5 Beer Recipe Kits Perfect For Beginners

Steam Freak Ingredient KitsHomebrewing is not especially difficult… at least it doesn’t have to be. For the beginning homebrewer, extract beer recipe kits are the easiest way to get into the hobby, requiring the least amount of time and energy and still resulting very remarkable beer.

As an absolute beginner, try to focus on the most important steps (like cleaning and sanitation) and just try to get the process down. As you continue to brew, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try new and exciting brewing methods.

To get you started on that first batch, here are five excellent, easy-to-brew beer recipe kits:

  1. Munton’s Connoisseur Kit: India Pale Ale 
    IPAs are one of most popular styles of craft beer today, delighting hop heads from coast to coast. With this beer recipe kit, the hoppy bitterness is already present in the malt extract, so there is no need for a 60-minute boil with multiple hop additions. Add 2.2 pounds of dried malt extract to make a full 5-6 gallons of beer. Yeast packet included.
  1. Steam Freak: “Steam Stoker” American Stout
    Stouts, with their robust, roasted flavor, are very forgiving for the beginning homebrewer. Steeped specialty grains offer flavors of caramel, chocolate, and coffee, supported by bitterness and spicy, floral hop flavor from Nugget and Willamette hops. Steam Freak beer recipe kits include caps, priming sugar, yeast, and complete instructions to guide you through the brewing process.
  1. Munton’s Connoisseur Kit: Nut Brown Ale
    Many brewers start with a brown ale. It’s the perfect middle of the road beer to break into brewing. The Nut Brown Ale is a malt-forward, English-style beer with a subtle nutty flavor. Just like the IPA above, this one is super-easy to brew.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit
  1. Brewer’s Best: American Pale Wheat
    This beer recipe kit is as easy to make as it is easy-drinking. It produces a remarkable wheat beer with a beautiful light-copper cooler. It’s moderately hoppy from a combination of Cluster and Liberty hops, with an enjoyable, crisp finish.
  1. Steam Freak: Samuel Smith Taddy Porter Clone
    This beer recipe kit replicates the popular Samuel Smith brand of robust porter. Steep the specialty grains for improved body and flavor, then mix in the dark liquid malt extract. English hops (included in the kit) are boiled to provide bitterness, flavor, and aroma as characteristic for the style.

Looking for a beginner homebrewing equipment kit? Our Steam Freak Beermaking Starter Kit has everything you need. This starter kit is the ultimate way to start brewing.
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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Getting Started: Essential Home Brewing Equipment List

Home Brewing EquipmentI’m frequently asked by craft beer fans what they need in order to start brewing their own beer. Is there a home brewing equipment list that one could follow? Luckily, E. C. Kraus has taken the guess work out of this question by offering a Starter Home Brew Kit, which includes a bunch of equipment and one ingredient kit for the homebrewer’s first batch of beer. The only thing not included is a large kettle, which you may have on hand already. (If you don’t, we can hook you up with a brew kettle, too!)

Now, let’s take a closer look at the list of home brewing equipment included in the Steam Freak beer brewing kit:

