More drinkers are hopping on the home brewing trend.
An estimated 1.2 million Americans make their own beer, according to a survey by the American Homebrewers Association. It's a crafty, often cost-effective alternative that cable network Viceland explored in its six-episode docuseries 'Beerland,' which followed Golden Road Brewing co-founder Meg Gill on a cross-country trek meeting amateur brewers in cities including New York, Santa Fe and Honolulu.
If you don't know the difference between a lager and an ale, Gill recommends step-by-step guides How to Brew, by John Palmer, and The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, by Charlie Papazian, to get started. But for those with working knowledge of how the suds get made, she offers these tips for tastier DIY beer:
1. Know your hops. Hops are cone-shaped flowers that give bitterness, flavor and aroma to beers. What variety you use depends on what type of brew you're making. If "you're doing a lager or something light, you work with some of the German hops, like a Saaz or Opal," Gill says. "If you're looking into the IPA category and pale ales, you can go traditional with Cascade or Centennial. Or there's just tons of experimental, fruit-forward hops that either come from the Yakima Valley or New Zealand." You can grow your own hops, buy them online or at homebrewing stores. You can also ask your local brewery for leftovers. "They basically have on their ground the amount of hops you need to home brew a beer."
2. Use what you already have. Home brewing doesn't have to hurt your wallet. In fact, you can get started for under $100 simply by reusing what you already have around the house. "You can repurpose a lot of pots and pumps, and even coolers repurposed into little (containers) that act as fermenters," Gill says. Along with the core ingredients — hops, malt and yeast — "you definitely need to get some good hoses that are clean for transferring (the extracted liquid) from your wort kettle to what you're using as your fermenter."
3. Add flavors that natural ingredients in beer bring out. "Oftentimes you'll get pineapple, orange or passion fruit flavors from really fruity hops, so why not add flavors that complement that?" Gill says. Throwing in peaches, after fermentation or during the boil, can "help elevate the natural flavors that are already in the beer. If you're dealing with dark, malty beers, what are the flavors that are naturally coming out? If it's coffee or chocolate, then why not add some fresh coffee grounds or (cocoa) nibs?"
4. Keep it cool. The fermentation process can take anywhere from a couple weeks for ales to at least a month for lagers. Assuming you don't have a walk-in refrigerator to store your fermenter, a cool closet in an air-conditioned room is fine. If it's outdoors, "throw a towel on it to make sure the beer doesn't get light-struck," Gill says, because sun exposure can cause a skunky odor.
5. Throw out the recipe book and follow your gut. "The best beers that I've tried are the folks that start with a vision, like, 'Here are the flavors I want in my beer and (I'm not) afraid to try new things to get there,' " Gill says. "Beer is so variable depending on where you are, what temperatures you're dealing with and what equipment you're dealing with, so oftentimes following a recipe too strictly can mess up the beer."
If you're looking for some more tips on the process of home brewing -- 10News followed a home brewer through the process. You can watch here: