Home Brew 

My youngest son had been on me about something for a while: Why didn't we try making our own beer? Ten years ago, my brother-in-law helped me brew a batch. While the finished product was delicious, it took months to complete, thanks to a very cold basement and some finicky yeast. By then he had left town with all the requisite equipment.

The roots of beer-making are as old as civilization itself. Different strains of the same wild yeast that cause bread to rise will convert water and grain into beer. Before the mechanics of fermentation were understood, this transformation into a mildly alcoholic, nutritional beverage that was safer to drink than water and left you with a nicely relaxed feeling must have seemed magical. That magic was not lost on me when I cracked open the first bottle from my latest stab at home brewing.

That's the best reason for making your own--fresh beer created in a style that you chose and that you made from start to finish. If you love beer, it is the ultimate reward. Sure, you might save a few bucks, but it will take long while to recoup your initial investment.

This time we decided to do it right. No waiting the better part of a year to taste the fruits of our labor. Fortunately, here in Boise we have a great resource: Brew Connoisseurs at 3894 W. State, right next to Smoky Davis. K.C. and Rhonda Jones make creating your first batch as easy and painless as possible. For around a hundred bucks, they will fix you up with everything you need, including their great advice and a copy of Charlie Papazian's The Complete Joy of Home Brewing--a good read and an invaluable resource. All things considered, it's a remarkably simple process when you do it right.

It can be as easy as opening a can of premixed malt and hops, adding water, boiling, transferring to the fermenter, pitching the yeast then waiting for the magic. My son and I decided to complicate things a bit, opting for the Brew Connoisseurs' recipe for Scotch Ale. It was still pretty straight forward with just a couple of extra steps.

Even though Papazian's book's most frequent admonition is to relax and not worry, when we saw nothing happening in the fermenter the first 48 hours, we worried. The basement is still pretty cool, and I had had a little mishap with the yeast. No problem. On day four everything took off, as the yeast really went to town. Ten days later, we were ready to bottle.

Then came the hard part: waiting another 10 days for the bottle fermentation. But tasting our own ale was the ultimate hook. Sure, we're a little biased, but it tasted damn fine--smooth malt, nice hop bite in the back, long rich finish. As I write, our second batch, an IPA that should weigh in at around 80 IBU, is just starting to ferment. We won't wait as long to start our third. What other hobby lets you drink your investment? :

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