  • Home Brewing Book:
    Before even getting to the actual equipment, every brewer needs some literature to guide them through their first batch. The Complete Joy of Home Brewing is the perfect accompaniment for the beginning brewer. After getting a batch or two of homemade beer under their belt, homebrewers can upgrade to more advanced books. I recommend Marty Nachel’s Homebrewing for Dummies and Ray Daniels’ Designing Great Beers. More >>
  • 6 Gallon Primary Fermenter (Comes with airlock, stopper, and faucet):
    A 6 Gallon Fermenter is ideal for primary fermentation. Even though you will be brewing a five-gallon batch, the extra space allows for krausen, or foam, to build during the height of fermentation. The airlock and stopper allow carbon dioxide – a byproduct of fermentation – to escape from the fermenter, while the faucet makes it easy to transfer to the carboy for secondary fermentation. More >>
  • 5 Gallon Plastic Carboy (Comes with airlock, stopper, and faucet):
    The carboy is where the beer sits for a 10-14 day conditioning phase, known as secondary fermentation. A curved racking cane will make it easier to transfer from the carboy back into the fermenter for bottling. More >>
  • Home Brew Hydrometer:Shop Brew Kettles
    This nifty tool should on any home brewing equipment list. It allows brewers at every level to determine the alcohol content of their beer. Carefully place the sanitized home brew hydrometer in the unfermented wort to take the first measurement – referred to as the original gravity (OG). After fermentation, take another – called the final gravity (FG). The difference between the two is used to calculate the alcohol by volume (ABV)! More >>
  • Thermometer:
    Your fermentation temperature matters. Too cool, and the yeast won’t ferment; too warm and you are promoting bacterial growth and possible death of the yeast. More >>
  • 6′ Length of 3/8″ Vinyl Hose:
    Any home brewing equipment list is going to have this. The heat resistant hose facilitates transferring from one fermenter to the other. More >>
  • Bottle Capper  
    When it’s time to bottle your brew, you’ll need something to cap the beer bottles. The double lever capper is easy to operate and ensures a firm seal on every bottle. More >>
  • Cleaner/Sanitizer:
    Brewing can get a little messy, but with several cases of beer at the end, it’s well worth the effort. A cleaner is ideal for cleaning your home brewing equipment before and after brewing a batch of beer. More >>
  • Beer Bottle Brush: Shop Steam Freak Kits
    Homebrewers typically save beer bottles for when their home brew is ready. The beer bottle brush helps to clean the insides of the bottles, helping to make sure nothing contaminates the beer you’ve worked so hard to make. More >>
  • Beer Ingredient Kit:
    Choose from over 30 beer ingredient kits for your making your first batch of beer. The Steam Freak Ingredient Kits include all home brewing ingredients for a five gallon batch, recipe instructions, and caps. More >>

So what are you waiting for? Order a kit already and start brewing! It has a home brewing equipment list that is perfect for the first-timer. And, it’s something you can easily build upon as you progress in this wonderful hobby.
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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He is a graduate of the Siebel Institute of Technology’s “Start Your Own Brewery” program and the Oskar Blues Brew School in Brevard, NC.

What is a Winter Beer?

You’ve heard the term “winter beer” but do you really know what a winter beer is? Would you be able to name one or two? More than just a beer that’s brewed during the colder months, so-called winter brews are crafted to be hearty and satisfying when the temperature drops, similar to a good meatloaf or a savory beef stew. Beer enthusiasts say the tradition of brewing winter beers originated in the British Isles and Germany where creating special winter brews to banish the chill had been going on for centuries.

Characteristics of a Winter Beer

  • Thicker and more full-bodied than ordinary beer
  • Generous malt presence, both in flavor and body
  • Some are spiced or flavored with pumpkin, cloves or nutmeg; others stand alone on the artful combination of malt and hops
  • Generally made with less water (thus having a higher alcohol content than ordinary beers)
  • Color of a winter beer can range from a light red to a dark, inky black.

Serving Winter Beers

Most winter beers are best served just slightly below room temperature, at about 50 degrees. Serving malty brews that are fully chilled tends to mask their flavor. Unlike lighter, “summer” beers, winter beers are designed to be consumed slowly, not chugged.

Brew your own winter beer today with our homebrew beer making kits and visit us on Facebook to let us know your favorite winter brew.

 

Winter Beer: Five You Won’t Want to Miss!

Winter is not only a time of celebration but also a great time for specialty beers. Many breweries make small batches of their own special beer recipes to sell seasonally. These beers can range from simple to complex and can be made “extra wintery” through a specific fruit ingredient or special spice blend. If you are looking to add to your tasting arsenal, here are a few specialty brews that we recommend keeping an eye out for this season:

Anchor Steam Christmas Ale – Since 1975 Anchor Brewing has created distinctive Christmas Ale. This ale is available only from early November to mid-January and is a rich, dark spiced ale. Each year the Christmas Ale recipe changes – just like the bottle label – but their intent of “joy and celebration of the newness of life” remains the same.

