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My RIMS Brewery



If you are not of legal drinking age in your country of residence then you are not allowed to visit this site. You are trespassing and are not allowed to read even one word after this paragraph. Not one word you understand? I said, not one word... Now if you're too darned young to read this, go to your room and have a 10 minute time-out.

G'wan now... Scoot! I'm watching you!





Now back to the show:

Homebrew. Sounds great, eh? There's something wonderful about making homebrew in the sanctity of your home and not having to pay someone to make it for you, or even worse, have the government come knocking on your door trying to arrest or extort a tax from you because you made beer for yourself & your friends. Once prohibition was lifted, winemaking up to 200 gallons/year was made legal for private consumption. Due to lobbying by special interest groups back then, beer remained illegal to make except by commercial breweries. 

Thanks to President Jimmy Carter rescinding that legislation in the early 70's, home brewing beer up to 200 gallons/year by an individual & 400 gallons/year per household is now legit in the USA.            

I have been home brewing since 1976.


Before you start reading this home brewing page I need to explain something important: If you think this brewing page will tell you everything you need to know about brewing you're right in a sense.  Everything that's offered in here is important and you really are better off knowing it if you want to brew nice beers.  I've sort of scratched the tip of iceberg here though & there's so much more you really should know.  Most everyone reading this already knows about brewing to some degree & some visitors are looking to compare what they know to that which I have written.  That makes me very happy because it's by doing that very thing that I have learned so much about home brewing myself.  There will be some people coming here who really have no idea about home brewing and are searching for how to start and there will also be those who have started brewing but realized they need to know more.  It's these last two groups I'm especially hoping that will find the information & links provided will get them on the road to the answers they're looking for.  

Lastly on this topic You must read the disclaimer at the bottom of this page*



                               How to make alcohol from grain

It's a pretty amazing series of events that allow this to happen.  The short story goes like this:  Grain has starch within it and enzymes break the starch into sugars.  Yeast eats sugar and gives off alcohol and carbon dioxide as a by-product of its respiration.  That's it!  Now you know all there is that needs to be known to join in the hobby & make your own beer! 

OK, there are details that explain this a bit better, so if you want I'll fill in some of the blanks...

Most grains are pretty much composed of only starch and have a fibrous husk surrounding the starch; there are some grains like wheat which have no husk.  Yeast can not eat starch because the molecule of starch is too big for it to chew into, rather like one trying to eat a watermelon with one bite. Yeast can eat sugar but starch is made up of sugar molecules connected end to end making a long, necklace-like chain.  These chains join together like branches on a bush and become a very large molecule. Enzymes (starch-loving enzymes are called Amylase) are small proteins that move along these necklaces of connected sugars and do only one thing:  run along the starch molecule cutting it into regular sized smaller sections of five sugars in a row.  Some enzymes break the necklaces where they join to other necklaces and still other amylase enzymes run along these now separated smaller chains of sugars and liberate each sugar resulting in single sugars.  It is this single sugar that the yeast loves to eat.  Some sugars are left in groups of 2 and some in groups of 3 but it's the single sugar that makes yeast happy & happy yeast makes home brewers happy as you'll read more about below.

For example; if you put a piece of bread in your mouth and don't swallow it, soon you will taste sweetness.  That is because the amylase enzymes in your mouth's moisture (saliva) have converted the starch in the bread to sugar! 

When a grain comes into contact with water and in just the right environment it will start to grow & this is called germination. Once germination starts enzymes are created and this is the source of those enzymes we use in home brewing.  Following germination the grain is immediately dried and sold to those who make beer and the person who does this is called a Malter or maltster.  Depending on certain characteristics desired of the grain, different types of malting are performed by the maltster, giving the brewer more brewing options. These varieties of malted grain help create different colors, flavors, mouth-feel and fermentability, to name a few different uses.  One other thing about enzymes is they only do their job in the presence of water and at very specific temperatures. Keeping a dry grain from water will cause it to never have its starches converted to sugar.

