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An Introduction to Home Brewing
Chapel Hill Mid-Year Program 2012
Online Registration is located here

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.   ~Benjamin Franklin

Bart, a woman is like beer. They look good, they smell good, and you'd step over your own mother just to get one!   ~Homer Simpson

Beer is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced,dating back to at least the 5th millennium BC and recorded in the written history of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. On Friday June 9th the OPS will host its annual Mid-Year Program at the Medical Biomolecular Research Building at the University of North Carolina, and there will be a Home-Brew reception immediately after the courses. You might be surprised to find how many OPS members brew beer. There are at least 7 members that I know of who brew on a regular basis. The reception will showcase various styles of beer and how they pair with food and ophthalmology like Cherry Red Spot Wheat or Pink Eye Pale Ale and Iris Bombe India Pale Ale.

There are many facets to brewing and you can make it as simple or complicated as you want. In this article we are going to explain the basic process of brewing and terminology. Brewers combine four simple ingredients to make beer, barley, water, hops and yeast. A complex series of biochemical reactions must take place to convert barley to fermentable sugars, and to allow yeast to live and multiply, converting those sugars to alcohol.


In Germany, the traditional Reinheitsgebot (German purity laws) from 1487, forbade the use of ingredients other than barley, hops, water and yeast. Those laws have since been relaxed, and many beers are also made using other grains such as corn, rice and wheat. Barley - is the seed of a grain that looks a lot like wheat. Before barley can be used to make beer, it must be malted, which involves a natural conversion process. First, the barley must be allowed to germinate, or start to sprout. This is done by soaking the barley in water for several days, and then draining the barley and holding it at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 C) for five days. During the germination process, enzymes released by the plant convert these nutrients (which are starches) into sugars that can feed the plant while it grows. The key to the malting process is to stop the germination of the barley at a point when the sugar-producing enzymes are present but most of the starch is still unconverted. Eventually, these enzymes will produce the sugars that will feed the yeast to make the alcohol in the beer. The intensity of the malt flavor and color depends on how high the temperature is raised during the drying process.

Hops- contain acids, which give beer its bitterness, as well as oils that give beer some of its flavor and aroma. Adding hops to beer also inhibits the formation of certain bacteria that can spoil the beer. There are many different kinds of hops, each of which gives a different taste, aroma and amount of bitterness to the beer it is used in. In the United States, hops are grown mainly in Washington, Oregon and in a many homebrewer’s backyards.

Yeast- Yeast is the single-celled micro-organism that is responsible for creating the alcohol and carbon dioxide found in beer. There are many different kinds of yeasts used to make beer; and just as the yeast in a sourdough starter gives sourdough bread its distinctive flavor, different types of beer yeast help to give beer its various tastes. There are two main categories of beer yeast: ale yeast and lager yeast. Ale yeast is top fermenting, meaning it rises near the surface of the beer during fermentation, and typically prefers to ferment at temperatures around 70 F (21 C). Lager yeasts are bottom fermenting. They ferment more slowly and prefer colder temperatures, around 50 F (10 C).


The Mash ProcessMash Process
The mash process converts the starches into fermentable sugars. This is done by crushing the malted barley to expose the kernels so the sugars can be extracted from the grain. The crushed malted barley is placed in lauter tun (insulated container) and the malted barley is allowed to mash or steep for an hour at 150 F (65 C ) – 170 F (76 C) degrees .

The Wort
The next step in brewing is called the boil. The end result of the boil is the finished wort. To start, the liquid mash is transferred to a brew kettle and is brought to a vigorous rolling boil and is held there for 60 to 90 minutes depending on the style of beer.


Hops are added to the boil at various stages. At the start of the boil hops are added to give the beer its bitterness. This allows maximum time for the acids in the hops to be extracted. A second round of hops is added in the middle of the boil to produce the hop flavor and aroma. The last round of hops is generally added about 15 minutes before the end of the boil contribute the flavor the beer.

Chilling the Wort
The wort must be chilled quickly so the yeast can be added and fermentation can begin. This reduces the chance of contamination by stray yeasts floating around in the air.

Fermentation is the process by which yeast converts the sugars in the wort to alcohol and carbon dioxide gas giving the beer both its alcohol content and its carbonation. The wort is "racked” or transferred to container where the yeast is added and the solids (grains and hops) are allowed to settle out. This process takes approximately 2-3 weeks and may involve a transfer to another container for more clarity.

Bottling or Kegging
The last step is bottling or kegging the beer. The most important thing about the bottling and kegging process is to keep the beer from being contaminated by stray yeasts, and to keep oxygen away from the beer. These are the main things that can reduce the shelf-life of beer.

To see the step by step process you can view it here (Come back to check out the video soon!)

Brewing beer is very fun, simple and rewarding. We look forward to seeing everyone at the OPS Mid-Year Program and hope you partake in the festivities.

Tim Steffens
Allen Katz

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