Goose Island Christmas Ale – Similar to Anchor Steam, Goose Island changes the recipe to their Christmas Ale each year so there is something different to look forward to every year. Their Christmas Ale is a bitter brown ale with additional spices that change year to year. Goose Island is only available from November to December and they suggest pairing their Christmas Ale with Aged Gouda or a Dry Jack cheese.

Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale – Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale is a full body beer resulting from “fermentation in stone Yorkshire squares” and has an appealing taste to many beer advocates. The type of hops used, Fuggle and Golding, are not kept secret. While the recipe stays constant each year, the image used on their label changes annually.   

Heavy Seas Winter Storm Ale – This winter Ale draws on hops from the West Coast and the UK for its pronounced bitterness. A mix of pale and darker malts give it its tawny color and its bigger body. This ale has a nice nuttiness and earthiness to it and is available from October to December. Similar to Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale, Heavy Seas uses UK Fuggle and Goldings hops. This Ale is ideally paired with a nice Brie cheese or pan-seared steak.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale has been brewed since 1981 and is a “festive fresh hop holiday fun”. This Celebration Ale is one of the earliest examples of an American-style IPA. This specific ale is best known for its intense citrus and pine aromas. Celebration Ale is bold in taste and features Cascade Centennial and Chinook hops and is best paired with fish and chips or manchego cheese.

Now that we have told you our favorite winter ale, what’s your brew of choice this time of year?  If you want to get started on brewing a winter batch, you can start with our Homebrewing Kit!

Making it Personal: Brewing Your Own Beer for Holiday Gifts

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Who doesn’t love receiving their own personalized gift for the holidays? Why not give your own home-brewed beer? Don’t forget that the full beer brewing cycle does take around 45 days so get started soon and you’ll have time to give your perfect gift.

In order to brew your own beer at home you’ll need to make sure you have at least one beer brewing kit, which should contain all of the main supplies and ingredients you will need to brew beer, except for something to pour your finished beer into. We suggest purchasing the EZ-Cap Beer Bottles, which hold 16 oz. of beer and they already come with a top so you don’t have to worry about capping your own bottles for each individual bottle of beer. The EZ-Cap Beer Bottles are also a nicely designed bottle, which could serve as a nice gift.

Lastly, don’t forget to jazz up your beer bottles, not only with your own personalized beer label, but you can also package your beer with your secret recipe or with a special message to family and friends.

Halloween Fun: Turn your pumpkin into a keg

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Want a way to spice up your Halloween party and you think pumpkin carving is fun? Now that it’s fall, it’s time to try turning your pumpkins into a kegs. Just like you would when you are carving your favorite scary faces into a pumpkin, for a keg, the steps will be quite similar. Follow this guide and you’ll have a pumpkin keg in minutes.

  1. Carve a circle around the pumpkin stem to create the “top” of the pumpkin.
  2. Take out the “guts” of the pumpkin – get every last seed, as even one could clog your keg!
  3. Pick the sturdiest part of the pumpkin for spigot placement and trace a hole for cutting. Note: Don’t make the hole too big! Carve it a little smaller so you can force the spigot through and create as tight of a connection as possible.
  4. Pour your favorite fall beer into the pumpkin and enjoy. Try your favorite pumpkin ales or other similar beers.  Just don’t leave them sitting too long with beer in them or they’ll get soggy.

Hint: Place your pumpkin keg on an elevated surface so your guests can easily serve themselves. A cake stand is a perfect solution for this.

Top 5 Fall Beers Not to Miss

Fall is a great time for beer. There are plenty of pumpkin flavored beers, Oktoberfest and college and pro football to celebrate. Check out one of these world class brews the next time you’re cruising your local beer store.