Depending on the style and how you make your beer, there will be varying amounts of unfermented sugars left behind after mashing. These unfermented sugars do not taste sweet but rather add to the thickness & "mouth-feel" of the beer. The brewer adds the malted grain with water in a kettle (called a mash-Tun), keeping the temperature constant and specific to direct the actions of the enzymes. This is called mashing.  If the temperature is too high or low, you will not get the desired results and if the temperature is too high too soon you may even ruin the enzymes themselves, for they are very fragile little critters and have no sense of humor.  You know you have released all the the sugars by putting a drop of iodine in a sample of mash.  If the drop turns blue, there is starch present & you must continue the mashing process until finally when you put iodine in a sample and it remains red. This indicates the final conversion of starch to sugar.

Now the sugar water called "sweet Liquor" is boiled in the "boil kettle" and hops are added at this time.  Hops grow on vines and add to the taste and aroma of beer.  Hops added in the beginning of the boil lose all their aroma but add to the hoppy flavor.  This is called "bittering."  Bitter in homebrew terms does not mean "bitter like a grapefruit" but instead refers to an olde English term whereby bitter was another name for beer.  Hops added in the middle of the boil add some aroma and some bittering.  Hops added at the end are strictly for aroma.  Depending on your chosen style of beer, you will plan for the proper amount of fermented and yes, unfermented sugars along with the right amount of bittering & hop aroma that you will get in the finished result.

Did I mention the minerals in the water are important?  You really need to find out from your water supplier what your mineral content is because that is important if you wish to match a style of beer to what you are creating.  The minerals get added during mashing.  If you have too much of one variety of mineral you can add distilled water to get the excess minerals to match the expected number and then add more of what's deficient to make all the minerals proper for that style.  Most people only add what is missing and accept the excesses of one mineral or the other though.  pH (acid/base ratio) is very important because the enzymes are not only affected by temperature but by the pH level as well.  Correcting the pH is done early in mashing and is easy to do using pH test strips & adding the proper acid/base to the water as needed to make the test strip happy for the style of beer you want to make.  Some people use pH meters instead of strips.  Both work fine.  The meter satiates the geek in us...

The boiled sugar water/hop mixture (called sweet liquor even though there's no alcohol in it at all) now has to be cooled immediately so no bacteria can get in & spoil the party.  To do this you use something called a "wort chiller".  This is a device which comes into contact with the hot liquid and cools the boiling wort so when it exits the "chiller" it's cooled enough to add actively fermenting yeast.  There are many kinds of wort chillers but they all have the same goal which is to drop the wort temperature enough that you can add yeast to the mash that's been transferred to your fermenter. You want to add large amounts of already active yeast so the yeast can overwhelm any bacteria your horrific sanitizing of the fermenter & siphon tubing might have left behind. This hoppy mash usually has no problems during fermentation because of its actively fermenting high yeast content.  Interestingly, a high yeast content will overwhelm & kill off lesser colonies of bacteria.  Conversely, an established bacteria colony will overwhelm and kill your desired yeast colony which will ruin your beer.  Anything lesser than a clean fermentation will result in a ruined batch of beer so adequate sanitation is paramount.

Do it right & use the right sanitizing technique & ingredients & you'll be fine with 99.9% of your batches of beer.  Everyone screws up once in awhile but once you accept the need for & learn the drill, it's really simple & fast to sanitize properly.


What you have just read is a brief synopsis of brewing. To read a little more I have made a web page about fermentation and the equipment I use. Also, I have created a separate web page demonstrating my brewery. The links are immediately below. You're highly encouraged to check them out. I did not include them on this page because it would take too long for people with slower connections to get it all at once.  I put a fair amount of time into these pages to try & give you as clear an idea as I can as to how to brew and some of the avenues you can take as well. Every brewery is different and mine is more elaborate than some and some people with lesser equipment are making better beer than I do.  

Lastly, there is much more information to read which is found below these links to my web pages. Please don't miss on seeing & reading this nifty stuff below by clicking, surfing away & not coming back here to see the rest.



Go to my RIMS Brewery page.

Go to my Fermenting page.

Gary Smith's RIMS  


What I use to brew is called a RIMS brewery. 

is an acronym for Recirculating Infusion Mash System.  What this means is my brewery circulates the mash and keeps the temperature steady and within the parameters I want the enzymes to act at.  It makes for the most predictable mash results I can get and it is computerized! I put in a lot of effort to get it running and there were many people who helped guide me with theory and assembly.  I physically assembled the whole thing but advice from others made it possible & they gave me a clear picture of what my goals needed to be.  One of the things I did with it that is somewhat unique to other RIMS I've found is I made the whole thing on one level (tier) and all the ones I found to date have been two or three tier.  Since I will be brewing for the rest of my life I thought I'd make a brewery that was easy to move and easy to work with.  And... unique.


