At the Church Street Brewing Company, we are very fortunate to have a few longtime ‘homebrewers’ on our team – in fact, our own Chuck Fort has received many medals in home-brewing competitions and is also the President of the Urban Knaves of Grain http://www.knaves.org/
Since we also get a lot of homebrewers visiting our taproom, we decided it might be interesting to summarize some of the main differences between home-brewing and commercial brewing. We do recognize this is not an exhaustive list and by no means the ‘final word’ on the topic.
Some of the best beers we’ve ever had were crafted in someone’s basement or garage, and why not–homebrewers have access to a similar range of ingredients as commercial brewers. We’re all still using the same four basic beer ingredients: Grain, hops, yeast, and water. The reasoning behind our choices of ingredients are where the paths of homebrewers and commercial breweries diverge, but they’re not as different as you might think, here are some examples.
Grain: This is arguably where home and commercial brewers differ the least. Home brew shops carry a variety of malt, which makes it easy for homebrewers to experiment with whatever style of beer they like, or attempt to copy their favorite commercial craft brews. Some homebrewers also prefer to use malt extracts as opposed to all-grain, which can produce some awesome beer that’s easy to replicate, but at the potential cost of a little bit of malt complexity. Either method can produce great wort (the sugary extract you get from malt and water) to make great beer!
Hops: Here at the Church Street Brewing Company we use almost exclusively hop pellets. They’re easy to weigh out, require little fuss, and are easy to leave behind with a proper whirlpool, which is why they are so widely used by homebrewers and commercial brewers alike. Whole hops provide terrific aroma, but provide less extraction of hop acids compared to pellets, thus many homebrewers prefer to use whole hops specifically for dry hopping. On the commercial level if you’re using whole hops, you’d better have a plan! They float, and they’re a terrific way to ‘clog’ up your system if you’re not careful. The few times we’ve ever used whole hops at the Church Street Brewing Company we’ve put them in bags when adding them to the boil, which makes for easy removal because our drains can’t handle them, and neither can the wort chiller! Hop extracts also exist, and are better suited for larger scale breweries because of cost. Hop extracts can save a lot of beer that would otherwise be lost to hop particulates.
Yeast: At the risk of accidently writing an entire blog post about yeast (don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll have many of those) I’ll keep it brief. Many homebrewers don’t have the ability to cold crash their beers before either kegging or bottling it, so yeast flocculation (how well a yeast drops/settles out of solution) may be even more important to home brewers than it is to commercial brewers at times. The varieties of yeast available to homebrewers is ever expanding similarly to grain, so the choices are there. Yeast is the most important aspect to any beer—that much is true no matter the batch size.
So, that’s basically it regarding the ingredients aspect of brewing. However, there are other differences in the processes and techniques, which we’ll cover in our next blog. Please share with your friends who are curious, or provide us with your comments. If you have any questions, please ask! We’ll either answer you in the comments, or bank them for the Q & A post in the future! Thanks! And, in the meantime, ‘Prost’!
Church Street Brewing Company Brew Masters