Seasonal Brewing

Brew with us

Welcome to the project

Do you love Seattle's blossoming craft beer scene? Are you curious about how breweries create the beers you drink? Do you want to make those same beers yourself? Brew with us!

We’re going to make an American pale ale starting Saturday, May 30. Learn the basics and find out what you’ll need to get started.

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Brewing timeline

What we’ll accomplish in the weeks ahead

Tools of the trade

Here’s what you need to have on hand before you start brewing
  1. 6-gallon bucket with spigot
    Vessel for fermenting and mixing beer
  2. 5-gallon glass carboy
    Vessel for fermenting beer during late stages
  3. Plastic tubing
    Used to siphon beer
  4. Racking cane
    Used to siphon beer
  5. Bottle filler
    (might not come with all kits)
  6. Strainer or muslin bag
    Used to hold grains or hops
  7. Malt extract (liquid or dry)
    Concentrated "wort" containing fermentable sugars
  8. Bottle caps
  9. Hops (whole leaf or pellets)
  10. Yeast (liquid or dry)
  11. Specialty grains
  12. Priming sugar
    Carbonates beer
  13. Cleaner and sanitizer
  14. Airlock and rubber cap
    Used to prevent oxygen from entering the fermenter
  15. Thermometer
    (might not come with all kits)
  16. Hydrometer
    Used to measure the "gravity" of beer (might not come with all kits)
Read more: Details and where to buy brewing supplies

The raw ingredients

Meet the four basic building blocks of beer

Grains provide the fermentable sugars that contribute to a beer's alcohol content, color, body and flavor. Common brewing grains include barley, wheat, rice, rye and oats. Some grains, known as "malts," are germinated and dried to produce enzymes that convert the grain's starches to sugar. Unmalted grains can also be used.

Hops add bitterness and flavor to beer, and help balance the sweetness from malted grains. Hops are a relatively recent addition to the brewing process — records show they've only been used for about 500 years. For thousands of years before that, brewers relied on other flavoring ingredients, such as fruits and flowers.

Yeast can convert sugars into alcohol. Thousands of yeast strains can be found in everyday life, but brewers only use strains that contribute specific characteristics to a beer. Generally, brewers use two kinds: ale and lager yeasts.

Water makes up more than 90 percent of beer. Different water sources have different chemical properties. "Soft" water is low in minerals and bicarbonates and produces clean beers, such as pilsners. "Hard" water may be better suited for hoppy or dark beers. Brewers can adjust water chemistry by adding or filtering out certain minerals.

A Beer is born

It takes weeks to brew a batch of beer. While homebrewing equipment looks a bit different from the setups of large breweries, the steps to make beer — brewing, fermentation and carbonation — are universal.

1 The mash

Hot water and crushed grains are combined to produce a mash. Activated by heat, enzymes in the grains convert starches to fermentable sugars. The ideal temperature for conversion usually falls between 148 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit, although some brewers mash at lower temperatures to convert other, more complex starches.

2 The boil

Grains are separated from the mash, and the remaining sugary liquid, the wort, is boiled and sterilized. Hops are added at several stages of this boil — early hops additions impart bitterness, whereas later additions provide flavor and aroma.

3 Fermentation

The wort is then chilled to temperatures hospitable to yeast — typically a little cooler than room temperature. Yeast is added, which converts sugars into alcohol, carbon dioxide and other byproducts. This fermentation process can take several weeks or longer.

4 Conditioning and packaging

After the beer has finished fermenting, it's filtered out, chilled, carbonated and left to condition for another one to six weeks. The beer can then be bottled, kegged or served directly from a "brite tank,” as is often done in breweries.


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Sign up for our Brewsletter

Our free email newsletter will provide reminders at every step of the brewing process. If you sign up by May 25, you'll be entered to win brewing equipment and other prizes!