craft is all about.
The $80 beer kits generally come with a few specialty items you won’t be able to bullshit together. Bottle-cappers are almost exclusively a tool of the serious brewer and the kit includes one. Kits also include a small bag of caps, two buckets, a siphon, a hydrometer, and an airlock. That’s a lot of stuff for the price of a PS3 game and you will never have to purchase it again. But what about doing it bit by bit? I had originally bought a $80 kit (actually it was $60 locally and included enough materials to make a beer) but wish I had sprung the extra $40 for a glass carboy after ruining a bucket. Lesson learned: Spend a bit more and get the glass if you’re buying a kit.
But lets put this idea on hold for a minute and ask ourselves if we really need all of this. What would we need in an absolute, bare bones kit for brewing beer in prison or at the end of the world? You would need:
* A bucket. Find a walrus and steal one, or follow this handy guide.
* A lid for the bucket.
* Something to poke a hole with.
* A tube to poke into the hole.
* A cup of water.
* Some plastic soda bottles which add up to 5 gallons including caps.
“THIS WILL MAKE BEER?” you ask! You dare question!?
You also need a beer kit. The rule of thumb is that you need at minimum 1lbs malt for 1 gallon of water. To make a half batch (2.5 gallons), use 3lbs of malt extract. For a full batch, which is five gallons and how most kits are sold, use 6 gallons. What’s the difference between 3.3lbs of liquid malt extract and 3lbs of dry malt extract? Nothing. They are 1:1 substitutable! The extra third of a pound is what little water is left in there.
Buy a 6 gallon bucket even if you’re making half batches. Why? You can make full buckets later! Various brewing stores will try to steal your money by selling you “food grade” buckets. This is a myth – “food grade” simply means #2 or better grade plastic and contains no harmful dyes. Go to your local hardware store, ask for the bucket aisle, and find a six gallon bucket. The number inside the recycling triangle tells you roughly what it’s made out of, and #1 (“soda bottle” plastic), #2 and #5 (“baby bottle” plastic) are acceptable. #3, #4, #6 and #7 are not. Pewter is not. The bucket should be white – bleached but otherwise undyed. Make sure it has a lid and doesn’t say anything crazy like “Not for storing food”. It is not acceptable to recycle buckets that held things other than food.
You need a tube. It should be long enough you can siphon with it. Again, regular old vinyl plumbing tube works great.
Take the plumbing tube, hold it against the lid like you were going to pass it through, and trace around it. Now cut a hole ever so slightly smaller in the lid. This is your blow off tube, since we’re going for the Ultimate Israeli Beer Experience and not spending $3 on an airlock. That crap gets expensive!
The 5 Gallon Mark and Cleaning
Fill a two liter soda bottle eight times and dump the water into the bucket. Now fill it once again halfway and dump that in. Make a mark on the outside of the bucket where the water level is. PROTIP: It helps to shine a light into the bucket so you can see the water line on the outside of the bucket. Now make a second mark between the this mark and the bottom of the bucket. You now have 2.5 gallon and 5 gallon marks. Sweet! But you don’t want to die, right? Lots of undesirables shop at Home Depot and your bucket might have AIDS! How do we cure AIDS? Put 5 tablespoons of really cheap bleach into your bucket and let stand for 10 minutes. Your bucket is now sterile, but covered in bleach! Wash down the sides after you dump this mess out in your tub. Your wife will approve of this project because it cleans the tub! Put on a skirt and continue cleaning. Use this mixture to clean those soda bottles you want to put beer in some day. You have enough solution made up to clean exactly the amount of bottles (and caps) you will need to bottle your beer. Isn’t this amazing?
Malt is what makes beer. There’s two kinds: Hopped-malt-extract and unhopped-malt-extract. Since we’re being lazy here and going for no-boil, you want hopped-malt-extract. This pretty much means Mr Beer cans. Each one of those cans makes about one case (2.5 gallons) of beer. Want to make two cases? That’s why you have a 5 gallon bucket! Just buy two cans and use them both! You can also use Cooper’s Cans for this, I find they’re a little more high quality than Mr Beer. But what if these have insufficient alcohol by volume for the man’s man such as yourself? Either reduce the water by 10% or add some table sugar. For darker malts, you won’t notice the table sugar anyway, so just do it. 1 lbs of sugar is worth about 4% ABV in a 5 gallon batch, so make sure you put in the whole bag. OK that won’t actually work since most yeast can only tolerate about 10% ABV for the most mutated yeast from the Three Mile Brewery, so add 1 lbs at most of table sugar for fortification.
1) Acquire malt kit.
2) Take off lid. You will find instructions and a yeast packet. Put the yeast packet somewhere safe. Discard instructions because you’re a man.
3) Open the can and pour malt into sterile bucket.
4) Use hot water to wash out the cans into the bucket.
5) Use cool water (regular tap water is OK if you like the taste) to raise the level of wort (unfermented beer) to 2.5 gallons if you only used one can or 5 gallons if you used two cans.
6) Stir like crazy. Add your pound of sugar now so you can get blind drunk on the cheap.
7) Toss in the yeast. I would suggest both packets for the 5 gallon batch since the freeze dried stuff is usually on the low side of the standard pitching rate.
8) Put on the lid. Shove the tube through it but not into the wort. You’re extracting gas, not beer at this point. The other end of the tube goes into a glass of water. It should bubble after a day.
9) After two weeks, add between 3/4 and 1 cup of table sugar to the bucket and stir again until dissolved. Don’t worry about that crap you kick up, this is getting drunked up on the cheap! Besides, it’s high in B vitamins. Now pour the beer into the bottles and cap. Forget about them for two weeks, then they are ready to drink.
Cost for this project
* 1 paint bucket – $5
* 1 10ft tube – $2
* 9 soda bottles – Free if stolen from the dump (Substitute beer bottles here, bottle caps are $10 for 150ct and you can press them on with a 32mm socket).
* Ale kit – 2 cans will run you about $16
Total Cost: $23 for your own ghetto beer kit and the cheapest swill we could assemble!