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Gluten Free Home Brewing Blog
Brewing 101 by GFHBer Anthony from Texas
Many of our customers may not realize that GFHB started out as a facebook page in 2010 in an effort to connect GFHBers together in one place, share our knowledge and experiences, and of course share our favorite recipes. Since we opened our business three years ago we have enjoyed helping customers that are new to brewing, new to brewing gluten free beer, and seasoned brewers develop a new recipe. Most of our time these days are spent fulfilling orders and reordering supplies, but we really enjoy the personal relationships we have made over the years. Alissa and I can travel to most states and meetup with a patron to share one of their favorite pints…unfortunately we don’t travel much outside of the Northwest!
We were recently contacted by Anthony from Texas who is a longtime beer drinker, and is on a mission to brew a gluten free clone of some of his favorite conventional beers. This is the truly enjoyable part of our business! After a few emails to each other, we are now collaborating on some beer recipes which we will share with fellow GFHBers in the upcoming months. Anthony shared some of his story with us, which Alissa and I can personally relate to, and we are sure many of you can too. We would like to share his story, some brewing advice, and hopefully soon his beer recipes!
Anthony from Texas: A Brief History
I have always been a fan of beer. I joined around the world clubs, favored micro brews and brew pubs before it was even popular. However, when I turned 40 a light switch went off, suddenly and seemingly without notice, I became extremely allergic to Barley Malt. Not part of some fad but throat closing emergency room allergic. I thought my beer days were over. Tried Ciders, Mead and Wine, but just wasn’t for me. Then Celiacs came out of the shadows and seemingly over night companies started producing Gluten Free beer, more importantly, Barley Free. Some good, most bad but at least I had options. Unfortunately, large breweries found a way around the issue in the form of Gluten Reduced beers. While it didn’t help those with severe allergies, those on the fence seemed to tolerate them. Micro brews in many parts of the country slowly stopped production of Gluten Free beer and soon it could only be found in more progressive areas of the country. My choices became mass produced, sour tasting Sorghum beer for $10 a six pack or a $7 per bottle Gluten Free from England. Spending that kind of money seemed impractical, especially to my wife when she saw what a case cost. I still had one option left and that was to make my own. While home brewing may not save the common beer drinker any money, it sure seems economical when your spending Greens money.
Venture into Gluten Free Brewing
So, I decided that I was going to brew my own beer, but where to start. I don’t know what people did before YouTube, but it is a great source for beginner brewers. Here are some of the decisions you will need to make and the mistakes I made.
- The first thing I had to decide was All Grain, Extract or a combination of the two (Partial Mash). Since I already new I didn’t like the taste of Sorghum (base for most Gluten Free extract recipes), I decided to go All Grain. You are also going to need a paddle to stir all that grain. Don’t go plastic like I did, buy stainless steel. You’re going to stir some thick stuff.
- Now for the Kettle. If you go All Grain, you definitely need a larger Kettle. The local Brew Supply store convinced me to go 15 gallon. It was an easy decision because the 15 gallon was on sale and only a few dollars more than the 10 gallon. But in hind sight, I would not go bigger than 10 gallon. It’s plenty big enough to brew 5-6 gallon All Grain batches which is plenty of brew at one time. I like the BrewBuilt with welded fittings.
- You’re going to need a heat source. I think a propane burner works best for All Grain. I have seen ads for expensive electric systems that say you don’t want to haul propane tanks around. But I am on batch number 6 and still tank #1.
- Now you’re ready to process the grains. Use a Mash Tun or go Brew-in-a-Bag (or BIAB) method. After much research, I went BIAB and bought a nice re-usable synthetic bag. It saves a step and I think the fewer steps you have in the beginning the better. For example, I forgot to add enzymes to the grain my first couple batches. Don’t do that.
- After your boil is complete (just watch YouTube for details) you will need to cool your Wort. I suggest getting a Wort chiller on ebay. I tried making one myself, spent nearly as much and it didn’t turn out as nice. Why not just use and ice bath? It takes a lot longer and will cost more in the long run. I saw Wort Chillers for $50. An ice bath needs at least 4-5 bags and cost about $10 each time.
- On to the fermenter. The brew supply guys convinced me that a couple 5 gallon buckets with the proper attachments is all I needed. Yes, they are inexpensive but the can be a hassle to work with. Carboys are cheap too but a hassle as well. Then I found the Fermentasaurus online. The Fermentasaurus is 3 times the cost of a couple buckets and attachments but boy is it easy. Watch the videos and decide for yourself.
- I then had to decide if I wanted to bottle or keg. Kegging looks easy but the equipment can be pricey, so I decided to try bottling first. I think Flip Tops are the way to go. They can be found for about a dollar per bottle and save time and headaches with capping your own beer. You also need to Prime your beer if bottling. If I had to do it over again, I would start with the Priming Drops. They are pretty idiot proof and it avoids another mistake I made by not getting good mixing of my priming sugar. This can lead to some bottles being flat and others over carbonated. Be patient as well. I read online people tasting their beer after 7 days. I don’t know if it is because I use All Grain, the yeast I use or temperature being stored, but my beer hasn’t been properly carbonated until week 3 and full flavored at week 4.
I think the least amount of money you could possibly spend is $250 for everything you need to get started. However, I would buy a good kettle and conical fermenter is you are serious about this and could easily spend $500-600 all in.
List of Equipment
- Propane Burner $30
- 10 gallon Kettle $40 - $250
- Grain Bag $30
- Stainless Steel Paddle $25
- Digital Thermometer $15
- Wort Chiller $50
- Fermenter $15 - $125
- Secondary Fermenter/Bottling Bucket $25 (not necessary with Fermentasaurus)
- Siphon $15 (not necessary with Fermentasaurus)
- Specific Gravity Kit $15
- Bottler Filler $5
- Cleaning Sanitizer and Spray Bottle $5
Last but not least, you need a good recipe and ingredients. Holly crap, I searched the internet and found GlutenFreeHomeBrewing.com . Now to be honest, beer is not life or death but when I found this website I got a little tingly inside. Everything you need is right here and Alissa and Brian could not be more helpful. Hope this helps those of you that are thinking about venturing into Gluten free brewing. I’m still a rookie but will help if possible.
Written tutorials: https://www.glutenfreehomebrewing.com/tutorials.php
Video tutorials: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChmWQbpTflUy30JCCR5tLPQ