Gallery: DIY: A Simple Guide to Beer Brewing for Seasonal Ale Lovers

Making the Mash: The point of the mash is to get sugar from the grain. Malted grains contain starch and heating them creates the enzymes that convert this starch in sugar. These sugars will feed the yeast, which will produce alcohol and carbon dioxide in the beer. Grains are also responsible for the flavor and color of beer.

What You’ll Need:

  • 5 gallon pot
  • Bottling bucket
  • Fermentation bucket or glass carboy (carboys are more expensive, but will last longer)
  • Tubing
  • Clamp for the tubing
  • Stopper
  • Auto-siphon
  • Hydrometer
  • False Bottom
  • Glass beer bottles (collect bottles from craft brews you’ve recently enjoyed, just make sure they are not twist-off)
  • Caps for the bottles
  • Capper
  • Bottling wand
  • Iodophor (for sanitizing: You must sanitize everything your beer is going to touch. This includes tubing, bottling bucket, bottles, caps, siphon…everything)

If you don’t have a local homebrewing store like San Francisco’s Brewcraft, you can get everything you’ll need online. Try’s Basic Homebrewing Kit and make sure to add a five gallon brew pot, long stem thermometer, and auto-siphon to your shopping list.

Step 1: Finding a recipe

Just like gardening, fermenting beer turns out best when you match the style to its season. This means starting your winter ales in the first months of fall, and your autumn beers in summertime. Holiday Ales, Stouts, Porters, and other dark beers, Winter Wheats, Smoked Rauchbier, and Scotch Ales are all good candidates for winter, but some folks also enjoy dark beers year-round. A batch started now would be ready to drink in late summer or early fall, or in mid-winter for those of you in the southern hemisphere.

Smoked beers date back to the 1500s and to the district of Franconia in Germany, where it is known as Rauchbier (“rauch” is German for smoke). It is typically of dark color and has similarities of the Oktoberfestbier. Malts, dried over an open fire of beech wood, impart a bold smoky character. The smoked porter is an acquired taste, and therefore not a very common craft brew style (this writer loves it).

Step 2: Ingredients

Like most things, beer is only be as good as what goes into it. Water, yeast, hops, and malted barley. Additionally, you may include honey, fruit juice, molasses, cane, and other sugars. Introducing more sugar in this secondary fermentation increases the carbonation and influences the finished flavor of the beer. The Smoked Molasses Porter recipe below is a Kevin Koenig original.

7.80 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 57.35 %
2.50 lb Smoked Malt (9.0 SRM) Grain 18.38 %
0.85 lb Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM) Grain 6.25 %
0.60 lb Barley, Flaked (1.7 SRM) Grain 4.41 %
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 3.68 %
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt – 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 3.68 %
0.30 lb Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) Grain 2.21 %
1.10 oz Challenger [8.00 %] (60 min) Hops 26.2 IBU
0.30 oz Goldings, East Kent (whole) [7.00 %] (15 min) Hops 2.8 IBU
0.55 lb Molasses (80.0 SRM) Sugar 4.04 %

Thousands of beers are made with virtually the same method. A simple switch of your specialty grains, change of the hop or mash profile, or a different strain of yeast will alter the brew. Beyond that there’s a world of spices, fruits, honeys, and sugars to further influence your beer. Even if you aren’t interested in a Smoked Molasses Porter, the following instructions will let you in on the quest for the perfect seasonal homebrew. With many forums and blogs out there, it should be no trouble to find a recipe that better suits your tastes. I have listed a few great resources at the end of this article to aid in that endeavor. Otherwise, locate your various grains, hops, and malts and get started!

Related: Bone Dusters Pale Ale is Brewed from a 35 Million-Year-Old Whale Fossil

Step 3: Making the mash

The point of the mash is to get sugar from the grain. Malted grains contain starch and heating them creates the enzymes that convert this starch in sugar. These sugars will feed the yeast, which will produce alcohol and carbon dioxide in the beer. The grain will also give your beer its flavor and color.

If you follow this recipe, you will be making a single infusion, medium body mash:

Heat 13 quarts of water to 178 degrees. The standard is 1 quart of water per pound of grain (Smoked Molasses Porter calls for 13.05 pounds of grain).

Add all the grains (the temperature will drop by about 10 degrees, that’s okay).

Maintain the mash at 168 degrees for 90 minutes (this varies for every recipe; lighter beers mash around 150 degrees). Stir every ten minutes and take the temperature from various points in the pot. The bottom will get hotter than the top, and you don’t want your grains to scorch. Also, it is not necessary to keep the burner on the entire time. You can wrap the covered pot in a towel to help retain heat and let the mash sit.

Step 4: Sparge the wort

Now that the heated water has helped convert the starch into sugars, you need to remove the sugar water called wort—this is done in the sparge and lautering process. Prepare by heating five gallons of water to 170 degrees.

Make a lauter ton by attaching the false bottom to the stopper and hose. Fit the stopper into the bottling bucket and clamp the hose. Next, fill the bucket with three inches of 170 degree water. Then, pour the mash out slowly to avoid and a “stuck sparge”. Rinse the mash by circulating hot water through it, slowly. Unclamp the hose and collect the wort in the brew pot. Keep rinsing the mash until the liquid runs clear (two gallons of heated water should do it).

Step 5: The boil

Heat up the wort you just collected to its boiling point, stir occasionally, and keep the boil going until it starts to foam. Reduce the heat so the pot doesn’t boil over. A vigorous boil will cause more water to evaporate (meaning less beer later), and it will caramelize sugars for a sweeter beer with less alcohol.

Step 6: Add hops

Now it’s time to add the hops. Hops account for the bittering, aroma, and flavor of a good beer. Each type of hops is added at a different stage in the boil. The boil will last for 60-90 minutes depending on the gravity of the beer (higher gravity means more time in the boil). The first 60 minutes (lighter brews call for 45 minutes) is dedicated to your bittering hops. In the Smoked Molasses Porter, these are Challenger hops. Then come the flavoring hops (Goldings, East Kent) for 15 minutes, and finally 5-10 minutes of finishing hops. As sophisticated as Smoked Molasses Porter is, it doesn’t call for finishing hops, the recipe needs the bitterness of the boiling hops to offset the sweetness of molasses, which is introduced at this stage.

Related: How to Make Your Own Hard Apple Cider


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  1. testosteron June 15, 2012 at 9:05 am

    I would love to know where I can get the Beer “glass/ picher” in the last picture. Or even better, how to make one.


  2. Allison Leahy December 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks @trip3commy ;-)

  3. trip3commy December 11, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Excellent! Your next topic should be making yeast starters. Doing this step a few days before brewday only ensures a better brew.

  4. Allison Leahy December 11, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Thanks @va011101: That’s a good point! Brewing with malt extracts gives similarly great results in half the time. All-grain brewing offers the brewer more control over the process and costs about $10 less per recipe.

  5. va011101 December 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Great article! Homebrew is the best way to experience great beer. However, I would encourage new brewers to NOT follow these instructions for all-grain brewing. Using malt extracts in syrup or dry powder forms avoids the mashing and sparging steps, greatly simplifying the process. AFTER you have tried extract brewing, graduating to all-grain is a logical step.

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