The process of making beer is really quite simple. I'll apologise to my friends and brew chums who know far more than I about the chemistry involved, but for those of you reading my blog who have no idea what's involved, I thought I'd list the basic steps without any jargon.
STEP 1: STEEP
Steep some malted barley in some hot water.
About 66 - 68C is good - today I'm at the higher end of the scale. You then leave it for about an hour or so, keeping it covered, to keep the temperature as constant as possible.
STEP 2: RINSE
I then drain the liquid from the grain into a seperate vessel. This liquid is sticky and sweet, as the hot water has extracted the sugars from the malted barley. To extract as much sugary liquid as possible, I then rinse the grains with more hot water.
STEP 3: BOIL
All this liquor is then boiled for about an hour or so. During this period you add the hops; those chucked in near the start of the boil add the bitterness, those added towards the end add more in the way of flavour and aroma.
STEP 4: COOL
Once the boil is complete, the liquid is then cooled to around 19C
STEP 5: ADD YEAST
All that's left to do is add a decent quality brewing yeast, which will convert most of the sugars to alcohol. Once the yeast has done its thing, the beer will clear and you can bottle it or put it in a keg. Either way, given a couple of weeks, it will be ready to drink!
Here's one I made earlier.
This clearly isn't meant to be an authoritive guide, but it gives you an idea of how simple it is to craft your own ale and you'll be surprised how favourably it compares to many of the beers you pay for in the pub.
Feel free to mail me if you would like to try this yourself and need to know more of the nitty gritty details.