Commercial suppliers Of Homebrew Related Equipment

Beer Gear:
A smaller shop located in Tinley Park, IL but it really is good to support the smaller shops and these folks are very nice and easy to deal with. I bought my latest bag of Munton 2 row from them and it was a very fair price indeed.

Brew source:
Amazing descriptions of everything you need in brewing. Check your hops definitions here.

Five Star Chemicals
Sanitation wise I've ended up using PBW by Five Star Chemicals for removing old organic material in my kegs, hoses and bottles and I use their Star San for sanitizing.  It's great stuff and makes cleaning and sanitizing as easy as it will probably ever be.  I bought one of their larger containers of each & it's always a good savings.

How to Brew booklet:
You can never learn enough about how to brew.  All resources are a real help.

How to Brew your own magazine:
I haven't a subscription to them but the issue I read was well done & interesting.

More Beer:
I bought a RIMS pump from them and was very satisfied with the experience.

Northern Brewer:
I frequently use them and...they sponsor & host the Home Brew Digest.  Good people all around & fair prices! As I read the HBD daily digest and highly value the home brew discussions that take place there, I like to support the Northern Brewer as much as I can.


is the sweetest thing that a brewer can find next to fresh wort.  Ok, you do have to be a tiny bit of a beer geek to use ProMash but that's because you want the best possible beer and you use ProMash on a computer. On the other hand if you weren't familiar with using computers you wouldn't be reading this right now.  What is ProMash? It's the cats meow of home brewing software.  What Promash allows you to do is custom design your recipes using the ingredients you select and the facilities of your unique brewery.  { You might like to know that Promash comes with a ready-to-go encyclopedia of useful data so the intricate specific things to enter for customizing is most likely already included before you start. } It tells you what you need to do to make your recipe fit the expected result you want. For instance, if you want to enter Uncle Josh's Swine-Swill IPA using Holly Hock instead of hops, you can enter all of it in the calculation.  It's like having Betty Crocker & Julia Child in your kitchen while you prepare dinner for the in-Laws.  I held off buying this software thinking I could find something free, perhaps web based that would work for me but I relented & bought ProMash instead and it was the best home brewing choice I have made next to deciding to brew in the first place.  I only regret I waited as long as I did to buy this.  Because it's software there is a learning curve to using it because there are terms and customization options you do need to choose to identify the equipment and ingredients but once you save your preferences as the default, then you have your best friend with you when you prepare to brew. There is a demo version which will give you a sample of the incredible range of help it provides.                                                          

     *****This has an absolutely Five Star rating out of five *****.


St Pats: A remarkably well stocked supply house for homebrew equipment. They have about anything you need. They are phasing out some product lines so do be sure to check them out ASAP. 



Toledo Metal Spinning Company:  They make Stainless Steel conical hoppers and matching lids of many shapes and sizes from .1 to 51 gallons. These hoppers are perfect for people who want to harvest yeast and want to ferment in the same way the commercial breweries ferment. ( When used in brewing the name gets changed to "Conical Fermenter" A quick search of this term on Google will show you many examples of Conical fermenters.)  If you place a ball valve at the apex of the bottom and place this hopper on a rack, the yeast falls to the bottom. This way the Trub and yeast can be easily extracted and the yeast recovered to use in the next brewing. Once the yeast is salvaged, what remains is beer and this can be released by the ball valve at the bottom. Toledo soon will be offering a Conical fermenter which is in it's final design stages as of November 2003. I firmly believe it will be something better than what's currently available to home brewers and will be a new benchmark for the competition. I'll put a photo of it up when it's released to the public.

For the many of us who prefer to build their own equipment and wish to have the ultimate fermenter, checking with the Toledo Metal Spinning Company: will be an excellent place to start.



Just a few of the Commercial Breweries I've visited & enjoyed



Back Road Brewery:
A really nice brewery in Laporte, IN.  The people there are really warming and have some great beer.  I personally like their Midwest IPA but then again I haven't met an  IPA I didn't like.  If you get the chance to stop by you will feel like you've run into the better half of your family tree & you'll absolutely enjoy your visit.

