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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wine fermentation vessels with airlocks
A beer homebrewing kit consisting of hopped malt extract, yeast and instructions

Homebrewing is the brewing of beer, wine, cider and other beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, through fermentation on a small scale as a hobby for personal consumption, free distribution at social gatherings, amateur brewing competitions or other non-commercial reasons.

Brewing on a domestic level has been done for thousands of years, but has been subject to regulation and prohibition. In recent times, homebrewing has increased in popularity creating a subculture that usually follows most hobbies.

While legality of homebrewing varies from country to country, most allow homebrewing, some countries limiting the volume brewed by an individual, and even fewer countries allowing distillation of hard alcohol.



Alcohol has been brewed domestically throughout its 7000-year history beginning in Mesopotamia, Egypt and China. Knowledge of brewing beer and wine was passed on from the Egyptians to the Greeks and finally to the Romans.

Mass production of brewed beverages began in the 1700s with the industrial revolution. New innovations, like thermometers and hydrometers, allowed increases in efficiency. French microbiologist Louis Pasteur explained the role of yeast in fermentation in 1857, allowing brewers to develop strains of yeast with desirable properties (conversion efficiency, ability to handle higher alcohol content).

While the sale or consumption of commercial alcohol was never prohibited in the UK, throughout the first half of the twentieth century, homebrewing was circumscribed by taxation and prohibition. One of the earliest, modern attempts to regulate private production that affected this era was the Inland Revenue Act of 1880 in the United Kingdom; this required a 5-shilling homebrewing license.[1]

Home winemaking

In the UK, on April 1963, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reggie Maudling removed the need for the 1880 brewing license.[2] Australia followed suit in 1972, when Gough Whitlam repealed Australian law prohibiting the brewing of all but the weakest beers and wines as one of his first acts as Prime Minister.[3]

In 1920 the United States outlawed the manufacture and consumption of alcoholic beverages "for beverage purposes." As a result of this prohibition breweries, vinyards, and distilleries across the United States were closed down or placed into service making malt for non-alcoholic purposes. When prohibition was repealed, home wine-making was legalised, however a clerical error omitted the words "and/or beer" from the document which was eventually passed into law so homebrewing remained illegal until 1978 when Congress passed a bill repealing Federal restrictions on the homebrewing of small amounts of beer.[4] Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, signed the bill into law in February 1979; however, the bill left individual states free to pass their own laws limiting production.

In the United Kingdom, many pioneers were home winemakers owing to the greater availability of information and ingredients. These included C.J.J. Berry, who founded wine brewing circles in Hampshire and three other English counties; produced the Amateur Winemaker magazine and published First Steps in Winemaking,[5] and Home Brewed Beers and Stouts, one of the first modern homebrewing books.[6] Another early proponent of homebrewing was Dave Line, who after also writing for Amateur Winemaker wrote The Big Book of Brewing in 1974.

The United States, having an established home winemaking culture, moved rapidly into the brewing of beer. Within months of legalization, Charlie Papazian founded the Association of Brewers. In 1984, Papazian published The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. This and Line's work remain in print to this day alongside later publications such as Graham Wheeler's Home Brewing: The CAMRA Guide.

Brewing culture

People homebrew for a variety of reasons. Homebrewing can be cheaper than buying commercially equivalent beverages;[7] it can allow people to adjust recipes to their own tastes (creating beverages that are unavailable on the open market, or low-ethanol beverages which may contain less calories and so be less-fattening)[8]; or people may enjoy entering homebrew competitions. Sometimes referred to as "craft brewing",[9] homebrewing has developed various homebrewing clubs and competitions. The Beer Judge Certification Program or BJCP is an American organization which sanctions beer, mead, and cider homebrew competitions, certifies judges, and offers categories for judging; these judging categories are called "Beer Style Guidelines" and are written by the BJCP Style Committee. Similar British organisations are The National Guild of Wine and Beer Judges,[10] who have judging categories for both beer,[11] and wine;[12] and the National Association of Wine and Beermakers (Amateur) - (NAWB),[13] who have held an annual show every year since 1959.[14]



Making beer at home for personal consumption is legal in Germany. 200 liter of beer per household per year can be produced without taxation, but notification of the local customs office (Hauptzollamt) is necessary. Larger amounts of beer have to be taxed according to law.[15 ]

In Poland one may produce an unlimited quantity of fermented beverages. They are not however permitted to distill liquor or sell their products.

