How To Brew Your Own Beer

To drink is human, to brew divine


Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Illustrations: Amber Pretorius

Give a man a beer and he’ll say cheers and chug it. Teach a man to brew and he’s got a hobby that will not only win him friends and influence people, but will keep him in a constant supply of fresh hooch.

Just ask our guy Nic Appleby, senior developer at Superbalist, who when he isn’t coding is brewing his own. Nic recently placed third in the Devil’s Peak Brewery Home Brewers competition with a Thai-influenced coconut lime black IPA.

Wait, what?

“I don’t usually like beers with a lot of adjuncts (ingredients other than barley, hops, water and yeast), flavoured beers and things like that, but being a specialty competition I decided to go all out. Experiment. I hadn’t done anything like that before.”

Two things the Germans do well: beer and rules. The sixteenth century Reinheitsgebot law, which mandates that the sudsy stuff contain only water, barley, and hops (the fourth essential component, yeast, hadn’t been identified yet), put both passions to good use. By banning ‘preservatives’ like soot and poisonous mushrooms, the Reinheitsgebot paved the way for an era when the worst thing that’ll happen from a few too many is a wicked hangover. But coconuts and lime sounds berserk.

Not quite. The word "berserk" actually translates to "bare shirt" in the Norse language. Vikings who drank too much beer and would then head off to do battle without their armor and shirts were described as “berserk” our Nic’s an artist. 

There are three ways to brew according to Nic: full extract, partial mash and all grain. He’s doing partial mash brews at the moment while building up his equipment to an all grain setup, which is the grand daddy of brewing.

“I’m doing 20 litres at the moment. The Brooklyn Brew kit is a partial mash kit, which is a step up in complexity and control from full extract. Great for homebrews, especially if you want to do more experimental stuff as there’s less waste if it doesn’t turn out the way you expected.”

So what tips does Nic have for us?

“Sanitization is key. As is the water that you choose. I always get my water from the Newlands spring. 95% of good beer is good water.”

Just don’t ever water down your beer as an ancient law, the Code of Hammurabi, which was established in Babylonia in 1750 BC, ruled that any proprietors who served watered-down beer would be put to death by being drowned in their own poor quality beer!

Wouldn’t dream of it. And if you’d like to add to our culture by coming up with new beers, then here’s the step-by-step, nitty-gritty as per the fine people at Brooklyn Brew.

The Mash

1 litre of water per 500g of grain.

Heat water to 71 degrees Celsius

Pour grain into water

Temp will fall to 68 degrees Celsius

You’re basically making porridge

Keep mash between 63 and 68 degrees Celsius for an hour

Raise temperature to 77 degrees Celsius while stirring


The Sparge

A fine mesh strainer over a pot or bowl

Pour in your mash

Heat a gallon of water to 77 degrees Celsius

Pour over grain

Recycle liquid over grain

It’s called wort

Repeat two to three times


The Boil

Bring wort to boil

Start your timer – 1 hour

Add bittering hops in the beginning

Add aroma hops near the end

Lower heat for a gentle boil

Sanitize jug

Cool down wort

Make an ice bath in your sink

Get wort below 21 degrees Celsius

Pour wort into sanitized jug

Fill just over 1 gallon mark (add tap water if level is low)


The Finish

Pour directly into fermenter

This is called pitching

Sanitize hands


Sanitize screw cap stopper

Screw onto fermenter

Insert sanitized blow off tube

With other end in bowl of sanitizer

Keep somewhere dark

3 days later replace blowoff tube with airlock

Wait 2 weeks 



NB All beer is different so read the instructions provided with your kit.