Cottrells Brewery:
Is located in Pawcatuck, CT just hundreds of feet from the Rhode Island border.  It's a marvelous brewery, not large but their signature "Old Yankee Ale" is simply amazing.  It's not as hoppy as I personally prefer but the taste is everything you could hope for.  They're a relatively new brewery located at the site where Cottrell Printing presses were once made.  When I was last there they did not have a tasting room but the visit is worthwhile and Charles the owner is most enjoyable to get to know.

Estes Park Brewery:
Yeah, they've got a huge logo but the brewery located in Estes Park, CO is probably the highest one in North America ( look at their logo ) & it's just wonderful.  They've got a great brewpub there & I backpacked in the Rocky Mountain Natl.  park for two weeks & about the only time I came to town during that time was for essentials like more of their beer.  If you like Colorado beer as I do then you'll likely find this at the top of your list.


Fullers Brewery:
Chances are you've drank this beer.  I get to England as often as possible, my mother is from there and Fullers is a brew I pretty much use as the benchmark for my own beer.  You can't miss the brewery when driving between Heathrow & London, it jumps in front of you as you take the left bend in the curb just after the glass building that looks like a cruise ship.  Fullers ESB was the first ESB so if you want to understand  the style then you must base it on Fullers.  I so prefer the British method of drawing beer with the beer engine and the less cold temperature.  Yes, Fullers is what I consider the "King of Beers".  If the beer you drink isn't good at cellar temperature then do you really want to put it in your belly? I think not!  Fullers is delicious at any temperature. 

A fine distillery in the area where 1/2 of my ancestors are from: Scotland!  The other half of my ancestry is from Wales.  This distillery was founded in 1815 and is located on the island of Islay and this whiskey reflects the "peaty" character of the lowland scotches to a point of absolute perfection.  For those who love the deliciously smoky & peaty character of the lowland single malts, this is your grail.  For those who love the highland scotch you might still want to look here for your taste buds have at least started to point in the right direction and it's never too late for them to learn.   Laphroaig is my favorite Single Malt whiskey of all time and if you feel so moved by the quality of my web pages that you want to gift me in thanks, A bottle of Laphroaig will certainly be adequate. Laphroaig has a fabulous offering sure to win the hearts of any who love Single Malt or wish to claim part of Scotland for their own. If you send in the required proof of purchase to Laphroaig they will make a one square foot plot of distillery owned land yours and it will be owned by you for life. My grandfather Clyde several generations ago was offered the family castle if he would return to Scotland claim it. {He had emigrated to America in 1820.}  He refused having established himself in the states. I think I could have enjoyed living in a castle... His choice then is my loss now but thanks to Laphroaig anyone can own a piece of Scottish heaven on earth.

Three Floyds:
Beer wise it's a marvelous brewery located in Munster, IN. Has very worthwhile brewery tours which are informative & there is a beer tasting to be had at the end of the tour.  You will find Master brewers Jim Cibak and Nick Floyd to be a wealth of brewing information and nice people to get to know.  If you find their beer made in Munster, IN available, do check it out for their beer is truly world class.  Their beer made for them in Wisconsin for bottle distribution is to me, a shadow of what comes from the Munster brewery.




Links to Organizations and clubs


Association Of Brewers:
is a national association of home brewers and if you're truly interested in the hobby I'd suggest you sign up with them.  There's a bi-monthly magazine you get with the subscription called Zymurgy which is devoted to home brewing and it's got a marvelous series of resources.  In addition you'll perhaps someday you'll be proud enough of your brew that you'll want to compete with other brewers.  This is the fountainhead organization that all the local competitions are geared towards.  There's much more they offer but you will find just the magazine alone worth the small annual membership fee.

All about beer online:
This is another beer oriented magazine.  Do read the material on the link, you might find it very, very helpful.  Be especially attentive to the subject matter in the homebrew section I've found it interesting & helpful.

Australian Craft Brewers:
This is proof that great home brewers come from "Down Under" & I'm not talking about coming from 'Down Under' the table once you've left your girlfriend alone in the dining room!

Biohazard Lambic Brewers Page:
Lambic is the ultimate beer.  Ya, I know you love Pabst Blue Ribbon...  God Bless ya but Lambic is the only ultimate beer out there except maybe for Barleywine...

Please do check them out! This is an incredible resource for the home brewer.  Really wonderful.

