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Home Brewer to Home Distiller

Hey HomeBrewers! 

Ever consider changing things up?  We ARE spending more time at home.  Great opportunity to have some fun, experiment and create a new home brewed sensation for the taste buds.  Plus, cooler weather calls for WHISKEY.

Brewing your own craft whiskey isn’t much different than brewing your own beer.  Craft beer and craft whiskey are very similar both in composition and in production.  And like home brewers, most get into home distilling because they really enjoy a good quality whiskey.

In its simplest form, beer is: water, malted barley, hops, and yeast.

Whiskey is: water, malted barley, and yeast - distilled, and then aged in barrels.

So, whiskey is essentially distilled beer without the specialty malt and hops.  Whiskey just needs a couple more steps in the process.  If you’re comfortable with home brewing, home distilling from grain to make whiskey will be easy and rewarding. Plus with a gorgeous copper still from home distilling is like making you can share with your friends and enjoy for months to come!

It’s easy to see the similarities between homebrewing and home distilling when you make all grain whiskey. The mash for distilling is pretty much the same as brewing beer; the difference being you don’t have to boil it because no hops are added.  After the mash is cooled, add turbo yeast and within a few days the yeast brings the mash up to 15-18% abv. This mash is like a strong, bland, smoky-malty beer.

What you’ll need from your local homebrew supply store is a bag of malted barley and some turbo yeast.  The whiskey is clear after distilling.  Its aging process is where that beautiful golden to amber hue comes into play.

Traditionally, whiskey is aged in an oak barrel.  Make sure to prep your barrel, if it’s new or homemade.  Also, the smaller the barrel, the less time it takes to age. The longer it ages, the smoother taste it will have.  Do some research into this process and prepare for some fun science.

Another major BONUS of owning a whiskey still is using that leftover beer!  This hardly ever happens, right?  But say you’re growing tired of a specific flavor profile or your experimentations turned into ALOTTA beer... turn it into whiskey!  It’s best to use beers with lower hop levels, such as stouts, porters, lagers, and wheat beers (but you can distill anything). After running the beer through the still a couple of times to clean it up, age it just as you would whiskey.  If you’re feeling like playing even more, try some wine.  Transforming wine into brandy is basically the same process, but from fruit instead of grain.

For my whiskey, I’m using a 2.5 gallon charred oak barrel and aging it for 6 months.  And it’s turning out pretty darn good!  Happy Brewing!  Happy Distilling!

Posted by Jason Stone on

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