How to brew beer at home

This Saturday is Learn to Homebrew Day. As regular readers of this page will know, we planned on having a Learn to Homebrew Day event, but it was eventually cancelled due to a forecast with a 90% chance of rain and 23 MPH winds.  Kind of makes brewing outside problematic.

The plan was to brew a 10 gallon, all-grain batch of a special beer I came up with last year in honor of our grandfather who died after a long battle with Parkinson’s.  We would have been using equipment and techniques including a mash-tun, a large boil kettle, propane burner, grain mill, wort chiller and a huge yeast starter that would be a bit much for a first time brewer. In the spirit of Learn to Homebrew Day, I decided to develop a simplified version of the recipe that requires nothing more than a basic starter kit you can pick up at a local hombrew shop like Beer & Wine Hobby or online, and other items most people have in their kitchen already.

When I started the blog I decided early on not to make this a “how to” type of blog. John Palmer and Charlie Papazian are infinitely more qualified than I am to teach and explain the brewing process. Instead I took a similar approach to James Watt and Martin Dickie on the TV show Brew Dogs. Watt and Dickie brew what they brew, and if there is a process or concept that they feel warrants additional explanation, they will explain it as they go. That is what I have always tried to do considering that the blog is hosted on a newspaper website and most of my Facebook fans aren’t homebrewers.

The grist in the all-grain version is very basic, so in this beginner’s recipe there are no specialty grains to steep. All you need to do is boil the extract and add the hops at the appropriate times. I substituted Nottingham dry yeast for the liquid yeast in the all-grain recipe eliminating the need for a yeast starter. Nottingham is one of the cleanest fermenting and highest floccuating ale yeasts, so the finished beer should have more of a lager-like flavor and clarity as opposed to using S05, or other popular dry yeasts.

If you have never brewed anything in your life you can go to a homebrew shop, pick up a very basic starter kit, print this article, and have somebody who works there help you find all the ingredients to brew this as your first batch. I brewed this Thursday night, took lots of pictures, and created a slideshow almost every step of the way for you visual learners.

Pa’s Videoboard Lager (Extract)


  • 9.15 lbs Pilsner Liquid Malt Extract (LME) &
  • 1lb Pilsner Dry Malt Extract (DME)
  • or 9.9 lbs Pilsner Liquid Malt Extract
  • 1 oz Pearle Hops
  • 1 oz Liberty Hops
  • 1 Packet Nottingham Yeast
  • 5 oz Corn Sugar
  • Water (If your tap water is good enough to drink, it is good enough to brew with. Otherwise purchase 6 gallons of bottled water)


  • Stock pot (at least three gallons)
  • Fermentation bucket or carboy
  • Small cup
  • Sanatizer or bleach solution
  • Airlock
  • Thermometer
  • 2 lbs of ice or two 2 L soda/1 g juice bottles filled with water and frozen

For bottling day you will need bottle caps and 2 cases of pry-off bottles (approx 48 12 oz bottles, or 12 22 oz bombers). You can buy these, or clean and sanitize used bottles from store-bought beer. Just make sure they are not twist-offs!