Homebrewing beer is legal in Sweden so long as it is only for personal use and not for sale.

In the United Kingdom one may produce an unlimited quantity of fermented beverages for domestic consumption only. It is illegal to distill liquor in the United Kingdom without a license to do so from the government, and any fermented products must not be sold without the payment of alcohol duty and registration with HMRC.

North America

Making beer for home consumption is legal in most Canadian provinces. Liquor laws are regulated provincially, while the federal government has laws about taxation and importation of beer, wine and other liquors.

Many homebrewing related articles and books mistakenly claim that, in 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed into law a bill explicitly allowing home beers and winemaking, which was at the time illegal as a holdover from the prohibition of alcoholic beverages (repealed in 1933). In fact, the U.S. Congress passed an Act in 1978 exempting a certain amount of beer brewed for personal or family use from taxation. President Carter signed the Act, which addressed other issues as well.

States remain free to restrict, or even prohibit, the manufacture of beer, mead, hard cider, wine and other alcoholic beverages at home.[16] For example, Ala. Code § 28-1-1 addresses the illegal manufacture of alcoholic beverages in Alabama, and no other provision of Alabama law provides an exception for personal use brewing.

Ala. Code § 28-1-1 - "In all counties of the state it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to have in his or its possession any still or apparatus to be used for the manufacture of any alcoholic beverage of any kind or any alcoholic beverage of any kind illegally manufactured or transported within the state or imported into the state from any other place without authority of the alcoholic control board of the state, and any person, firm or corporation violating this provision or who transports any illegally manufactured alcoholic beverages or who manufactures illegally any alcoholic beverages shall, upon conviction, be punished as provided by law."

Interestingly, several homebrew stores operate in Alabama, so the status of homebrewing as an enforcement priority with the Alabama Alcoholic Control Board is unknown.

However, most states permit homebrewing, allowing 100 gallons of beer per person over the age of 21 per year and up to a maximum of 200 gallons per household annually when there are two or more adults residing in the household. Because alcohol is taxed by the federal governments via excise taxes, homebrewers are restricted from selling any beer they brew. This similarly applies in most Western countries.

Australia and New Zealand

In Australia individuals may manufacture their own alcohol without paying excise provided that they do not employ the use of a still. Permission is required to own a still larger than 5 litres regardless of whether it is being used to produce alcohol. To operate any size still for the production of alcohol (even for personal use) requires an excise manufacturing license and excise must be payed at the rate of approximately $65 per litre of alcohol produced. [17]

New Zealand lifted the ban on home distilling in 1996, and it is now legal to distill spirits for your own consumption. Homebrewing and winemaking are both legal as well. It is still illegal to supply or sell any alcoholic beverage without the appropriate license.

South Africa

In South Africa individuals may produce an unlimited quantity of fermented beverages at home. They are not permitted to distill, sell these beverages or give them to staff.


Homebrewing in Singapore is legal without a license within limits specified here.

Hong Kong

Homebrewing in Hong Kong is legal without a license within limits specified here.


In Japan the legality of homebrewing in Japan is a grey area. Technically it is legal to homebrew up to 1% alcohol only - but high street store Tokyu Hands and various internet suppliers sell homebrewing equipment and kits with instructions translated to Japanese detailing how to make beer with much higher alcohol levels.

This article in The Japan Times states:

In Japan it is illegal to brew beer with more than 1 percent alcohol by volume. Junko Saito, who with her husband sells homebrewing equipment from their Beer Club Shop in Kobe [now closed], says retailers are required to include warnings explaining the law in their catalogs and instruction manuals. Then it is up to the customer to obey the law. The government, she says, understands the "accidental batch" exceeding the 1 percent mark, and the possibility of prosecution is remote. "As long as they don't intend to sell," Saito says, "it is logically impossible to arrest homebrewers. Both authorities and homebrewers know this fact."


Wine being transferred to a secondary fermentation vessel

At present, several beverages are frequently brewed at home. These include beer, wine and cider, but also other fermented beverages such as ginger ale, kombucha, Chicha, Kumis, Pulque, Chhaang, Kvass, Sake, Sonti, Mead and others.


In general, beer homebrewing is commercial brewing on a domestic level. Homebrewers can select from ingredients identical to those used in commercial brewing, in addition to a wide range of post-market customization as well.

