The Craft of Drafting

This article was originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of The Communicator

by Michelle Rucker

The Craft of Drafting
Harrison with some homemade brewing equipment

Matthew Harrison, an alumnus from George Mason University, has always enjoyed making something of his own. He started out brewing beer as a pass time, but soon it became his passion. Making something that is completely his own has always inspired his creation. 

Harrison sat down and explained the pro-cess of brewing beer to me. He said when he first started making his own beer, he was very careful to follow steps exactly and be precise with his measurements. Now, he has become completely experimental. He will look up new recipes and figure out different flavor profiles that may not fit traditional recipes. 

Harrison explained the process of brewing beer is to heat up the water to 170 degrees. Then transfer it to his mash tun, a large cooler for the beer. The mash tun contains grains to make the sugars fer-mentable by the yeast. “You’ll want to let this sit for an hour, this is where it will extract the sugars for fermentation, which is called wort,” explained Harrison. The wort needs to be transferred to a boiling pot. Then a few more gallons of water needs to be added in. At this point he adds in hops and other flavors based on a timing schedule. This process can last up to an hour. Then he will let the temperature drop down to about 75 degrees, and add in yeast. The fermentation pro-cess takes around 12 hours. “This is the process of converting the proteins and sugars into alcohol and flavor profiles,” Harrison clarified. After three to four weeks, he will bottle the wort. Finally, Harrison adds sugar which will naturally carbonate the beer. 

“It’s funny,” Harrison said, “because de-pending on the professionalism of the brewer you may not need any special equipment to brew beer.” To make the same style of beer that requires a lot of attention to detail, such as industrial brewing, you would need special equipment to make sure every step is done exactly right. Unfortunately, home brewers run into the problem of not being able to create that perfect batch and replicating it. “I always tell people, if you’re able to make tea, you can make beer,” said Harrison. “It’s a very simple process and it has been per-formed for thousands of years.” 

Brewing your own beer can take anywhere from three weeks to a year. Making lagers will usually take longer because of the low temperature fermenting yeast, which requires more time to develop the flavors and converting the sug-ars to alcohol. However, ale beers can be made within a couple of days. Harrison told me that “it’s all based on the quality of the yeast used. Since yeast is a living organism, it creates variables mak-ing it hard to track and predict.” This makes the replication of beer one of the biggest problems for breweries. 

One of the most important things to always be aware of while brewing is sanitation. “If you touch it, sanitize it,” exclaimed Harrison, “there is nothing worse than watching a batch of beer being thrown out because you forgot to sanitize some-thing.” 

The beer Harrison makes is significantly cheaper than what is sold in the stores. A home-made six-pack of beer will cost him $3 and is signif-icantly better in quality and freshness. However the big business breweries and corporations are trying to make a profit which means advertisements and marketing weight out smaller brewers. 

Harrison said he loves brewing because it’s his passion to create something other people can enjoy. He would love to make his own brewery, but it requires a lot of money to get licenses and equip-ment. “It would mean my beer has to be liked by a lot of people and have a great turn around,” said Harrison. The problem most breweries run into is finding the time. Some beers require a lot of time to develop flavor, but the cost does not allow them to wait, so they rush the production of beer. 

One of his favor beers he has created was a jala-peño saison. He told me that a saison style of beer is generally spicy. He added aga-ve nectar to car-bonate the beer, in-stead of sugar and the flavors blended very nicely. Harrison asked “Who would have thought of add-ing jalapeños to a beer? In all honesty it’s one of the best beers I’ve ever made and it will leave a tingle on your lips.”