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Grtechguy
Grtechguy SuperDork
2/23/12 8:02 a.m.

I think I'm ready to start brewing my own beers (should be cheaper right?)

What do I need to get started?

I've seen people use large stainless kettles (commercial soup kettles?) Resealable bottles (Grolsh? or buy a capper?) Sterilized stirring devices...

Start me at Zero.

Zomby woof
Zomby woof SuperDork
2/23/12 8:13 a.m.

If you've never done it before, start with those malts in a tin, and learn from there. You can cook them on your stove, in a large pot, dump it in to what you're using to ferment, then add water. I like to use a glass carboy from start to finish, but you can get away with a plastic 5 gallon pail. People will try to scare you into disinfecting everything like there's some biohazard on all your equipment, but I used hot water and dish soap for 20 years, and NEVER had a problem. No need to get crazy with it.

Follow the brewing instructions to begin with, then start to experiment after a few batches. I like to rack the beer a few times after fermentation. I don't filter, and don't get sediment. I like glass bottle with screw on caps. I try to avoid having my beer in plastic, but most people don't, and their beer is fine.

pinchvalve
pinchvalve SuperDork
2/23/12 8:32 a.m.

Home brewing seems like a lot of work, but a co-worked is into it. I am not a big beer fan, but I can honestly say the stuff he makes is the best beer I have ever had, anywhere.

alfadriver
alfadriver SuperDork
2/23/12 8:43 a.m.

Has Salinas gone to Germany already?

To me, that's the extreme track if the passion gets strong enough. I've done wine, and plan to again- it's cool to make your own stuff.

(do note- IIRC, I could buy a "water purifying still" in Winemaker Magazine)

(note #2- beer is the basis of whiskey, but w/o the hops)

(yea, it's easy to think about this too much...)

edit- you are a west michigan person, right? does anyone sell grapes out there to normal people? I may want to get some....

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess SuperDork
2/23/12 8:52 a.m.

Your Google-Fu is weak, Grasshopper.

http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/off-topic-discussion/how-do-i-brew-beer/37628/page1/ http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/off-topic-discussion/january-16th-prohibition/30768/page1/

stumpmj
stumpmj Dork
2/23/12 8:57 a.m.

Go find a local home brewing store and chat up the owner. They'll put you in touch with the local home brew club. Go learn from them. They'll let you know what you need. I got a complete brweing setup as a set from the local store and then got a beer kit from them. I followed the directions and now I have beer carbonating in bottles. Only 3 more weeks till its done.... I also have a second batch sitting in a fermenter. Don't worry about the Grolsch bottles. Just collect pop top (not twist off) bottles. The kits will come with caps and a capper. And you need like 60 bottles for a batch. We did our first two beers from kits and as a next thing, we're going to try makeing a small batch of cider from scratch. Lots of fun and it's been a nice stretch to build on my wife's love of baking.

rotard
rotard HalfDork
2/23/12 9:19 a.m.

Don't let a stick fall in your still. Blindness sucks.

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
2/23/12 9:22 a.m.
alfadriver wrote: Has Salinas gone to Germany already? To me, that's the extreme track if the passion gets strong enough. I've done wine, and plan to again- it's cool to make your own stuff.

Yup. I'm here now. Surprised to say I liked the beer selection better in the states. This is kind of extreme, but the goal is turning the passion into a profession. You don't go take master mechanics classes in Stuttgart because you just want to get better at maintaining your club racer.

As for where to start:

The best thing to do is find a good local homebrew supplier. They should be able to hook you up with a starter kit that will have everything you need except for a pot. Any large stainless steel (best) or aluminum pot will work. Should be at least 3 gallons. A 5+ gallon soup pot is better.

Crown caps are generally better than swing tops.

You don't need to worry about sterilization until after boiling.

They should also be able to hook you up with pre-measured recipes. Just follow directions. The easiest beers to start with are either IPA, or something dark like a Porter. The lighter flavored the beer is, the less forgiving. Do not start with a lager. I recommend doing a simple extract-with-grains recipe. You only steep about 1-2 pounds of grain for extra color and flavor, but your sugars come from malt extract.

If you do not have a local shop, you can order things online. This kit looks pretty good. I'd upgrade the bucket to a carboy, and upgrade to an auto-siphon. Auto-siphons are your friend. http://www.homebrewery.com/beer/beer-gs-basic-kit.shtml

EvanB
EvanB SuperDork
2/23/12 9:28 a.m.