Buffalo Bill’s “Original Pumpkin Ale”

Buffalo Bill’s was the first brewery in modern times to brew with orange squash, which is starting to become the official vegetable of fall and with Halloween and Thanksgiving, the demand is just increasing over time. It has been said that their Original Pumpkin Ale is modeled after the pumpkin ale George Washington is believed to have brewed. This beer has a golden orange color and a spicy nose reminiscent of the first whiff of a freshly baked pumpkin pie; it is pumpkin pie in a bottle.

Gordon Biersch’s “Weizeneisbock”

Part of Gordon Biersch’s Braumeister Selekt limited release series is the German Weizeneisbock beer. Dan Gordon, the co-founder of Gordon Biersch, speculates that his brewery could possibly be the first in the world to brew this unique style of beer. Weizeneisbock is made primarily from malted wheat, and is transformed through a process of freezing the water molecules and then removing the frozen portion. This results in a concentration of alcohol and flavor, making the alcohol strength more noticeable at 10% and with a rich dark roasted malt flavor. Gordon notes the black licorice flavor is rounded out with a banana and clove flavoring that compliments the top fermenting Bavarian Hefeweizen yeast strain. Get this soon because production was limited to only 3,500 cases!

Harpoon’s “Octoberfest”

Harpoon’s Octoberfest is brewed with two festivals in mind; their own Octoberfests in Boston, MA and Windsor, VT. Harpoon “loves the style” of its Octoberfest beer and feels it’s a great beer for the fall season. The Harpoon Octoberfest is their malty tribute to fall, balanced by gentle hop bitterness. It is a Marzen-style beer, brewed with an abundance of munich, chocolate malt and pale malts. These malts provide a solid, full body and create the beer’s deep color. It is a rich, flavorful beer. Many people especially like this beer because it’s still hoppy, while being careful not to taste too much like pumpkin pie.

Clipper City Brewing Company’s “Heavy Seas Marzen”

In 1994, Hugh Sisson, turned his brewpub (Sisson’s) into the Clipper City Brewing Company. The brewery has scored big with their Marzen offering, capturing seven medals at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup from 2006-2012. Typical for a Marzen, it pours a copper orange color and is well balanced with just enough Noble hops to allow the Crystal, Vienna and Munich malts to dominate with flavors of caramel and toasted bread. This beer is not watery and has a lot of carbonation that gives it a satisfying feel.

New Belgium Brewing’s “Dunkel Weiss or Dunkelweizen”

Dunkelweizens is a darker and more robust version of their German hefeweizen cousin. New Belgium Brewing’s adaptation of the German wheat beer style bumps up the alcohol to a nice 9% ABV. Adding black pepper gives this beer its Belgian-like character. Earthy, toasty and chocolate notes are derived from dark malts, making this beer a big strong dark Weiss beer that is a worthy companion for the cooler fall temperatures. The Dunkelweizen has a deep amber brown appearance and a dense off-white head. Focusing on its environmental side, New Belgium Brewing has become the first brewery in the U.S. to purchase 100% of its electricity from wind-generated power.

While these are just some of the great fall beers, this is by no means a comphehensive list. Visit your local beer store and talk to them about their favorite beer for the fall. Everyone will have an opinion on this topic and don’t forget you can always make your own special fall beer by brewing beer at home.

Selecting the Right Type of Glass for Your Beer

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Just like wine, different beers have different characteristics that require special glasses to fully capture the flavor profiles of each type.  As soon as the beer hits the glass, its color, aroma and taste is altered – the subtle and hidden characteristics can become more pronounced, colors begin to shimmer and aromas burst.

The shape of glassware will impact head development and retention. The main goal of the glass is to promote a healthy foam head and enhance the trapping of certain volatiles. As different styles of beers have different foam levels, different styles of glassware should be used accordingly. So which glassware do you use to achieve that maximum level of enjoyment?

The original purpose of the shaker pint glass was originally used to shake cocktails, but in the 1980’s it started to be filled with beer. Due to its straight sides and large mouth this glass is ideal for most ales, however, it also allows the beer to get warm and flat fast, which can show off the malty notes of some English-styled ales. Many bartenders love to use this glass because they are sturdy and easy to stack and provide an equal serving size for each beer your pour.

