The Weblog

Home for the heteronomous

Wednesday Food: Happy Brew Year’s!

Last week, immediately after arriving home from my LAX-ORD non-stop, I got onto Ashland avenue and headed due south to Brew and Grow.  With the help of a delightful staff I pieced together a beautiful homebrewing set and selected a Brewer’s Best kit for Imperial Pale Ale.

What this means, dear heteronomous, is that I have launched into the world of homebrewing.

I have no idea if this moment, right now, is the quiet before months of disaster, disappointment, and exploding syrupy bottles– I told you I have anxiety about yeast and all their goings-on– but that is a risk I simply must take.  Not only is it a new year, but I have also turned a year older.  2009 was predominately a food year for me.  2010, let me write it here for all to see, is the YEAR OF BEER.

If you, like me, are a homebrewing neophyte,  take a gander at my introductory glossary after the jump…

ABV– alcohol by volume, which is determined by subtracting the terminal gravity from the original gravity

Airlock– device that allows CO2 to escape carboy, without letting in more oxygen

Ale– beer that ferments at 60-75F degrees, with top-fermenting yeast

All grain/ full mash– raw grain base for beer, as opposed to malt extracts, which are convenient for homebrewing

Aroma hops– added last in the boil to establish aromatics

Bittering hops– added at the beginning of the boil to add bitterness

Bottle conditioned– living yeast in the bottle produce CO2, generally these age well

Brettanomyces (“Brett”)- genus of yeast popular in brewing and winemaking

Carboy– glass bottle resembling Sparkletts’, used for primary or secondary fermentation (see picture*)

Cask conditioned– fermentation in the cask or barrel, that produces CO2

Esters– chemical compound responsible for your beer smelling so good, especially fruity notes

Fermentation– metabolic process by which yeast convert sugars to alcohol and CO2

Flavor hops– added in the mid-late boil contributing to both flavor and aroma

Hydrometer– device that measures gravity (density of the beer compared to the density of water)

Lager– beer that ferments at 34-50F degrees, with top-fermenting yeast

Malt– grain (barley) that has germinated and been dried or roasted

Malt extract– concentrated syrup (LME) or powder (DME) that eases homebrewing

Mash– process in which crushed grains are mixed into hot water, often steeping like tea, when enzymes change starch into fermentable sugar

Original gravity– density of the wort before fermentation, determines ABV

Pitching– adding yeast to wort

Priming– adding sugar to fermented (alcoholic) wort to re-stimulate yeast before bottling

Saccharomyces cerevisiae– brewer’s yeast, the little buggers that make your beer bubbly and boozy

Sparging– removing (and rinsing) the grains from the mash, which then becomes “wort”

Terminal gravity– density of the wort after fermentation, determines ABV

Thief– handy device used to extract samples of the wort from the narrow neck of a carboy

Wort– liquid extracted from mash

*This was taken on the fifth day of primary fermentation for my Imperial Pale Ale

NOTE: my sources include but are not limited to the following:

All Belgian Beers, Hilde Deweer- encyclopedic coverage of the beers of Belgium

The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, Charlie Papazian- an essential tool for the both beginner and expert homebrewer

The Naked Pint, Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune- an informally written yet comprehensive guide to craft beer, aimed at the female reader

Tasting Beer, Randy Mosher- a thorough introduction, this also includes details on food pairings and cooking with beer

Ultimate Beer, Michael Jackson- the best way to get close to an absolute beer master


January 6, 2010 - Posted by | Wednesday Food


  1. I tried home brewing once after getting it as a Christmas gift. The end result tasted a lot like hard cider and I never drank enough to really be able to tell the alcohol content.

    Comment by mattintoledo | January 6, 2010

  2. oh well done! love the glossary, you do know your stuff! cannot WAIT to hear how it comes out. and- don’t think i’ve ever had an imperial pale ale. you would start with something huge and regal and excessively hoppy, wouldn’t you?

    Comment by Vanessa | January 6, 2010

  3. Within five years, you’ll be sewing your own clothes, our of cloth you made from the cotton growing in your back yard.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | January 6, 2010

  4. Matt- let me indulge in cliche– try, try, again!
    Vanessa- the guy at Brew and Grow warned me that this would be strong and bitter, and i (exceedingly flirtatiously) responded, “so am I.”
    Adam- I can’t so a button to save my life, so that’s unlikely, but I am preparing to grow my own hops this summer!

    Comment by ebolden | January 6, 2010

  5. Sewing buttons is pretty trivial.

    Comment by ben wolfson | January 7, 2010

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: