Home Brewing starter pack

A few weeks ago, I finally took the leap and dove head first into the world of home brewing. I wasn’t alone, and had ample support from a partner in crime and a few beer-savvy friends. However, I was sternly cautioned not to follow the directions on my convenient can of hopped malt extract (HME), as they can be misleading. In particular, they don’t tell you to rack your beer. Unless you want a chunk of yeast sediment at the bottom of each bottle, I highly recommend this step (more to come on this later).



The following description is not meant to give specific directions on how to brew your first batch, but an assurance that this process is more user-friendly than you might think. A dumbed-down guide for hesitant newcomers to the world of home brewing, if you will. Likewise, if your fist homemade beer sucks, there are plenty of people more knowledgeable than I on the internet that can help you troubleshoot a bad kit.

What you need:

  • Your Primary Fermentor (the big plastic bucket with a lid)
  • The lid of said fermentor
  • Your stirring stick
  • 1kg of corn sugar (Dextrose)
  • Your beer kit, which should include:
    • Hopped Malt Extract (HME)
    • Yeast
    • The instructions that came with the HME (give these a cursory glance)

Where to begin?

Sanitize, or else.

1. Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize

This part is extremely important to prevent nasty bacteria from getting it on in your brew – be sure to sanitize ALL of the above items. The most effective product to use for this would be an acid no-rinse variety such as Star San.  This step didn’t take too long a time, since we only needed to sanitize a few items. And I had a lackey to assist with the heavy lifting. What did take a long time, was waiting for the primary fermenter to dry.

But seriously guys. Sanitize EVERYTHING.

2. Warm the malt extract

I did this by placing the can of HME in a large bowl and pouring some boiling water down the sides. This stuff is like molasses. And just like molasses, you need to trick this stuff into thinking it isn’t January (or, er…February, which is when we did this).

IMG_20160302_1923293. Boil some water.

For my particular recipe, this was specifically 3.5L. In a relatively large pot. On your stove. Most municipal water is fine for extract brewing, though if you . Don’t be too picky with the volume either – it’s going to be diluted anyway.

4. Mix it up.

Pour the HME into the dry, sanitized primary fermenter along with the boiling water and the corn sugar. And stir really, really well.

5. Add cold water

Add enough cold water to fill the fermentor to a volume of 23L (or 6 US Gallons). It’s a good idea to measure the volume you need ahead of time and draw a line on the bucket – lucky for me the actual owner of the brewing equipment had already done this for me.

IMG_20160302_192540This is also a good time to take a hydrometer reading. A hydrometer measures the specific gravity of a liquid, which gives an estimation of the sugar content of your beer. At the beginning, the specific gravity is usually between 1.040-1060, depending on the type of beer. As more sugar is turned into alcohol, the number will be lower.  A typical range for specific gravity at the end of the brew is usually about 32 points lower at 1.004-1.016, though some styles may be higher (approximately 4.5%ABV).


A chemistry term. Not what you tore in Senior year football

The Homebrew Manual website has an excellent infographic indicating the ranges of specific gravity you would see for different styles of beer.


The easiest way to get a reading is to use a (sanitized!) turkey baster to extract about  from your malty/sugary/water mixture and transfer it to a narrow plastic tube called a “trial jar.” Gently drop the hydrometer into the trial jar and measure the number at the bottom of the miniscus.*

*Break out your high school chemistry textbooks, folks. The meniscus is  the curve in the upper surface of a liquid, which can easily distort volume measurements.

6. Add the yeast

Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the malt-and-water mixture. No need to mix!

7. Cover and Wait

IMG_20160214_145230Put the (sanitized) lid of your fermentor back on, place it in a warm spot, and wait 5-6 days. During this time, be sure to take a few hydrometer readings to make sure the fermentation is taking place as scheduled.

Timing is everything in home brewing, so it’s a good idea to set aside time for each step. Five days is enough time for the yeast to chew up the delicious sugars in the malt and make some alcohol (the carbonation comes later).

And that was it for day one. Easier, than expected, don’t you think. Listen…if an incurable recipe-defying anarchist like me can do it, so can you.



  1. Love Brewing, UK.
  2. Homebrew Manual





Twist N’ Stout

I still feel this way.

A week or two ago I bought a beer kit that included can of Hopped Malt Extract (HME), yeast, and a little instruction booklet. I had discussed with the store manager my apprehensions about starting at this level (see World of Wort-Craft), but he assured me I’d be okay.

Red (Ale) Leader, standing by.

I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly the first day went. I was expecting this process to take several hours (more to come on my endeavors in a future blog post). Since it didn’t, I had time to create something else. And since it was also Valentine’s Day, I had to reward myself (and my partner-in-crime) with an obligatory dose of theobromine.

There are two types of brownie people: those who prefer a chewy texture, and those who prefer them to resemble chocolate cake (though I haven’t met many of the latter). The following brownies are a compromise for the two types. Cooled, they are chewy. Warm, the stout flavours are enhanced and the texture is more cake-like.
What’s that? You don’t taste the beer? You’re probably not doing it right. Have another bite.

Twix N’ Stout Brownies

Serve with beer. Obviously.

3/4 cup unsalted butter

3 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate (OR 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg, 1 white

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup stout beer

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup chopped Twix bars or Twix bites, or the chocolate bar of your choice

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease an 8×11” pan or line with parchment paper.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt together the butter and chocolate.
  4. Remove the chocolate mixture from heat and whisk in the cocoa, sugar, and salt.
  5. Beat together the egg, vanilla and beer. Slowly whisk this into the warm chocolate mixture.
  6. Add flour and fold into batter until just incorporated.
  7. Fold in chopped Twix pieces and chocolate chips.
  8. Spread the batter into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.Makes approximately 20 brownies


Recipe adapted from:

Beer Smith. How to Brew Beer – 5 Steps for Making Beer at Home.




Image courtesy Midtown Kitchen, Calgary
Image courtesy Midtown Kitchen, Calgary

Friends, followers, and new acquaintances: welcome to the Empire Strikes Bock. For those of you that know me,

I’ve taken a long hiatus from writing. For the past year or so I have worked as an intern to advance my career, which gave me little time to write about beer.. Prior to that, my main focus was the Brew Crew column for the Gateway student newspaper at the University of Alberta.

Now that I have settled down with a steady job and have to act like a responsible adult for 40 hours a week, I started to miss writing about my beer-ventures. My mission for this blog is to document my experiments and brag about the ones that worked. Here are some things you can expect:

  • Reviews of a variety of beers, whiskeys, gin, and other beverages that strike my fancy. But mostly beer
  • Weird food. Made with lagers, ales and spirits
  • Visits to various pubs and restaurants with a focus on craft beer
  • The occasional story from my travels. Provided there is a fermented beverage involved

Do not expect:

  • Me to talk about things that are “healthy”, “natural”, “organic” or anything else that implies wholesomeness. Go see a Registered Dietitian, if that’s your thing
  • Me to talk about wine. Go see a sommelier, if that’s your thing
  • Bombardment with pictures of my non-existent children. Google up a Mommy-blogger, if that’s your thing

Be warned – the purpose of this blog is for my own enjoyment more than anything else.

If you want to reminisce about my previous concoctions and musings, check out A Bittersweet Finish, where it all started. Special thanks to my partner-in-crime for the considerably more awesome title and logo.

Drinks, anyone?