Home Brewing Baby Steps

by Eric Sforza on May 25, 2011

Are you interested in home brewing but not sure if you’re ready to make the leap? An On Premise Brewery might be just what you need!

After trying my hand with a Mr. Beer home kit and achieving pretty good results, I was debating on the next steps of making my own beer from scratch. Problem was – I really didn’t have the space at home, and a full-on kit is a decent sized investment. Fortunately enough, my sister purchased me a session at Deja Brew – an onsite-brewing premise located in Shrewsbury, MA.

Founded in 1996 by Chief Bottle Washer Ray Schavone, Deja Brew is 1 of only 50 On Premise Breweries across the US that allows for customers to brew their own beers onsite.

The process is extremely simple:

Deja Brew Beer Tree


1 – Figure out what style of beer you want to make

There are over 220 beer recipes to choose from, and also 50 wine recipes. I wanted something unique that packed a punch, so I went with the Kentucky Sippin’ Stout – a Vanilla Bean and Bourbon Imperial Stout.

If you’re unsure on what type of beer you’d like, check out the beer tree to the right to get an idea on the styles you prefer.


2 – Gather the Ingredients

Weighing out the Chocolate Malts


A staff member will walk you through the process of measuring and weighing all your ingredients. This is done completely from scratch and helps you to really understand the brewing process.

My ingredient list called for a variety of malts (and a lot of them!) but it was a fun process to see what exact ingredients went into my beer, and also putting the grains through the mill.



3 – Steeping the Grains

Getting ready to steep the grains


After the grains have been put through the mill, they are then steeped in hot water which extracts the sugars and creates the ‘wort’.

Using freshly milled grains increases the complexity of the wort and adds a ‘fresh’ component that is often missed when using canned extracts.




4 – Adding Pale Malt  (and later – Hops) to the Boil

Getting the last of the Pale Malt extract

Next we added the Malt extract – which is a concentrated sweet wort that has had excess liquid removed, as well as brown sugar.

Once the boil is completed, the wort will go through a heat exchanger and directly into the fermentation vessel. The yeast is added and the beer will be stored in a fermentation room until bottling. This is typically 2 weeks, but in my case it was 3 since the Kentucky Sippin’ Stout is a bigger beer.




5 – Bottling

Bottling - That's right .. Imperial Stout infused with Maker's


Return when your beer is ready, sanitize the bottles, fill, cap, and you’re ready to go!

Total time was 4 hours – 2 hours brewing and 2 hours filling/capping. The final product? (72) 22 oz bomber bottles that you can enjoy with friends with the pride of a brew that you made yourself!

The best part of the experience was the atmosphere. You get to meet a variety of beer and wine enthusiasts, and the staff cleans up after you so you don’t have to worry about sanitation problems. Brewing at home is a solitary venture, and there is a lot of prep time for sanitizing all the equipment.




For those who are interested in home brewing but unsure of making the leap, I highly recommend finding an on-site brewing premise near you. In cooking terms – using a home kit like Mr. Beer is like making Mac & Cheese using a box of Kraft, while onsite brewing is like making the pasta and cheese sauce from scratch under the guidance of a trained chef. Each has its place, but you’ll definitely learn and appreciate beer more when everything is from scratch.

Stay tuned for my 30 beers in 30 days post where I’ll also be reviewing the Kentucky Sippin’ Stout!

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