The tulip pint is the classic glass for Guinness beers and other dry stouts. Named appropriately after the flower it most represents, it is easily identifiable by the way it flares above the center before gently tapering near the mouth. This glass does a good job of capturing a beer’s aromas than a more straight sided glass or one that flares towards the top because the deep bowl shape helps trap aromas. According to Guinness, a perfect, two-part pour that lets the head rest before topping off should take exactly 119.53 seconds.

The nonic pint glass bulges out a couple of inches from the top. This is partly for an improved grip, and to prevent the glasses from sticking together when stacked, and partly to give strength and stop the rim from becoming chipped or nicked; the term “nonic” even derives from “no nick”. The major benefit from this glass is that they are cheap to make, easy to store and easy to drink out of. The nonic pint glasses are frequently marked with a fill line, to encourage pouring with a 1-inch head. This wasn’t always the case and bartenders would fill them usually to the rim of the glass.

The snifter glass (also known as the balloon glass) is a short-stemmed glass whose vessel has a wide bottom and small mouth opening to concentrate aromas while minimizing the amount of foam. The snifter glass is perfect for barleywines, quads, eisbocks and big stouts. This type of glass helps allow the beer to warm a bit while the glass is in your hand. The snifter glass can also be used for brandy and cognac, volumes will range in these glasses but they all provide room to swirl your drink and allow aromas to burst.

Not to be mistaken with the tulip pint, the tulip glass has a bulbous body but has a flare out at the top to form a lip, which helps head retention. The tulip glass not only helps trap the aroma, but it also aids in maintaining large heads, and creating a visual sensation. This glass is recommended for serving Scottish ales, double and imperial IPA’s, barleywines and Belgian ales – anything flavorful that you wouldn’t drink a lot of.

The goblet glass is shaped to keep your grip low in the step to help the beer inside keep cool. A wide mouth dissipates the carbonation fast, letting strong abbey beers show off their flavor. Goblet glasses range from delicate to long stem to heavy and thick walled. The more delicate ones may also have their rims laced while the heavy boast sculpture-like stems. Some goblets are designed to maintain a two-centimeter head. The best aspects of these glasses are they are designed to maintain head and are wide mouthed for deep sips.

Now that you have a basic knowledge to the differences between the different beer glasses, you should be able to hold a party for your own home brewed beer. Just remember when you’re at the bar; never accept a frosted glass from your bartender. As the beer hits the frosted glass, condensation will occur and dilute your beer, while at the same time altering the serving temperature.

3 Most Popular Types of Beer

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Our previous blog discussed the most important ingredients needed for brewing beer at home; now it is time to define the different types of beer you can make with your home beer brewing kit.

 

Ale
Ale is the oldest type of beer made and is brewed from malted barley using a warm fermentation with a strain of brewers’ yeast. The yeast will ferment the beer quickly, giving it a sweet, full bodied and fruity taste. Most ales contain hops, which help preserve the beer and impart a bitter herbal flavor that balances the sweetness of the malt nicely. Varieties of ales include brown, pale, scotch and mild.

Brown ales tend to be lightly hopped, and fairly mildly flavored, often with a nutty taste. Brown ales first appeared in the early 1900’s, with Newcastle Brown being a top example of what brown ale is. Brown ales became the most popular beer to home-brewers in North America in the early 1980’s.

Pale ale was a term used for beers made from malt dried with coke. Coke had been first used for roasting malt in 1642, but it wasn’t until the early 1700’s that the term pale ale was first used. Pale ale is a beer, light in color, which uses a warm fermentation and predominantly pale malt. The pale ale is one of the world’s most popular beer styles. Different brewing practices and hop levels have resulted in a range of taste and strength within the pale ale family.

