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How to Make Beer: Our Family Discovers the Lost Art of Home-Brewing

For our first beer making experience together, Mr. Fox scurried around the kitchen dropping things and swearing because I was asking "too many questions" and he wasn't ready for me and my note-taking yet. There's nothing quite like annoying the husband when he's trying to concentrate. I was informed there would be "no music." This is serious business. He was setting up beakers and plastic buckets and tubing and sterilizing everything and re-hydrating yeast while giving me the difficult task of keeping the 85 pound puppy out of the kitchen on pain of serious punishment lest he contaminate the all-important brew zone.

Contamination is actually the most likely culprit for a bad batch of beer so it helps if you are slightly OCD like Mr. Fox and wash your hands continually in rinse-less sanitizer as though our neighbors were cooking up the Ebola virus next door. Despite these safety measures, it's a surprisingly easy process. There are different ways to brew beer. We opted to buy several kits that come with all the ingredients you need and can be easily ordered online at Midwest Brewing Company, or any other online distributor.

The initial investment in the equipment  was around $150. After brewing two 5-gallon batches, which yields roughly five cases, it pays for itself. Each beer kit is between $25 and $30. When you compare that to the price of micro-brews and better beer like Sam Adams, the cost savings is considerable. A six pack of a good micro-brew can cost upwards of $13. One of the reasons most Americans drink light lager is because that's what is affordable. A six pack of Miller Light is around $7. Not many people will shell out twice that for a different brand. Not only is home-brew better than most anything in the grocery cooler, it's cheaper and you'll have lots to talk about at your next party when everyone wants to know what delicious beer they're drinking.

After the decontamination process, it's time for the giant 10 gallon stainless steel pot filled with the proper amount of water. We are fortunate enough to live in the Chicago area that has the best water in the world so we just fill up from the tap. After the water, the next best thing about Chicago is leaving it, but let's get back to pleasanter things like brewing. It's time to get out the big pot.