Has anyone on here tried making their own wine or other alcoholic beverage? Lately I've been making my own hooch, which I must say is pretty damn good. Its basically a modified version of kilju
with different flavorings, more filtration, and I do some freeze distillation to make it stronger. I'm not much of a drinker but for some reason I just really like doing this
My dream? Code an alcohol-resistant sterile yeast to make a 120 proof beer.
A lot of people start brewing their own to get cheap booze. This is a valid but kind of cheesy reason to brew beer, and you miss out on all the geeky fun.
To date, I've made 4 brews, 2 of which have ultimately failed. They started off quite good, but there was a low-level contamination issue that evinced itself a few weeks after bottling. My current goal is to fix my sanitation process by going a little overboard, bleaching the shit out of everything, and using liberal amounts of Starsan during the actual brewing process.
I'm shooting to brew a pumpkin ale on Saturday. Courtesy of Frank, it'll be called "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Drinker." I hope to make it amazing.
Planned brews include a hard mulled cider, a saison, a rye IPA of some sort (possibly smoked or wood-aged), and upgraded all-grain versions of my first two brews: Peter's Bitter Black Existence (a Russian Imperial stout with coffee and chocolate) and Dire Beer (an old ale with honey, which I may adapt into a version of a Norwegian juniper-infused beer recipe that I found). I'm also going to go back to This is a Beer and 44 North and make them not full of fail.
Since I've become involved in the SCA, I've developed a mission to prove something about medieval brewing; specifically, I hypothesize that the vast majority of beer produced before ~1500 AD was comprised primarily of crystallized grains, much akin to modern day crystal malts. This is because malted grains were dried over wood fires; this effectively "stews" the grains and then kilns them, which is precisely what we do to make crystal malt today.
In order to do this, I must get raw barley grains, malt them, construct or get my hands on a period oven (I'm shooting for something from ~1300 AD that would have been common on a northern European farmstead), dry the wet malt, and then brew a period recipe using my period grains and some slight modifications to make it drinkable.
Planz. I haz dem.
EDIT: Also, as a scientist, I do not recommend home distillation. Shit's dangerous and can kill you. But if you've been doing it for a while already, you've probably already heard all the warnings. :P
I also recommend reading John Palmer's How to Brew. The whole thing is available for free online, and it's quite comprehensive.
If you have aspirations of going pro one day, you should read up on Pro Brewer.
Freeze fractioning is good stuff. Interesting note: In the US, it's illegal to remove more than 10% of the volume of beer as ice via freeze fractioning. More than that technically constitutes distillation, and you need a separate license for that.
This is my first time using a keg instead of bottling. I'm pretty stoked about that.
Brewing is hells of fun - but it's a hobby for folks who like to cook or maybe do science. It's not a good way to obtain beer. It's a lot of work; the more you do it and the more you invest in equipment, the less work it is per beer, but even so you're probably never going to approach the ease of just buying a six-pack. I love it, myself. I've been brewing for five years or so, and I keep a lab notebook with all my recipes and brewing processes in it. Yeah, people talk a lot about Papazian and Michael Jackson, but How to Brew has always been my go-to resource when I needed to look up something or other during a brew.
I use ProMash for recipe generation, storage, and formulation. It's really handy. If you're going to get brewing software, though, I'd get Beersmith, as ProMash is no longer supported.
Local homebrew clubs can also help out. Up in the Capital Region, we've got the Saratoga Thoroughbrews, who sometimes have tasting classes and other lectures with the brewer from the CH Evans Brewing Company, George de Piro (aka Professor Beer).
What I can tell you is that becoming an excellent taster is very hard. I plan to become a BJCP certified judge at some point, and you have to taste a hell of a lot of beer before you can even think about it.
In short, drink more.
Frankly if I were going to dish out for some hardware, I'd look into going all-grain before I worried about bottling tech. Doing all-grain and buying the barley in bulk would really lower my production costs substantially, to the point where it might actually cost less to make my own than buy good micros. You don't need a whole lot more to do it, either, if you're willing to put in a little work to turn a 5-gallon gatorade cooler into a mash tun.
I'd love a bigger brew kettle with a brass tap, and a big steel conical fermenter, but damn, equipment is orders of magnitude more expensive above the basic bucket-and-carboy level. Love a kegerator, too, but again, don't wanna pay for it.
In short, there's no smell most of the time and when there is, it's mild and smells nice. If anything ever starts to stink, something has gone horribly awry. Ewwww. Prison hooch, huh? Maybe you should graduate to fruit juice next? I didn't know your brewing was so... basic. You asked about hardware and I assumed you had a beginner homebrew setup. Is that true? What are you using now?
In fact, what are any/all of you using? Describe and/or photograph!
If you're worried about space, though, don't be. The footprint of all my brewing gear is maybe eight square feet. Fits handily in the bottom of my closet. And as far as neighbors go, I think the only reason any of my neighbors have ever even known I brew is because I've offered them beer.
The only way to go "electric" is with a range that is all induction burners. Everything else is shit.