Jonathan Porter, who introduces himself as Porter fittingly enough, has been the brewer at Tustin Brewing Company for four years. Prior to that, he was with BJ’s in Brea and Oxnard. He shares his tips for successfully brewing good beer in your very own home, promising to start you off right no matter your brew of choice.
Tustin Brewing Company
13011 Newport Avenue #100
Tustin, CA 92780
Know where to get your ingredients
Now that you’ve decided to brew, you need to know where to get quality ingredients. “You want a place that has a good selection of grains. If you’re going to be doing extracts, you want a place that goes through it quickly. One of the telltale signs of a home brew is the home-brew taste, which is usually oxidized extracts.” To avoid this characteristic home-brew taste caused by the effects of oxygen on the ingredients, make sure you approach brewing the same way you would approach cooking and use the freshest ingredients you can find. You’re also going to need some good knowledge. “I go to places where the guys are really knowledgeable. When you start home brewing, you have a million questions.” Make sure the staff members at the home brew supply store know their stuff.
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Control your environment
If you want to start brewing beer at home, you might think you need a lot of expensive equipment, and you might — depending on how sophisticated you’re making your beers. However, you do not need to make your house into a brewery. All you need is a stove top for the brewing. “You can make great beer using extract kits,” Porter said. The key is to have a setting where the inside temperature does not have a lot of variation. “You need a place without wild temperature swings, but you can ferment in any temperature.” To accomplish this, make sure you set aside a day to brew so you can control the necessary time and temperature.
Brew appropriate to the season
“As home brewers, we brew with the season,” Porter said. “Some ale styles ferment better in warmer temperatures, other ferment better in cooler temperatures.” While you might have a favorite beer style, you need to know before you begin what conditions are required to brew that particular style. If you like a beer that ferments better in warmer temperatures, brew it at the appropriate time of year.
Master the basics
So you’ve decided what style of beer you’re going to brew, and maybe you have the notion that you’ll design a brew that will revolutionize it. First, you need to learn about that style. You can learn about the style of beer from any home-brewing book (even the professionals use these, like “Designing Great Beers” by Ray Daniels) and from asking lots of questions when you buy your supplies. Once you have a good handle on what the style should be, avoid adding exotic ingredients until you master the basic recipe for the style. “That’s like learning to walk before you crawl,” Porter said. Don’t just brew your style of choice once. Brew it several times until you know you have it right.
Once you have brewed your beer, you’re ready to bottle and store it. “Bottle conditioning (leaving the beer unfiltered so it continues to ferment in the bottle) is better than force carbonating it and trying to bottle it…Packaging is all about oxidation, so you want to minimize that as much as possible. The key is to store it in a kind of cool space (ideally in a cellar), drinking it within a couple of months.”
Gary Schwind is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. His work can be found on Examiner.com.