Class #6 of the Can It Academy Food Preservation and Cottage Arts Certification Program: Beer and Vinegar Making
We had a guest speaker at our beer making class last week at the Can It Academy. Homebrewer Jake Mumm stopped by to share his barley and hops wisdom and teach us newbies how to brew. Of course we just barely touched the surface at this one class, but I think it’s safe to say that after watching Mumm and Chef Miller brew up a batch for us to take home, it feels much less intimidating.
The history of beer and it’s tie to modern civilization is really pretty fascinating. Dating back to 9500 BCE, it’s the oldest prepared beverage and was even used to pay salaries. There is a beer recipe that was discovered dating back to 1500 BCE. We most likely wouldn’t recognize this recipe as modern day beer; most early beers contained fruit, honey, spices, etc… and hops weren’t added until the year 822, in Europe.
Mumm brought different Malts and Hops to share with us, teaching us about the different varieties available…
He also taught us about malting: germinating your own barley by soaking it for 72 hours, then allowing it to germinate for 1 to 3 weeks. Germination is finished when new growth stems out of the kernel and up the grain. When the growth is the same length as the kernel, it’s fully malted. Drying them out for a few days will then halt this germination process. Good to know for us newbies, though, that buying it already malted is what most brewers do. Whew! But knowing this process helps us learn some of the terminology used by brewers. This ‘modification’ information is important to know when you buy malt. You’ll most likely want fully modified malt but under and over modified malts are available as well, so make sure to read the malt analysis sheet when buying from a malt dealer.
Once you figure out your recipe and ingredients, you’re ready to get brewing. Keeping your temperature steady is an important part of brewing, so make sure to get to know your oven and buy an awesome temperature gauge.
Start by bringing your water up to temperature. Then, line your pot with a steeping bag, add your grains, adjust your temperature and let simmer, per your recipe.
After the allotted time has passed, drain the bag over the pot. This pot of brew water is now called ‘wort’ and you’re going to bring this to a boil and skim. You’ll want to add the hops and additional ingredients at this point, boiling it again, per your recipe.
Next, cool down your wort as quickly as possible. We did this with an ice bath.
There are different kinds of yeast you can add to your brew and combining the yeast and brew is the only time you’ll want it exposed to oxygen. You’ll also want to make sure everything that touches the brew is fully sanitized.
Fermentation continues for a few weeks. After our class, we added an airlock for four days, then added cane sugar and have now set it aside for two weeks. (At the time of this writing, I was still in that two week waiting-with-baited-breath time frame.) Please note that these steps are just a basic outline for what we learned in class for two different beers ( a Maple Porter and and an Apple Ale, which is what I took home.) Mumm mentioned How to Brew as a great online research for learning how to homebrew, as well as for brew recipes.
In-between brewing steps, Chef Miller talked about making homemade vinegar. It takes months for the final product but homemade vinegar is 100% better then store bought, according to Chef Miller (and common sense) and I tend to believe whatever Chef Miller tells me at this point.
You’ll need a starter, or ‘mother’, to get things going. The starter (cellulose that bacteria produces) converts the ethanol in your alcohol into acetic acid, the main ingredient in vinegar. You can actually buy ‘mothers’ online but it’s fun to make your own. Chef Miller uses the 2:1, 2 week method, using a raw unfiltered, unpasteurized vinegar.
An example of a ‘mother’:
To start a ‘mother’, add 1 part of the unfiltered, raw vinegar mentioned above to two parts wine. For best results, make sure it is in the 9-12% alcohol range. Ferment in a wide mouthed jar as most fermentation takes place on the surface, cover with a fine mesh cheese cloth, and store in a dark place. After two weeks, you have the mother. If you used red wine, your vinegar will be ready in about 3-4 months and if you used white, it will be ready in about 6 months.
Take-aways from the beer and vinegar class:
- Beer and Ale was considered magical until the 1850’s, when Luis Pastor figured out the ‘magic’ was in the fermentation… I know many people that still think beer and ale is magical.
- Keep the mesh of grains off the bottom of the pot!
- You can use any alcohol except creme liquors to make a vinegar. Yes, even a Jack Daniels Vinegar!
- The ‘mother’ you created can be used over and over again, as the ‘mother’ for new batches of vinegar.
Have you missed the first five articles in this series? You can find them here: