Any idiot can make beer at home. Even if you aren't an idiot, there's no problem. You can make the beer, then drink it and become an idiot. But I'm wandering from the topic. Let's make beer.


You'll need malt extract. It comes in two forms. Liquid extract is sticky, easily scorched, and packaged in inconvenient 3.3 lb. cans. Dry extract is fine as long as you never open the package. The moment it's exposed to air, it sucks up all moisture within a distance of five miles and forms into thick clumps that are almost as sticky as liquid extract. Most brewers have a hard time deciding which is worse, so they use a combination of the two.

You'll also need hops. Once you've selected your preferred variety, you need to make a simple calculation to achieve the proper degree of bitterness in your beer. Take you your age, multiply it by the number of taste buds in one square inch of your tongue, add the current temperature of you kitchen (in degrees Kelvin) and square the result. Divide this total by the number of beers you drank during the last Superbowl. Or toss in a handful and hope for the best.

Last but not yeast, you'll need least. Oops, 'scuze me. You know what I mean. Dry yeast comes in a convenient package containing a pure strain of brewing yeast pre-mixed at the factory with various unwanted bacteria that might ruin your beer. Liquid yeast comes sealed in a special pouch, allowing it to remain pure until you open it and expose it to all sorts of unwanted bacteria, thus giving your beer a personal touch. The choice is yours.


You'll need a fermenter. There are two kinds. Plastic is light, inexpensive, and subject to scratches that will harbor bacteria that might ruin your beer. Glass is scratchproof but has an amazing tendency to slip from your hands and shatter. You'll also need a thermometer and a strainer. The strainer is optional, but comes in very handy when you're trying to fish the broken pieces of the thermometer out of the kettle.

Oh yeah, that reminds me. You'll need a kettle. The standard ten-gallon stainless steel model found in most kitchens is ideal. If you can't find yours, just get a quarter keg from your local beer distributor and saw off the top. You might also want to weld on handles while you're at it. (Be sure to wear safety goggles.)

That's pretty much all you'll need except for some siphoning hose, a hydrometer, a bottle capper, a bottle brush, a bottle filler, bottle caps, bottle labels, bottle-drying rack, bottle washer, bottle-nosed dolphins, bottle rockets, and a couple of boxes to hold all the bottles.


Okay. Here comes the easy part. Boil some water. Add the malt. Turn away for an instant. Now look back. Surprise—the pot has boiled over, covering the stove and most of the kitchen floor with a material that hardens to amazing finish while remaining sticky enough to trap flies and small animals. Don't forget to toss in the hops. And add the yeast. Oops. No. Wait. Don't put the yeast in boiling water. Yikes. Sorry about that. Bad move.

Anyhow, boil the stuff for an hour. Then cool it down. From this point on, avoid exposing the beer to sunlight unless you are trying to imitate the mephitistic bouquet of Heineken or Corona. Put the beer in the fermenter. Add the other pack of yeast you were smart enough to buy. Now put the fermenter in a room that will stay at exactly 68 degrees, or at least somewhere between 40 and 85. Wait a while.

After a brief period of anywhere from five to ninety days, the airlock will stop bubbling. Airlock? Oh jeez, did I forget to mention that part? Sorry. Well, anyhow, once everything stops bubbling, it's time to bottle or keg your beer. Bottling is inexpensive and incredibly tedious. Kegging, on the other hand, is expensive but never boring when one contemplates the possible disasters that could occur in the presence of a cylinder containing carbon dioxide at a pressure of 3,000 pounds per square inch. The choice is yours.

Let's assume you've chosen to bottle your first batch. Might as well, since you have all that equipment. (By the way, I was kidding about the dolphin, so please let him go.) Bottling is simple and virtually foolproof. First, prepare a priming solution with 3/4 cup of corn sugar and 2 cups of water. Be sure to boil the water to avoid the risk of introducing any bacteria that might ruin your beer. Hey, what was that? I thought I heard something explode. Sounded like it came from the basement. There goes another one. Oh drat, it sounds like they're all going. Start without me. Just put the beer in the bottles and crimp on the caps. No worries.

Hi. I'm back. Got it all bottled? Good. Now set it aside for a week or two. Downstairs would be good. Away from children and pets. You might, just to be on the safe side, want to put the bottles inside plastic bags and maybe put those bags behind something sturdy like several inches of Kevlar or some old cast-iron appliances.

Well, that's all there is to it. Congratulations on making your first batch. I can guarantee it's going to be like nothing you've ever tasted before. Cheers.

"How to Make Beer at Home" Copyright © 1996 by David Lubar (Yeah, it's that old.)

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