The next time you see a yuppie trying to impress his date with an elaborate system of sniffing, shaking and delicately tasting a glass of wine, remind him that it is simply fermented grape juice. That is all. Sugar already exists in grapes, and the making of wine is therefore a less complex process than the one that creates God's one and true gift to man (and woman) kind; beer.
There is reference to a beer-like substance in Ancient China as far back as 5,000 years ago. Brewing was considered a highly respected occupation as far back as during the Mesopotamia civilization, and beer was part of the daily diet of the Egyptian Pharaohs, used in religious practices. Possibly the coolest factoid I could find is that the Finnish epic poem, "Kalevala," finally recorded in written form during the 19th Century, but based on oral traditions that spanned many generations, actually has more references to beer and beer-making than the origins of mankind. Awesome. (1)
In a small effort to keep this rich and ancient tradition thriving, I just finished up a batch of a red ale, which should be ready for drinking when my parents get back into town in early September.
A quick primer on beer-brewing:
Create the "wort," which consists of grains and a malt extract, eventually combined after separate boiling processes. This is eventually brought to a full and roiling boil, with various types of hops added at planned intervals. This finished wort will be added to a primary fermenter, or plastic container, before adding a large quantity of cold, clean water. Specialty yeast is added as a final step before closing up the container. The beer-to-be will be transferred to a glass carboy, or secondary fermenter within 1-2 weeks via a siphon, and it will then continue to ferment for a somewhat subjective length of time that is partially based on the type of beer. The bottling process uses the siphon as well, and the liquid is combined with priming sugar in the bottles. This is the final step, and the bottled beer will carbonate and continue to ferment until ready to drink. The last and most important step is, obviously, to enjoy the fruits of your labors.
* I am leaving out a lot of the details, but this gives you a quick breakdown.
Racking beer to prepare for bottling:
Capping my bottled beer:
44 beers, just waiting for a dance partner:
Happiness, I has it:
(1) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_beer