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Setting out to brew beer can be a fun and exciting hobby, and eventually can even turn into a passion one can share with friends. Although many people who brew beer never wind up making beer they feel is on a par with the best beers they buy, often the ability to fine-tune it to their personal tastes makes up for it. Beginning to brew beer has become easier and easier in the modern world, with many start up kits available so that even those who have never brewed before or seen beer brewed can jump right in.
Brewing has been around, in all likelihood, since the time of Ancient Egypt, and recipes to brew beer can be found in the first written language, Sumerian. Over time, the techniques used to brew beer have changed radically, and a number of unique tools and styles have developed. In much the same way that winemaking has long been an integral art to human livelihood, so has beer brewing, and throughout history it has been associated with different groups, most notably the monks of European Christianity.
The basics of how to brew beer are quite simple, but a bit of understanding of the processes involved can be helpful. Beer requires a malted grain of some sort, most commonly barley, although wheat and rye may sometimes be used. The barley is allowed to germinate, or malt, which causes enzymes to form. This malt is then broken apart and mixed in with hot water, activating the enzymes, which break down the starches in the grain into sugars which can ferment.
The malt is further processed, into a liquid known as wort, which is then mixed with hops and other spices as needed. This mixture is boiled, stopping any enzymatic conversion still taking place, and making a rather inert liquid. The liquid is then cooled and clarified, and it is now ready to be fermented. Yeast is added to the liquid, and it eats the sugars created by malting, turning them into alcohol and releasing carbon dioxide as well. Beer can then be set down in tanks to condition, and after a period of time can be filtered to get rid of any yeast remaining.
To brew beer at home, once basically just follows these steps, which are the same steps large breweries also follow. Clean containers, good sterilization tools, and a good source of hops, malt, and yeast are all necessary to brew beer, but these items can all be acquired from a specialty store. Additionally, one generally wants bottles and a bottling facility to store the beer for longer periods of time. There are many kits available for starting brewers, with simple kits available for less than $100 US Dollars (USD), and more robust but still beginner set-ups available for around $1000 USD.
Ultimately, setting out to brew beer is a long path. It is both a science and an art, requiring a fair amount of education and study to do well. And, above all, it requires a fair bit of trial and error. Most people who set out to brew beer find their first few batches to be nearly undrinkable, especially if they have refined tastes. Eventually, however, one overcomes these early hurdles and the rewards are truly great.
Those wanting to start brewing beer should first start with one of the many small, affordable kits out there. Beer brewing is a great hobby, but it's not for everyone as it is time consuming and labor intensive. Some people love it, some hate it. It's best to risk only a bit of money to find out in which camp you fall. Brewing a batch of beer with a kit will let you know in a hurry if you want to get more involved in the hobby or leave it alone.
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