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Brew Your Own: Sharing the Secrets of Homebrewing

American Craft Beer Week has left us even more inspired to explore and share the alchemy of craft beer. We’re intrigued with homebrewing, which is a fascinating, rewarding and approachable avocation. Southern

Bob Bacolas (photo:

Oregon has a thriving homebrewing culture and we’ve hosted a few  enthusiasts in our “Brewer for the Day” program. We’ve also got one of the best brewing supply shops, Grains, Beans & Things. We interviewed owner Bob Bacolas to tap his knowledge and help aspiring beer makers get started.

How did you get into home brewing?

I was living in Juneau and one of my buddies worked at Alaska Brewing. He loves to homebrew and craft commercial beers. Drinking his homebrew convinced me that I could craft beer as good if not better (and fresher) than many of the European beers I’d come to enjoy. So, he taught me to brew.

What ingredients are needed?

That depends. My 7-year-old daughter insists that brewers use only Malt, Hops, Yeast and Water in strict accordance to Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity Law. However, my wife Tonessa claims that wheat, a bit of tangerine, other spices and fruit have a place in the fermenter. So, you see, I live in a house divided. Whatever the recipe, the ingredients must be fresh – really fresh.

What equipment is needed?

As with anything, brewing equipment can be as basic or as exotic as you can imagine. I use a modified Coleman Cooler to mash my grains, an old kitchen stainless pot to brew in and a couple of glass carboys as fermenters. I keg my beer in used soda tanks.

What steps are involved in the process?

There are different methods, depending on where you want to start in the process. About 90% of homebrewers prefer to use malt extract (liquid or dry) so I’ll summarize that process:

  • Note: Equipment used before the boil must be clean. Equipment used after the boil must be cleaned and sanitized.
  • Steep specialty malts at around 150 degrees for at least 30 minutes to make a tea, bringing out the qualities of the malts and any adjuncts. Put that tea in the brewpot.
  • Depending on the recipe, add water to the tea, bringing the volume to 3-6 gallons. Bring the liquid to a boil.
  • Remove the pot from heat and add the malt extract. If using liquid, make sure the extract is fully dissolved before returning the pot to the heat.
  • Bring the resulting “wort” (unfermented beer) to a vigorous boil
  • Add hops for bittering and boil for 45 minutes.
  • Add more hops for flavor, and add Irish Moss, a protein coagulant that helps reduce cloudiness in the finished beer.
  • Isaac Overacker, homebrewer, at Standing Stone as Brewer for the Day

    Boil for 10 more and add hops for aroma. Turn off the heat.

  • Cool the Wort in an ice bath or a “Wort Chiller.”
  • When Wort is below 80 degrees, vigorously aerate the liquid and inoculate with a high quality yeast.
  • At this point the brewer’s job is done and the yeast takes over. When is the beer done? The yeast will tell you.

What are your favorite beers to make?

I really enjoy making and drinking authentic German Pilsners.

How can folks learn about the process and get supplies?

Stop by or call a brewer’s supply like Grains Beans & Things. We love to explain processes and help new brewers. Our shops are like “Cheers” for homebrewers, full of like-minded folks willing to share ideas and tips. They’re great places to hang out.

 Ready to get brewing? We are. Thanks, Bob! For even more information, check out “How to Brew” and the American Homebrewers Association.

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