How to Be Your Own Brewmaster 101
Homebrew in Paradise offers a step-by-step, introductory homebrewing class that goes from wort to bottle.
Instructor Eulerson Pajimula, far right, goes over the basics of homebrewing with an introductory class at Homebrew in Paradise.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox
Hidden in a Kalihi-Pālama warehouse, near auto shops and a bakery, is a one-stop shop for homebrewers.
Homebrew in Paradise is a locally owned homebrew and wine-making supply store—the only one on O‘ahu—stocked with everything you need to brew your own beer, from hop pellets to glass carboys.
It also hosts introductory classes for would-be homebrewers like my husband. My parents gave him a homebrew kit for Christmas and he never got around to opening the box until recently. That’s when he realized he was missing a few important components—namely, all the equipment. Next stop: Homebrew in Paradise, where we found the equipment we needed and—a bonus!—discovered Homebrew’s classes, taught by experts.
The Introduction to Homebrewing class is held once a month on a Sunday afternoon for three hours. The class is limited to fewer than 20 people. You learn how to brew beer from start to finish, which takes roughly three to four weeks. So the entire process—from brewing to fermenting to bottling—is condensed into three hours.
“It’s a glorified cooking show,” joked instructor Eulerson Pajimula, also the brewer at Beer Lab HI across the street from Puck’s Alley, which opened this month.
The class started with introductions. Most of us had no brewing experience. One had been working on one-gallon batches of homebrew, but “things were going kinda weird,” he said, “so I want to figure out what’s going on.” Another had made moonshine, but that’s about it.
Pajimula explained the basics of brewing very simply: “We are making an environment for yeast to ferment. Men make wort (the liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing of beer), yeast makes beer.”
We were making five gallons of a brew called a Paradise Pale Ale. We boiled two gallons of regular tap water at 160 degrees in a stainless-steel pot over a propane-fueled burner. (Stainless steel is preferable to aluminum because it retains heat better and doesn’t oxidize, Pajimula said.)
We steeped a mesh bag of grains, just like tea, in the boiling water for about half an hour. After removing the grains, we added a concentrated malt extract—a shortcut in the brewing process letting us skip the mashing process—stirring until dissolved. Hop pellets were carefully added at two different times over the next hour. And then we added the yeast.
Added the concentrated malt extraction to make the wort.
Making the brew took the entire three hours. So, while everything cooked, we went over the fermenting, transferring (or racking) and bottling phases.
I was surprised to learn about the importance of sanitation for homebrewing. Wild yeast and bacteria—both are everywhere—that enter the brew can change its flavor dramatically. We learned how to use a no-rinse sanitization solution that’s odorless, tasteless and colorless when used in small concentrations.
“Everything that touches the beer after the boiling needs to be sanitized,” Pajimula said. “And cleaning is not the same as sanitizing.”
Finally, when the brew had fermented for two weeks, we were ready to bottle. We added corn sugar—dextrose—to the brew to create much-wanted carbonation. This sugar is 100 percent fermentable by yeast, so it doesn’t affect the final taste of the beer.
The bottles need to be stored for another week before drinking, though we sampled brews from the previous class and special concoctions crafted by our instructor.
The class was a cross between a chemistry experiment and a cooking demonstration, and it was incredibly interesting, even to a non-beer-drinker like me. I can’t imagine anyone learning how to brew from YouTube or a book; seeing and participating in the various steps made it much easier for me to understand—and appreciate—the process. It was well worth the $25, especially when you consider how many brews we sampled.
Next “Introduction to Homebrewing” will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 20 at Homebrew in Paradise, 740-A Mo‘owa‘a St. Cost is $25 per person and can be applied to the purchase of a beer starter kit. Space is limited. 834-2739, homebrewinparadise.com
Once you’re up to speed and brewing your own beer, you might want to hang out with other like-minded enthusiasts to share and compare your concoctions. Click here to read more about local homebrewing clubs.