Beer brewing is nothing new. In fact, it pre-dates Christianity — some historians believe provisions aboard the Biblical Noah’s Ark included beer.
But it’s even older than that.
Babylonian clay tablets from 4300 BC detail what are known to be the oldest existing recipes for beer.
Archaeologists have unearthed evidence that beer was part of every civilization from the Mesopotamian empire to ancient China.
In 2016, the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported on a 5,000-year-old brewery that had been unearthed in the Central Plane of China. The ancient “beer-making tool kits” included funnels, pots and specialized jugs.
Fast forward thousands of years, and homebrewing made its way — legally — into the American mainstream.
Bootleg beer and liquor had been around for years, but it wasn’t until 1979, when President Jimmy Carter signed the bill that made homebrewing legal for the first time.
Thirty-eight years later, homebrewers are concocting their own specialized brews.
One such brewmaster is Shawn Murphy of Colington Harbour in Kill Devil Hills.
“We started around 2000, because my beekeeping hobby had to stop when I had anaphylaxis shock and nearly died due to an unknown bee allergy,” Murphy says.
“Beer-making seemed like a good replacement hobby. It has worked out; I get lots more help making beer than raising bees.”
The “we” Murphy to who Murphy refers is a club of six or so friends — including Mark Bueker, Bob Carter and Bryan Oroson — dubbed the “Outrigger Brewing Co.” The club is named after the canal-front street on which Murphy lives.
Murphy says there are some very good beers available on the market, but what he and his fellow brewmates create, “tastes better than any store-bought beer.”
On top of that, no two 15-galling batches — which produce 24 two-liter growlers — are exactly alike.
“We rarely attempt to repeat any particular recipe,” he says. “Most of ours beers resemble pale ales or farmhouse style and steam wheat beers from time-to-time.”
Time-wise, beermaking is not a big committment, which also appeals to Murphy and the gang.
“It is fun hobby and a very interesting process. We just put in a couple of hours from time to time and the yeast does all the hard work,” he says. “Each batch is a new and unique product; it’s exciting to taste the first taste and see all the different flavors come together.”
Murphy says getting started as a homebrewer is simple, and the cost and equipment required is minimal:
- A large stainless brew pot
- 7-gallon bucket for primary fermentation
- 5-gallon glass carboy for a secondary
- Ingredient kit of malt, hops and yeast
- Bottles, caps and a
“It’s nice to have a hydrometer to measure the amount of fermentable sugar and then a final gravity, which allows you to determine the production of alcohol with some simple math — all very available and affordable to do for 5-gallon batches.”
There are beer-making plenty of recipes available online.
The process takes approximately two weeks from start to sip.
“We steep the mash for an hour at about 155-to 160 degrees, boil the wort and hops for an hour, then chill, add yeast and put in primary fermenter for 2-7 days,” Murphy says. The mixture is transferred to a secondary fermenter for a total fermentation of two weeks, then bottle din 2-liter growlers for one week to allow bottle fermentation to add carbonation.
“When I got started, they told me it was as hard as baking a batch of cookies,” he says. “I would say they exaggerated the difficulty. It is much easier than baking cookies.”
With the holidays around the corner, it’s not a bad time to give it a try.
“Mark Bueker creates new Outrigger Brewing Co. T-shirts every Christmas for all the brewers.”