Make Your Own Homebrew
An endless variety of beers can be brewed at home with the same basic four-step process, according to Bill Pledger of Gravity Craft and Homebrew Supply. When Gravity opens later this summer, it will offer all of the necessary supplies and advice.
The ingredients are water, grains, hops and yeast. The grains, or "malt," can be wheat, oats or rice, depending on the type of beer.
Those ingredients are put together to make a batch of beer-typically 5 gallons, or two cases of beer, Pledger said.
Whatever the batch size, the process has the same basic steps: steeping (or "mashing"), boiling, fermenting and bottling or kegging.
The process begins by cracking the grain - something that Gravity will do for no charge. The cracked grain is placed in a vat - which can be as simple as a beer cooler - with water heated to a certain temperature, usually around 170 degrees. This step releases the sugars, malt flavors and color from the grain. The steeping continues for about an hour. Then the enriched water, now known as "wort," is drained from the vat into a boiling pot.
The wort is boiled in the pot for an hour. At different points, hops are added. Hops are a plants that add bitterness and flavor to the beer. The first hops added are called "bittering" hops, and the longer the wort boils with them, the more bitter the beer. After 45 minutes, more hops are added to give the plant's flavor, but not as much bitterness. Hops added at the very end of the boil are "aroma" hops, meaning they give the scent of hops to the beer, but not flavoring and bitterness.
Other ingredients such as spices may be added to the wort during boiling as well to give various extra flavors.
When the boil is done, the wort is cooled very quickly with ice or refrigeration equipment. That prevents bacteria or other contamination from growing. After the boil, sanitation of all equipment is crucial. Gravity will be selling sanitizing solutions as well.
The cooled wort is transferred or "racked" into a fermentation bucket or carboy - essentially a big glass jar. Yeast is added. The yeast eats the sugars in the wort, producing alcohol as a byproduct. The fermentation process takes anywhere from one week to "many weeks," depending on the type of beer and the local temperature.
After fermentation, the beer is done - brewed, flavored and made alcoholic. The final step is simply putting into bottles or kegs for drinking. "Kegging takes a little more equipment and cold storage space," Pledger said.
Source: Bill Pledger
Rockdale will get its first "growler bar" later this summer when Gravity Craft and Homebrew Supply opens its doors to beer lovers at 1136 Dogwood Drive in Conyers.
A growler bar lets customers buy a large, refillable jug - called a growler - filled with a draft beer of their choice.
The Beer Growler in Athens, which opened four years ago, was the state's first growler bar. They're growing in popularity, but the idea is new to Rockdale. Conyers agreed to change the laws to allow it.
"There's nothing like this in the area," said Rockdale resident Bill Pledger, who is running Gravity Craft in partnership with his wife Karen. "You have to travel at least 25 miles" to find one today.
Gravity also will sell supplies to homebrew beer and wine and to create homemade cheeses. Homebrewing is a fast-growing hobby locally and nationally, the Pledgers say. They'll offer classes on using the supplies, too.
They aim to open Gravity in August with 20 craft beers on tap to start, possibly expanding to 30. They'll carry such brands as Sweetwater and Terrapin.
"No Budweiser. No Bud Light," Karen said.
Customers will be able to sample the beers before buying. Then they can purchase a 32-ounce or 64-ounce growler jug filled with the beer they prefer. Customers can bring the empty growler back later and buy refills. They're also welcome to bring their own standard-sized growlers. Some people have customized, personal growlers made of stainless steel, Bill said.
Gravity will also sell select bottled craft beers.
While modern growler bars are a new trend, growlers themselves have a long history. In the 1800s, Bill said, it was common for working folks to bring a growler - at that time, just an open pail - to a bar for a quick carry-out of beer. It's unclear why it was called a growler, but the term has stuck.
Bill works as an insurance company software-writer by day. "I'm not that big of a beer drinker, either," he adds. But homebrewing has long been his hobby, and he considered starting a brewery before deciding to open a growler bar.
The name "Gravity" refers to "specific gravity," a chemistry term for the density of a liquid that is an important measurement in beer-brewing.
If Gravity is a hit, the Pledgers hope to expand its offerings to include mix-your-own herbal tea and coffee blends.
"We're looking into everything brewed," Bill said.
Another wish-list item is hosting brewer festivals, though that likely would require another change to local laws, Karen said.
"I think that would be great for Rockdale County," Karen said.
UPDATE: Gravity Craft and Homebrew Supply will open Aug. 9, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.. For more, go to www.facebook.com/gravityhomebrew or call 770-679 5118.