Medieval adventures

Beer Brewing

Brewing beer from whole grains is an exciting way to brew beer that gives you full control over the final product you will get. I (Mark) like really dark beers such as stout and porter. These can get pretty pricey at the beer store, so we like to brew our own. Some people like to experiment with brewing and make small batches of a gallon or so. Lots of people in our medieval group have done this. You need almost no special equipment to make a gallon of beer. A gallon doesn’t last very long around Glyndmere! We focus on equipment using a standard 6.5-gallon plastic bucket for fermenting.

  • A grain mill (or you can order your grain pre-cracked in advance from your supplier). You need to crack about 11 pounds of grain at a time, which is quite a bit.
  • An 8-gallon kettle. Stainless steel is ideal. A real brewing kettle will have a built-in thermometer and ball valve (well worth the money!)
  • Propane burner and 20-gallon propane tank. These are what you would use with a Turkey Frier.
  • 6.5-gallon food-grade plastic bucket with lid.
  • Airlock and bung (rubber stopper)
  • A mash tun. This can be made from a cooler or you can buy one.
  • Neoprene tubing.
  • Copper cooling coil (or you can try and do it with ice packs)
  • You may want a CO2 tank system and kegs if you want to charge it. This eliminates sediment in your bottles as you charge the beer with gas rather than sugar.

There really isn’t any limit on how much (or little) you could spend to get started. Better equipment will help you make a better brew. Ontario Beer Kegs sells starter kits and whole grains with fast delivery. Try to buy local if you can.

The technique for brewing is pretty much as follows:

  • Find a recipe you think you will like.
  • Obtain whole grain roasted barley from a beer supplier. If you are in a rural area like us it is economical to order it online.
  • Heat up 6.5-7 gallons of water in your kettle on your propane burner to between 150 to 170 F. Read what your recipe suggests. Different temperatures will bring out different flavours in your grain.
  • While that water it is heating up crack the grain using a grain mill. Put the grain in your mash tun.
  • It’s probably time to enjoy a beer…
  • Pour the hot water over the grain in the mash tun. Cover and let sit for an hour. The sugars from the grain will be released into the water.
  • It’s probably time to enjoy another beer…
  • Attach a hose to the mash tun valve and pour off the liquid (wort) into your 8-gallon kettle. Plug in an electric kettle and heat water up to 150-170 F (like the recipe asked for).
  • Once the liquid in the mash tun has stopped tapping, pour the kettle water in. This is called sparging and will get as much sugar out of the grain as possible. Sparge until you get 7 to 7.5 gallons.
  • Put the kettle on the propane burner and bring it to a rolling boil for an hour (follow the recipe). Be careful that it does not boil over!
  • It’s probably time to enjoy a couple of beers…
  • Follow your recipe which will tell you when to add hops. You may want to put the hops in a filter bag and let that float around.
  • Now you need to rapidly cool the boiling water with your copper cooling coil and a garden hose. You can also try plastic bottles of ice but the copper cooling coil works well. The faster you can cool the brew the better. You will need to get it down to 70 – 80 F.
  • It’s probably time to enjoy another beer…
  • Pour the cooled brew off into your 6.5-gallon bucket. Put the lid on but not the airlock and take it to wherever it will primary ferment for a week. Pour in your yeast, put the airlock and bung into the lid, then add water to the airlock and put the cap on. It should start bubbling the next day and do that for a day or two.
  • After a week, syphon the beer off into a secondary fermenter and let it condition for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • At this point, you can either bottle or keg it. A CO2 tank makes charging easy. You can also sugar charge by adding a teaspoon of sugar to each bottle.