Ok, so you're ready to start making beer! You've purchased a starter kit, you have all your ingredients, and you have a spare afternoon. All you need now is to pop open an ice-cold (store-bought) beer, and read through these instructions. Later on, after you've successfully made your first batch of homebrew, you'll find that nothing is as satisfying as enjoying a finely made beer that you made yourself. But for now, you'll have to satisfy yourself with a store bought beer.
Rather than waxing philosophically about the history of beer, or spending time discussing how the chemical and biological processes work that produce beer, we are going to jump right in and describe the brewing process. Please understand that there are many books written on these subjects, and if you are so inclined you may wish to investigate and learn more about the history, biology and/or chemistry of beer. For our purposes, however, we are more interested in helping you make your first few batches of great tasting homebrew. We'll describe what you need to know now, as a beginner. Then as you progress and become more accustomed to the process, we'll point you in the direction of more in-depth information about beer brewing history, chemistry and biology.
The process of brewing beer falls into four sub-processes:
Of these four processes, beginners only need to be worried about the last three. The first process, Mashing, is actually quite complex. This is the process whereby brewers turn complex carbohydrates into simple sugars by steeping barley (and sometimes other grains) in hot water at controlled temperatures to promote enzymatic activity. The reason beginners don't need to worry about Mashing is because beginners generally use products called Malt Extracts to make their homebrew. As you progress in your brewing technique, you will begin to experiment with partial mashes and then, once you feel comfortable with the grains, you may graduate up to all-grain brewing methods. For now, however, we'll stick to the easy stuff: Malt Extracts.