Basic beer brewing is a simple enough process that long-extinct civilizations in Egypt and ancient Sumeria were able to do it. A source of starch -- beer makers use anything from malted barley to rice husks -- is steeped in hot water to extract the sugars. The liquid is strained and poured over yeast, which eat the sugar and produce alcohol as waste. That's what gets you drunk -- microscopic yeast poop.
But to make beer that's tasty, with just the right amount of alcohol, is a true craft. Homebrewing offers a science and math education far better than most schools. It demands extensive calculations and offers endless ways to screw up. Every variety of beer requires its grains to be steeped at a certain temperature for a certain length of time. Brewers keep track of their beer's starting and ending gravity and compare the two to calculate its final alcohol content. Small errors, like not cleaning the brewing equipment thoroughly with boiled water, can result in infections that ruin a batch.
In this week's full-length dining column, we meet a few South Florida homebrewers who have big plans for their small-batch brews. Many say they eventually want to sell their beer in stores and bars. There are plenty of hurdles in the way, but homebrewers are a determined bunch