Stout
Stout is a dark beer made from using roasted malt or barley, hops, water and yeast and sometimes bitter in taste. Stout is traditionally the generic term for the strongest or stoutest porters. Other types of stouts are made with oatmeal, which usually produces a sweeter beer. Like ales, they come in many variations including dry or Irish stout, imperial stouts, porters, chocolate stouts, and oatmeal Stouts.

Oatmeal Stouts are probably one of the most popular stout versions. The oatmeal stout is a stout with a proportion of oats, normally about 30%, added during the brewing process. Oatmeal stouts usually do not specifically taste like oats but the smoothness of oatmeal stouts comes from the high content of proteins, lipids, and gums imparted by the use of oats. The gums increase the viscosity and body adding to the sense of smoothness.

In the early 1900’s when oatmeal stouts were being predominately made outside of the United States, Samuel Smith commissioned Charles Finkel to make its own version. Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout has become a template for other breweries’ versions of the oatmeal stout.

Lager
Lagers are a type of beer that is fermented and conditioned at low temperatures. In certain countries lagers contain or often feature large proportions of adjuncts, usually rice or maize. These were added as a means of thinning out the body of American beers, balancing the large quantities of protein being introduced by high amounts of barley.

There are two main types of lager: pale lager and dark lager. Pale Lager is a very pale to golden colored lager with a well-attenuated body and noble hop bitterness. The brewing process for the pale lager was quickly picked up by breweries around the world and has become one of the most popular beer types to drink. It was until the 1840’s that lagers in general would typically be darker in color. They typically ranged in color from amber to reddish brown, and could have been termed dunkel, schwarzbier, or Baltic porter depending on the region or brewing method.

Now you know the main types of beer you can make it’s time to get together your beer making equipment and ingredients and brew away!

Home Beer Brewing 101: Yeast, Hops and Barley

There are literally hundreds of different styles of beer. The basic ingredients that ever homebrewer needs are water, malted barley, homebrewing hops and beer yeast. It’s the types and combination of these ingredients that determine the result.

Yeast 
The amount or type of yeast used during the fermentation process can be the deciding factor between a lager or ale. To obtain a broader range of beer types, many brewers will use specialty grains in a certain way to change the color and flavor of the beer without having to add sugar during the fermentation process. Brewers will also use anything from spices to candy to fruits to help flavor their beer a certain way.

Yeast is responsible for converting carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols. Yeast can be classified in two different ways: “top cropping” and “bottom cropping.” Top cropping yeasts create foam at the top during fermentation, and typically create ales. Bottom cropping yeasts are typically used to produce lager type beers although they can also produce ale type beers.

Hops 
Hops are female flower clusters, primarily used as a flavoring and stability agent in beer, and typically impart a bitter or tangy flavor in beer. Before hops, many brewers would use spices or fruits as their primary flavoring ingredient.

There are also a number of different kinds of hop varieties. These include Amarillo, Centennial, Cluster and Tettnang among others. Tettnang hops are the original noble hop from Germany, although they are now grown in the U.S. in Oregon and Washington State. The tettnang hop is ideal for your finest lager and wheat beers.

Barley 
Barley is the seed part to the barley plant, a grain similar to wheat in appearance. It is the specific types of barley used in the production of beer that make one different from another. Each strain imparts a unique characteristic taste and body to each of the different beers. Malted barley is barley that has been allowed to germinate to a degree and is then dried. Sending a barley seed through a germination process converts the seed to a starch. The seed’s stored energy turns the starch into a simpler sugar that is used in its initial growing stage. The germination and drying stages capture fermentable sugars, soluble starch and diastase enzymes for beer brewing. Malted barley is the eventual source of the fermentable sugar consumed by the yeast. Eventually the barley becomes a malt extract becoming a suitable ingredient for beer.

We will discuss the different categories of beer – lagers, ales and other specialty brews – in our next post.

Brewing Your Own Beer at Home 
First, you need a beer brewing kit.  Then it’s time to order your beer brewing ingredients and figure out what type of beer you’ll make!