Now there are a number of things that a home brewer can learn to ferment. For starters I’ve heard a number of podcasters talk about fermenting food for their chickens and that it ends up being better for them. I might have to tackle that subject in the future (perhaps after I get some chickens). You can also ferment food for yourselves, sauerkraut and pickles come to mind. More and more studies have shown that fermented food can be a healthy part of your diet (But remember, I’m not a doctor and not making any health claims). But some times you just want to have a fermented beverage. A beer, a wine, a hard cider, a mead or the like. Sure you can pick some up at the store, but just like the vegetables from your own garden, imagine how much better that homemade fermented beverage would taste when you know that you have crafted it yourself.
Now much like other homesteading endeavors you can pick how much you want to take on in this process. If you have the land, the tools and the patience you could grow and malt and roast your own barley; grow your own hops; cultivate a yeast strain that you found on your property and use water from your well. No one could say that they had a beer that was more locally made. Or if not beer honey from your bees for a mead, grapes you’ve grown for a wine or your own apples for a cider. But you don’t have to do all the work. Some of those you can pick up any number of places. A homebrew shop will be able to supply you with various forms of barley for brewing or even dry or liquid extract to take care of one more step. This can be useful while learning the process or just to make your brew day a touch simpler.
As for the process, it isn’t that hard. For a beer you heat up the water to soak your ingredients in to get the sugars out of them. (On a homesteading plus these spent grains can be used for baking, making dog treats or merely feeding to some of your animals.) You will be left with a sugary water solution known as wort. You’ll take this liquid and heat it up to boiling (to ensure that any bad bugs/bacteria and the like are no problem) and add in some hops. Let it cool down, move it to its fermentation vessel and toss in some yeast. Now you get to ignore it for a while, just keep it at a good temperature for the yeast. After some time you will have a flat beer. Since there are still some yeast at work in there you can put your brew into bottles with some more sugar and cap them. In a couple of weeks you will have a beer that you made.
Now I summed it up in a paragraph, but books have been written on the subject. There are a lot of decisions and points where you can slightly change things to influence a big change at the end. Also be forewarned that this is a hobby that you can quickly start devoting a lot of time to. But as a homesteader it also gives you that ability to say I’ve made it myself.
I’ll be adding in more posts with more details and some recipe ideas and the like. If you would like some more info you should check out Basic Brewing Radio. James over there has been doing an amazing job for a number of years to provide all sorts of information and it was listening to his podcast that convinced me I could take on brewing my own and start my homebrewing “career” as it were.