By John Evanson  

Even when your job is something as fun as making games, you still need some other hobbies to round things out a bit! One of mine is homebrewing beer. I’ve been brewing for over fifteen years, although there have a few stretches where I haven’t brewed much. I started with a Mr. Beer kit that my partner, Elisabeth, bought me as a gift. We quickly graduated to a fancier setup, and of course like with most hobbies, continue to find new things to add or upgrade. And there are so many great craft beers these days that the bar for what we consider a great batch is much higher, so of course we have to try to keep up!

Making beer is actually a little bit like making games. To wit, just because you like playing games or drinking beer, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’d enjoy making them. But a love for the finished product is a good starting point in either case! Another similarity is that you often have to put a bunch of time and effort in before you find out if the result is any good or not. With games, sometimes you work on things where the feedback is immediate, but often you’ve got to put a bunch of pieces in place before you can figure out if something is fun or not. With beer, you pretty much can’t tell how tasty a batch is until you’ve gone through the whole process. When making beer you have to do tons of cleaning and sanitizing… which, uh, in games you have to… clean up old code and designs that didn’t work out? Ok, I’m stretching a bit!

Alright, enough with the strained analogies and onto the pictures. This past weekend we brewed an IPA that’s inspired by Fat Head’s Head Hunter, a beer we really enjoyed having easy access to when we used to live in the Pittsburgh area. This is our first time trying this recipe, so who knows how we’ll do, but half the fun is trying things out.

brewing-1

Malted barley is a main ingredient in most beers. There’s also some flaked wheat in this recipe.

brewing-2

Into the mill to be crushed!

Here's me, cranking the mill by hand and sweating because I'm a masochist.

Here’s me, cranking the mill by hand and sweating because I’m a masochist.

Grains crushed and mixed with the flaked wheat.

Grains crushed and mixed with the flaked wheat.

Water (not pictured, but hopefully you've seen that before) is treated with some gypsum,  calcium chloride, and lactic acid to match the profile we want for this beer and get the pH down.

Water (not pictured, but you’ve seen that before, right?) is treated with some gypsum, calcium chloride, and lactic acid to match the profile we want for this beer and get the pH down.

Assistant brewer, Elisabeth, pours grain into hot water in the mash/lauter tun, made from a drink cooler. Don't pour this one over coaches head, though!

Assistant brewer, Elisabeth, pours grain into hot water in the mash/lauter tun, made from a drink cooler. Don’t pour this one over coach’s head, though!

Had to add a bit more hot water to hit our target of 150F.

All stirred together and at our target of 150F.  The hot water will allow enzymes in the malt to convert starches to sugars.

Now we mostly wait and stir occasionally for an hour.  Time for lunch ... and a beer.

Now we mostly wait and stir occasionally for an hour. Time for lunch … and a beer. Not a homebrew this time, however. A Ballast Point Sculpin in a Maine Beer glass will have to do.

Performing the "vorlauf" where we run some wort (sounds like "wert") into a pitcher til it runs clear, then pour it back into the tun.

Performing the “vorlauf” where we run some wort (sounds like “wert”) into a pitcher til it runs clear, then pour it back into the tun.

Now we drain the mash tun completely.  It will be filled again with hot water for a bit and then drained (the sparge).  This rinses off  more of the sugars.

Now we drain the mash tun completely. It will be filled again with hot water for a bit and then drained (the sparge). This rinses off more of the sugars.

We're done with these spent grains, but our friends' chickens enjoy eating them.

We’re done with these spent grains, but our friends’ chickens seem to enjoy eating them.

We were aiming for 7.5 gallons into the pot, but got a bit more.

We were aiming for 7.5 gallons into the pot, but got a bit more. It’s not quite as off as it looks, since the pot isn’t completely level here.

Now we boil the wort for an hour, during which hops are added at various points.

Now we boil the wort for an hour, during which hops are added at various points to add bitterness, flavor, and aroma.

That's not rabbit food, it's pelletized hops.  These smell soooo good, but don't try tasting them or you will be extremely unhappy by all reports.

That’s not rabbit food, it’s pelletized hops. These smell soooo good, but don’t try tasting them or you will be extremely unhappy, by all reports. This big batch is all going in for a “hop stand” where we’ll steep them after the boil is over and the wort is chilled to 170F.

After chilling with a big copper chiller to 65 degrees, we drain the wort into the fermenter.

After chilling with a big copper chiller to 65 degrees, we drain the wort into the fermenter.

We've made the wort, now these guys get to actually make the beer.  Yeast consume the sugars and release alcohol, carbon dioxide, and various other compounds that can add to the flavor of the beer.

We’ve made the wort, now these guys get to actually make the beer. Yeast consume the sugars and release alcohol, carbon dioxide, and various other compounds that can add to the flavor of the beer.

The fermenter goes in a chest freezer with a special controller to keep things at our desired temperature range. That blow off tube allows carbon dioxide to escape without letting unwanted wild yeast or bacteria in.

The fermenter goes in a chest freezer with a special controller to keep things at our desired temperature range. There’s a temperature probe under that high precision insulating material, aka beer coozy.  The blow off tube coming out of the top of the fermenter allows carbon dioxide to escape without letting unwanted wild yeast, bacteria, or other critters in.

It's ALLIIVE! Fermentation can get quite impressive at it's peak. Here's we're just starting to get into high gear.

It’s ALIIIIVE! Fermentation can get quite impressive at it’s peak. Here it’s just starting to get into high gear.

After about 10 days, we'll add some dry hops for a few days. Then we'll chill the beer to drop most of the yeast out of suspension, and put it in kegs like these to carbonate and eventually serve!

After about 10 days, we’ll add some dry hops and let them soak for a few days to add additional aroma. Then we’ll chill the beer to drop most of the yeast out of suspension, and put it in kegs like these to carbonate and eventually serve!

Well that’s a super quick rundown of our homebrewing process.  There are simpler and more complicated versions of homebrewing, depending on your enthusiasm and skill.  If you have an interest in brewing, a bit of patience, and a willingness to do a lot of cleaning and sanitizing (cleverly not pictured here), I suggest you give it a shot.  There’s lots of good information available on how to start these days.  Some popular introductions are How to Brew (free online or in paperback) or  The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.

Now back to making games while this batch finishes up.  Cheers!