Bodensatz Gallery:
Many great definitions regarding grain & hops here.  Definitely a nice resource. 

Brew Rats:
One of the most active clubs anywhere! You will see their entries in most homebrew competitions &... they often win!

Chicago Beer Society:
A great bunch of people to help you with anything you need to know.   I've lived in Chicago and watched these first rate brewers & partiers strut their stuff & they are excellent at brewing! And partying!

Foam Rangers:
A very nice Homebrew club link.

Great Links!:
Just that, great links for home brewers.

Home Brew Digest:
I belong to this group and the one time per day email is one of the best resources I have ever seen for home brewing.  Not only is it free but there are some of the more famous brewers and equally knowledgeable & lesser known brewers that join in the discussions.  For a serious brewer not to take advantage of this phenomenal resource is like shooting yourself in the foot.

How to brew Sake!

Kalamazoo Michigan Brewers:
Excellent brewers.  I know this from personal hangovers er...  I mean experience.

Skotrat Web Page:
One of the most prolific brew clubs anywhere.  A must see web page.

The Real Beer community
All these links are great.  This one is too!!!



Historical reading

A history of Brewing in Colonial America:
By Gregg Smith. This is great reading for those of us Yanks who are interested in how beer was important and obtained in the early days of America; a time when our government wasn't involved in micro-management of individual's freedoms. Before the time when politicians legislate their personal morality and tilt their voting decisions based on the ladling of vested interest groups and Political Action Committees, this is a fine page full of History Americana of brewing. 



A special thanks to:

Tom Stolfi: Fellow member of the Bidal Society Home brewing club of of Kenosha, Wisconsin when I belonged back in the 90's. Simply the finest brewer I've ever known and always willing to help someone brew a better beer.  Thank you Tom!


By the way...  when you make whiskey the aging stops when it's removed from the barrels it was stored in.  If you have a bottle of whiskey that was aged 10 years in the barrel back fifty years ago and you kept it thinking it would age another 50 years you would be wrong.  it would be a whiskey aged 10 years only.  Yes, I know that's probably not what you've heard but you've heard an old wife's tale from people who either guessed at the answer or were told incorrect information long ago & passed the folk tale along to you.

OTOH, I personally prefer moonshine to most whiskies.  Makers Mark is my favorite Bourbon but sweet corn with a touch of rye comes neck & neck with my favorite single malt whiskies from the Scottish lowlands.

I've never met a MOONSHINE (or moonshiner) I didn't like!

Mile High Distilling

The ultimate plans to make a still






Always remember to use Safe Sex!





In this wonderful age of litigious non-responsibility you find Safety pin makers having to warn that pins are sharp and electric heater manufactures have to tell you not to put the heater in the bathtub.  In 2003 a collection of geniuses in the Katy School district of Huston suspended a 13 year old honor student because she brought a pencil sharpener to school.  As it has a blade to sharpen the pencil it is considered a dangerous weapon and she was suspended accordingly.  "If we vary from the rules, that's when the rules fall apart," so said Katy School school district attorney Christopher B. Gilbert.   It is within this same city several years earlier a student suffering from Asthma attacks was suspended for bringing their asthma inhaler to school.   Because of asinine laws, idiot legislators voted in by idiots, ambulance chasing attorneys and the overwhelming abundance of human stupidity and greed which is increasing in volume on a daily basis, I am forced to make this statement:  I completely disavow anything written on this or any web page I have created:  Nothing on this or any of my web pages is considered completely accurate.  Nothing you read here or follow a link to is considered to be completely correct.  Everything you read is my opinion or if relates to a link found on my web page/pages, it is someone else's opinion.  Everything on these web pages is strictly an opinion for consideration for discussion and research only. In short, I am not telling you to do or implying you should do anything on any of my web pages whatsoever. 


Isn't having to put this Politically-correct Disclaimer crap on a fun page just the best thing since man learned to walk.  


Know what? If there were attorneys back then & the inventor of walking showed someone how to walk, some attorney would have been there to help sue that inventor when their student fell. 

For a percentage of the take of course.  

And that I swear... is the absolute truth.



Gary Smith

Cheers de KA1J

Any pearls of wisdom are expected & appreciated.


Go to my RIMS ( Brewery) Page

Go to my Fermenting Page.

Go to my perfectly lovely home page.