  1. Assemble all of your ingredients making sure you have everything you need to get started
  2. Soak the extract in a pot or sink filled with hot water. This will make it easier to pour out of the container.
  3. Bring 1.75 gallons of water to a boil in a 3 gallon or larger stock pot (brew kettle).
  4. Remove the boiling water from the burner, quickly dump in all of the DME, and slowly add 3.15 lbs of Pilsner LME. Stir as you add the LME to prevent the extract from scorching at the bottom of the kettle. If you purchased three 3.3lb cans of Briess Pilsen Light LME, just go ahead and add the entire can; it’s close enough.
  5. Once the LME and DME is fully dissolved in the water, put the kettle back on the burner and slowly bring to a boil. The liquid in the kettle is now called wort.
  6. As the wort approaches boiling temperatures, a foam will start to rise called a hot break.
  7. When the wort starts to boil, wait a few minutes for the hot break to boil off, then add the 1 oz of Pearle Hops. I always smell the hops after opening the bag and before adding to the boil.
  8. Set a timer for 58 minutes for the next hop addition.
  9. While the wort is boiling, sanitize your fermenter, lid, airlock, the small cup, or anything else that will touch the wort or yeast after it is boiled. If you have, or if your kit came with a no rinse sanitizer like Star San or Iodophor all you need to do is soak your equipment. If not, a solution of 1 TSP of bleach per 1 gallon of water will work. It just needs 15 minutes of contact time, and be sure to rinse thoroughly.
  10. When the timer is down to 3 minutes, start to prepare an ice bath in a tub or sink. Add your ice or frozen bottles.
  11. Add 0.5 oz of Liberty hops and set the timer to 2 minutes. If you don’t have a scale that can measure weights that small, just add approximately half the package of hops. This doesn’t have to be exact.
  12. When the timer goes off again turn off the heat and add the rest of the extract. Stir as the LME is added to avoid scorching.
  13. Once the additional LME is dissolved, put the wort in the ice bath to cool. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
  14. Take the yeast packet and the sanitized cup. Fill the cup with water, sprinkle in the yeast, and stir until the yeast is fully hydrated and free of clumps.
  15. Add 2 gallons of cold or cool water to your fermenter.
  16. Once the timer has gone off and the wort has had 20 minutes to cool, add the wort into the fermenter and the water already inside. Then add additional water until you have about 5.25 gallons of total wort.
  17. Place the thermometer in the wort. Once the temperature is below 80F, add (pitch) the yeast, put on the lid or bung, and seal with the airlock making sure it is filled with sanitized water or alcohol.
  18. Find a cool dark place for the fermenter. The temperture range for this yeast us 57F-70F. Ideally this beer should ferment on the lower end of the range to have more of a clean, lager-like flavor. If you don’t have a place that cool, the beer will still be fine. It may just taste more like a blonde ale than a lager.
  19. After two weeks siphon (rack) the beer to a secondary fermenter and add the leftover 0.5 oz of Liberty Hops. Keep in the secondary fermenter for 1-3 weeks. If you do not have a secondary fermenter, just add the dry hops and be sure to bottle in 1-2 weeks.
  20. Bottle: Boil the 5 oz of corn sugar in 1 cup of water. Sanitize 2 cases of bottles and an appropriate number of bottle caps. Add the sugar solution to your sanitized bottling bucket, rack the finished beer on top of that, fill your bottles about half way up the neck, and crimp on the bottle caps.
  21. Have the finished beer sit at room temperture for 2-3 weeks. I usually sample the beer at two weeks to see if the beer is carbonated yet.
  22. Once the beer is carbonated it can be stored cold, or cool if you do not have fridge space for all of this beautiful homebrew. For best results let the beer refrigerate for two days.
  23. DRINK!

A few additional pro-tips:

  • After pitching your yeast and putting on the airlock, give the fermenter a good shake and make sure there are plenty of bubbles on top of the wort. This will help make sure the yeast have enough oxygen for fermentation
  • After fermentation, oxygen becomes the enemy. Rack your beer as quietly as possible and minimize splashing when transferring from one vessel to the next.
  • Store the extra hops for the dry-hop step in a ziplock back in a refrigerator or freezer.
  • Start a brewing journal and take detailed notes about your brew day and how the beer ends up tasting. If something is off it will help identify the reason why.
  • As you start your boil keep a spay bottle of water handy. If the hot break starts to boil over, turn the heat down immediately and spray the boil over with the water to cool it down rapidly.
  • If you are dying with anticipation to try your beer while it ferments, go brew something else! All you need is an additional fermenter and ingredients. If you really get sucked into the hobby, you want to keep the pipeline moving. If you brew once a month or every couple of weeks, you will have a new beer to try every month or every couple of weeks.
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