Skip to main content

Learn to Homebrew in 2019 with Brew in a Bag

What better way to start off 2019 than with a New Year’s resolution that will make you (and your friends) happy? It’s time to start a new hobby: brewing your own beer.

There are two primary schools of homebrewing techniques: malt extract and all grain. On one side are those who brew their own beer using grains that have been distilled into liquid or malt extracts. Other homebrewers use more traditional all grain methods, similar to the processes used by commercial breweries.

Using malt extracts is ideal for new brewers who don’t have the equipment or space to crush and mash their own grains and perform the lautering process, but still want to experiment with the basic principles behind creating their own beer. The downsides with extract brewing are the limitations in the available flavor profiles and refined technical processes that can take a beer from being merely good to outstanding.

There is a way, though to bridge the gap between the two styles of brewing, which takes great elements from both methods and combines them: the Brew in a Bag system.

northern brewer
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While still using all grain ingredients, the entire brewing process occurs within a single pot. Experienced extract brewers will already have the base equipment including a kettle, thermometer, long-handled stirring spoon, and paddle. The only other requirements are a filter bag and fine mesh strainer. With those tools and the grains, hops, and yeast specified by your recipe, you’re ready to brew all grain beer with just one burner on your stovetop.

If you’re not an extract brewer already, you can find out how to homebrew on the cheap here. Want to learn, but don’t have the time to read? Check out our podcast episode all about homebrewing.

Many online homebrew stores sell ready-made Brew in a Bag kits (such as this one from Northern Brewer) for those looking to get up to speed fast with this method. Alternatively, head to your local homebrew shop and ask for a bespoke Brew in a Bag recipe to replicate your favorite style. Each kit should include blended grain malts, hops, yeast, and detailed instructions for how to proceed. Once you have a few batches under your belt, you’ll be able to go off-book and craft your own recipes.

brew in a bag
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Homebrewers Association compares the Brew-in-a-Bag method with “making a huge volume of tea with the largest tea bag you have probably ever handled.” That’s an apt description as the process of extracting the sugar from the grains is very similar to steeping tea leaves. Once that step is completed, the remainder of the brew day will be very familiar to extract brewers. The wort, or “pre-beer,” is brought to a boil and hop additions are performed according to a set schedule. Finally, the wort is cooled, aerated and provided with yeast for fermentation.

Brew in a Bag is an easy way for apartment dwellers or relatively new homebrewers to advance into the more traditional world of all-grain brewing without making a large investment in equipment. The smaller batch sizes and limited gear make for a short, enjoyable brew day with the same great-tasting homemade beer as a reward.

Editors' Recommendations

Lee Heidel
Lee Heidel is the managing editor of Brew/Drink/Run, a website and podcast that promotes brewing your own beer, consuming the…
Enjoy a Campfire Beer with Your Pup with the New Busch Dog Brew
Busch Dog Brew

Ben Franklin famously said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Well, technically, he said that about wine, but let’s not get hung up on history and facts. It’s so profound that it’s definitely something he could have said. We would argue that dogs and campfires are even further proof. Thankfully, Anheuser-Busch just announced the perfect way to enjoy all three together.

Billed as “the nectar of the DOGS,” Busch’s all-new Dog Brew is the healthiest way for your dog to enjoy a cold one with you by the campfire. Since both beer and hops are toxic to dogs, the non-alcoholic brew is actually a bone broth made from just a few all-natural ingredients, including pork butt, corn, basil, celery, mint, turmeric, ginger, and water. Not only is it safe for dogs, but it’s healthy in promoting their digestive system. Plus, if your pup struggles with eating solid foods, it’s a more accessible way to get the nutrients they need. But, let’s be honest, it’s really just a clever marketing ploy that we’re happy to buy into. Who doesn’t love the idea of drinking a campfire beer with their pooch? You too can drink Dog Brew with your dog, although it tastes nothing like beer, and Busch admits it’s pretty bland by human standards.

Read more
Oskar Blues Brewery Releases French’s Mustard Beer
oskar blues frenchs mustard beer pr select 2

Mustard and beer is a great combination, but usually we're talking mustard used as a condiment on a sausage or pretzel alongside a pint. Colorado's Oskar Blues Brewery has taken this pairing to a whole new level with a new collaboration with French's Mustard, appropriately called French’s Mustard Beer. It's a tropical wheat beer that is literally brewed with French’s Classic Yellow Mustard, along with an infusion of fruit and citrus flavors including key lime, lemon, tangerine, and passion fruit. “We’re stoked on bold flavors at Oskar Blues Brewery and we never shy away from a challenge,” said Oskar Blues head brewer, Juice Drapeau, in a prepared statement. “With French’s Mustard Beer we elevated the Classic Yellow Mustard flavor with tangy lemon and lime to create a tropical wheat ale I’d pair with a loaded hot dog on the hottest day of the year.”

This isn't the first food crossover for French's, known for its bright yellow mustard that is ubiquitous at backyard barbecues around the country. Last year, the brand collaborated with Coolhaus to release a mustard ice cream that was available in New York and California for a limited time alongside a pretzel cookie. And Oskar Blues is no stranger to brewing uniquely flavored beer, as indicated by its "Death By" series of brews with such flavors as king cake, coconut, and even affogato.

Read more
These Homebrewing Appliances And Kits Are the Easiest Way to Make Your Own Beer
picobrew zymatic

Learning to brew your own beer doesn’t have to be hard. For a basic brew, I liken it to making boxed macaroni and cheese. If you can measure ingredients, add in items at specific times, and maintain a relatively steady temperature, you can make beer. However, it can be expensive to buy (and inevitably to upgrade) the equipment and homebrewing is a large time investment. An all-grain brew day can easily take up an entire Saturday — and that’s not including all the clean-up.

For those with small spaces, limited time, and some cash to spend, counter-top appliances and straightforward, beginner craft brew kits are all the rage. These homebrewing kits fit right in beside toasters and microwaves but promise to make brewing beer as simple brewing as a pot of coffee. Or maybe even microwavable mac n’ cheese.
Zymatic. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Read more