At present, homebrewing kits are commercially available which usually provide a liquid or dry malt extract, yeast and, depending on the kit, hop-extract. Homebrewers can make beers in a variety of styles.


Cider is normally fermented apple juice which can be freshly pressed or bought as a commercially available kit containing apple syrup and yeast but can be many other fruits including pear making perry . The addition of yeast to freshly pressed apples is not vital as apples contain an amount of natural yeast however most homebrewers add yeast to ensure the process works well as each variety of apple contains different amounts of yeast.


Kilju ("sugar wine") is a Finnish home-made alcoholic beverage made primarily from water, sugar, and yeast.

Homebrewing kits

1.5/1.8 kg Homebrewing kits

Complete kits for wine,[18] cider,[19] and beer,[20] are sold.

Sometimes known as beer in a can, no-boil, and hopped wort; beer kits contain liquid malt extract that, when reconstituted with water, produces wort. They are the easiest method available since the basic varieties typically don't require boiling or other preparations. Generally, the quality of beer from these kits can be on par with commercial beer but are generally not as good as home brew made from using malt extract or all-grain methods, and can be a good start for someone overwhelmed by the process. Kits requiring additional sugar tend to produce thinner beers. These "sugar" kits typically come in one 1.8 kg[21] can.

Some more authentic kits contain extra malt extract and come in two cans weighing a combined 3 kg.[21] A few advanced kits may also come with a hop teabag and require you to boil this with the wort before cooling it and pitching the yeast. On the whole two-can kits produce thicker-tasting, more commercial brews as all the alcohol is made from malt sugars. Some learners try a few of the more complex 3 kg kits to get used to the copper hopping process—boiling wort with hops—process before progressing on to more complex brews.

Brewing by use of beermaking kits may allow the homebrewer to avoid the need to boil the wort. Wort is typically boiled for an hour to two hours, which allows the beer to be infused with hop flavor and which also has the effect of sterilizing the liquid so that it will not be contaminated before the addition of yeast. Beermaking kits are frequently pre-boiled with the hops. And as long as the homebrewer observes sanitary practices, such as sanitizing the fermentation vessel before addition of the malt extract and liquor, the yeast will immediately take hold in the sweet liquid and other microbes will have less chance to spoil the beer.

Brewing process

Primary fermentation of homebrewing takes place in a large glass or plastic carboys or food-grade plastic bucket, nearly always sealed. When sealed, the fermenter is stoppered with the carbon dioxide gas produced venting through a fermentation lock. During this time, temperatures should be kept at optimum temperature for the fermentation process. For ale this temperature is usually 65-75°F / 18-24°C, for lager it is usually much colder, around 50°F / 10°C, wine will start fermenting around 20°C,[22] cider between 15°C and 18°C.[23] A vigorous fermentation then takes place, usually starting within 12 hours and continuing over the next few days. During this stage the fermentable sugars (maltose, glucose, and sucrose) are consumed by the yeast, while ethanol and CO2 are produced as byproducts by the yeast. A layer of sediment, the lees or "trub", appears at the bottom of the fermenter, composed of heavy fats, proteins and inactive yeast. Often, the brew is moved to a second carboy after primary fermentation called a secondary fermenter. This secondary fermentation process is often utilized by more advanced home brewers to enhance flavor. While not required, it is generally practiced by home brewers who wish to age or clarify their beer by removing it from the sediment left behind by primary fermentation.

Upon conclusion of fermentation, the product is typically "primed" by adding a small quantity of sugar and then bottled. For most brews, flip-top bottles with rubber stoppers, such as Grolsch, are popular. Priming briefly reactivates the yeast that remains in the bottle, carbonating the brew. Homebrewed beers and lagers are typically unfiltered (filtering improves visual appearance of the product, but reduces its shelf life and complicates carbonation.)


The principles behind the process of homebrewing beer are similar to commercial brewing. A hopped wort is produced and yeast pitched into the beer to stimulate fermentation. The complexity of the process is mostly determined by the approach used to manufacture the wort; by far the simplest method is kit brewing.

Homebrewing malt extracts: liquid in a can and spray dried

Homebrewers may purchase liquid or dried malt extracts that are quite simply the condensed or dried wort that is sold in concentrated form. Whether the homebrewer chooses to mash their own grains or chooses to purchase malt extracts, the homebrewer will then need to add hops and boil the liquid, typically for an hour to an hour and a half.

