Reply To: Beer!

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Home brewing is, indeed, fairly easy. Indeed, even using a carboy for (a little) larger batch closed fermentation is quite cheap and easy if you just want to reuse a typical office water cooler bottle (the problem there is the potential for “infection” from using plastic, which can have scratches in the side where things you don’t want in the ferment can easily stick to, but you could use extra work to try to keep that potential to a minimum) but if it becomes a hobby you like a glass carboy really isn’t much of an investment and a rubber cork and some plastic tubing for it is super cheap.

The potential for “infection” is already fairly low with an open ferment, but it’s certainly higher than with a closed one and depending on how long you will be fermenting something there may be a somewhat increased risk. It’s still not high but it may make the difference between something very lovely to drink and something you simply have to throw out for being so nasty! So if you do it often enough I’d definitely recommend being thorough in your cleaning and going with a closed ferment. That being said you could certainly do an open ferment just to get the local yeast flying around in the air and brew something that way! You certainly have the risk of picking up enough bacteria to be a problem, but if you don’t mind having the potential of throwing out batches you can go even cheaper that way.

Also I would note if you are using honey you’re not making a beer at all, you’re making a style of mead, a style of wine! I’ve done plenty of those (mostly cysers, which is using apple juice with honey, also made a LOT back in the Middle Ages). Definitely be sure not to use any kind of sweetener that may have a preservative in it, though, as that will definitely cause some issues with letting your yeast get a nice foothold.

Otherwise yeast styles can impart flavors and a bread yeast (preferable not fast rising, as you noted) would give a more “bready” flavor to whatever you brew. Most beer or wine yeasts are more specialized and impart specific flavors, or “cleaner” flavors, or are specialized for, say, higher alcohol tolerance (and thus higher alcohol potential in the ferment). In all brewing really is pretty easy stuff and there are many great books out there on it. Most of the confusing stuff really just deals with more in-depth styles and otherwise preventing the potential for infection (as in keeping the bacteria out, most of the time to maintain flavor consistency, but in a few rarer cases to prevent the types that might cause a potential for sickness… so worth taking the time for that, IMHO).