Kenny and I have made beer at home a few times over the last two years. I bought him a homebrewing kit two years ago, and we have enjoyed making a few batches in the last couple of years. We started out with and IPA, and followed that with an Oatmeal Stout. Last year we decided to try and make a Celebration Ale for our friends and family to give out as gifts for Chrismas. We needed four weeks at a minimum for our beer to be ready to give as gifts, but we kept putting off the brewing process. We ended up opening the first bottle to celebrate Spring instead of Christmas as we had envisioned.
This year we are trying to make beer for the holiday season once again. We have opted not to go with a seasonal blend, instead choosing to go with our most successful variety so far, an IPA.
Now I realize that the average beer drinker may not even know that there are different kinds of beer (Budweiser vs. Miller's doesn't count, by the way.) There are basically two main types determined by the type of yeast used for fermentation-ales and lagers. Ales are top fermenting, and lagers are bottom fermenting. Most home brewers will chose to go the ale route, as it is fermented at room temperature, and doesn't require the same amount of precision a lager might need to develop properly. More specifically we are making an IPA, which is an India Pale Ale. It is characterized by a stronger than average hoppiness. Hops are the plants that contribute to the bitterness of the brew, balancing the sugary sweetness of the malt, which feeds the yeasts. Back when the British had colonial rule over India, they would ship beer from Britain to India, adding extra hops to help in the preservation (hops have numerous beneficial effects including antibiotic properties.)
Until a few decades ago you wouldn't have even been allowed to brew at home (at least as far as the law was concerned.) It was due to an error in the 21st amendment which allowed for the homemaking of wine, but unintentionally didn't mention beer. In 1979 Jimmy Carter signed a bill making homebrewing legal once more. The new legality spawned a slew of new beer makers who not only have learned to create their own but have helped support and popularize the craft and microbrews that can be found through the U.S. (Anchor, Sam Adams, and Pyramid are a few of the larger ones.)
There are many great things about homebrewing. The anticipation of the final product is probably the greatest. You'll find me and Kenny peeking into our spare shower to check up on our beer daily (if not hourly.) The beer will take about three weeks until its time to put it in a bottle. I'll be back soon to update you about its progress. And maybe, if you are one of the lucky ones Santa may even leave you some in your stocking.