A partial mash differs from an extract brew in that the extract remains enzymatically active. Unlike dead malts where some of the starch has been converted to sugar via the action of heat and the natural enzymes have been destroyed, wheat and unmalted extracts need the help of enzymes to convert their starches into sugars.

The next step up from extract brewing is to use a diastatically active malt extract to convert starches from other beer adjuncts such as flaked and torrified barleys, flaked wheat, and wheat flour into fermentable sugars. These extracts are currently only available in the canned form. Unmalted barleys and wheats can add extra "body" to a finished beer.

Advanced homebrewers make their own extract from crushed malted barley (or alternative grain adjuncts such as unmalted barley, wheat, oats, corn or rye) by mashing the grain in hot water. This requires an insulated vessel known as a mash tun.

In one procedure popular with homebrewers called the "Infusion Mash", all grains are combined in the tun and added to brewing liquor. Before being combined with the grains, the brewing liquor is heated to a "strike temperature" that is hotter than the desired temperature for enzymatic activity. The reason the liquor is heated is to compensate for the fact that the grains are cooler than the desired temperature.

The mash is then removed to a lauter tun and the grains washed with hotter water to obtain all the sugars from the tun in a process known as sparging. The sparging process will also stop any further enzymatic activity if much hotter water is used; conversely the mash may be heated to around 80°C to end such activity prior to placing it in the lauter-tun, and to prevent cooler grain from lowering the sparge water temperature to a lower than desirable figure.[4]

The resulting wort is then boiled for around 90 minutes. Copper hops are added at the beginning of the boil and flavouring hops after 75 minutes. Irish Moss, a form of seaweed, is typically added at the end of the boil to help prevent any hazes in the final brew. Haze-preventing additives to the boil are known as copper finings.

Environmental impacts

Homebrewing can reduce the environmental impact of fermented beverages by using less packaging and transportation than commercially brewed beverages, and by the use of refillable jugs, reusable bottles or other reusable containers.[24][25]

See also


  1. ^ "Hansard 1803–2005". Retrieved 2009-05-01.  
  2. ^ "Brewers Contact: Journal of the Craft Brewing Association". Retrieved 2006-10-10.  
  3. ^ subaction=showfull&id=1119829107&archive=1120781372&start_from=&ucat=2& "Adelaide Times Online". subaction=showfull&id=1119829107&archive=1120781372&start_from=&ucat=2&. Retrieved 2006-10-10.  
  4. ^ a b Papazian The Complete Joy of Homebrewing (3rd Edition), ISBN 0-06-053105-3
  5. ^ National Association of Winemakers (UK)
  6. ^ "Wine Diva books - Wine and beverages - Home beer brewing". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  7. ^ "Basic homebrewing: all the skills ... - Google Books". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  8. ^ Decreasing calories in beer by making your own
  9. ^ "Craft Brewing Association". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  10. ^ "National Guild of Wine and Beer Judges - Home Page". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  11. ^ "National Guild of Wine and Beer Judges - Beer Styles". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  12. ^ "National Guild of Wine and Beer Judges - Wine Styles". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  13. ^ "NAWB - History". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  14. ^ "NAWB - History". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  15. ^ "Haustrunk und Bierherstellung durch Haus- und Hobbybrauer". Bundeministerium der Finanzen/Zoll/Germany. Retrieved 2008-09-28.  
  16. ^ "Legalization / Laws for Homebrewing". American Homebrewers Association. Retrieved 2008-07-18.  
  17. ^
  18. ^ "The Encyclopedia of Home Winemaking ... - Google Books". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  19. ^ "Homebrewing cider kits, homemade cider kits for how to make homemade cider.". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  20. ^ "How to Brew: Ingredients, Methods ... - Google Books". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  21. ^ a b "Muntons plc homebrew range - Commercial site". Retrieved 2006-10-17.  
  22. ^ "Wine production: vine to bottle - Google Books". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  23. ^ "Concise Encyclopedia of Bioresource ... - Google Books". Retrieved 2009-07-14.  
  24. ^ "Environmental Benefits of Home Brewing Beer". Retrieved Jan 15, 2008.  
  25. ^ "When Passions Collide...". Retrieved Jan 15, 2008.  

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