I started with a basic "Brewer's Best" kit with plastic buckets and one of their kits with all the ingredients included. It was an Irish Stout and turned out really well. The next one I did was an IPA and turned out pretty well also. It is fairly easy once you do it.

Grtechguy
Grtechguy SuperDork
2/23/12 10:10 a.m.
alfadriver wrote: edit- you are a west michigan person, right? does anyone sell grapes out there to normal people? I may want to get some....

Yes, I'm sure any of the growers will. Heck, the concord grapes I grow put off about 20 gallons of grapes with the one vine.

Grtechguy
Grtechguy SuperDork
2/23/12 10:11 a.m.
Salanis wrote: something dark like a Porter.

excellent news! Porters are my favorites

Luke
Luke SuperDork
2/23/12 10:15 a.m.

I'm enjoying your blog, Salanis. Also recently discovered the importer over here for Sierra Nevada (plus a whole bunch of other craft beers). Only tried the Pale Ale so far, and it's very good, but expensive.

fromeast2west
fromeast2west Reader
2/23/12 10:21 a.m.

One thing I'd add: if your local brew store has an 'upgrade' on the basic plastic bucket kit that gets you a glass carboy, pay the extra... or just get the carboy too, since the food grade plastic bucket will come in handy anyway.

If you like IPAs and hops, see if the guy at the store will let you smell some varieties of hops. If you find one you like, throw a little extra in your kit.

A good forum for all things brewey is Northern Brewer.

ditchdigger
ditchdigger Dork
2/23/12 10:23 a.m.

I second the "find a local shop" recommendation.

The cool one in Eugene has crates full of recipes for a quarter each. Pick one you like, hand it to them and they get it all together for you, mill the grains, weigh the malt extract and ask if you prefer liquid yeast or dry. Out the door in 10 minutes.

Plus the shops smell fantastic!!!!!

At just over 6 months of not enjoying beer (solidarity for my spouses medical reasons) I have to say I really miss beer and you guys are making it tough.

914Driver
914Driver SuperDork
2/23/12 10:35 a.m.

I've been doing it a ong time and still use the "kit", that is two containers of molassas looking stuff, three bags of grain etc. yeast and all the bottle caps. It costs $25 - $45 depending on complexity.

Go to a supplier and buy a five gallon glass jug (carboy). Some places will sell you a plastic tub and all the junk that you need but stay away from plastic, it's harder to sanitize.

I just bottled Rauchbier, it's a dark amer with a hint of a smoley flovour. Also a German Altbier but I shaved some ginger root into the wort, gives it a nice finish. I'd like to try that with a lighter beer for those hot summer days after mowing the lawn.

Dan

http://www.oconnorshomebrew.com/

http://www.northwesthops.com/

http://www.dwinesupplies.com/dws/default.asp

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
2/23/12 11:12 a.m.
914Driver wrote: Go to a supplier and buy a five gallon glass jug (carboy). Some places will sell you a plastic tub and all the junk that you need but stay away from plastic, it's harder to sanitize.

I like 6-gal carboys. For homebrew, I just single-stage ferment. 6 gal gives me enough room for headspace on a 5-gal batch. Single stage is simpler. Plus oxidation, microorganism contamination, and oxidation are much bigger threats to good beer than yeast autolysis, which 5 gallons of beer is not massive enough to cause anyway.

Oxidation is actually the greater threat with plastic fermentation jugs.

Luke wrote: I'm enjoying your blog, Salanis. Also recently discovered the importer over here for Sierra Nevada (plus a whole bunch of other craft beers). Only tried the Pale Ale so far, and it's very good, but expensive.

Glad you like the blog. How much is Sierra Nevada out there? It is absurdly expensive here, 4EUR (~$5.25) per 12oz. bottle. Pale Ale is a gateway drug. Next step is Arrogant Bastard. It's all downhill from there.

Grtechguy
Grtechguy SuperDork
2/23/12 11:15 a.m.

I may have to swing into that O'connors. Its on the way home from work

mtn
mtn SuperDork
2/23/12 12:02 p.m.

I've been considering getting into this as well (I started that thread that Dr. Hess linked). At this point if I do it, I'll probably just get a Mr. Beer kit (blasphemy!) because it is all in one, and it is cheap. If I like it, I'll step it up at some point to something real. If I don't, well, I'm out 30 bucks.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess SuperDork
2/23/12 12:14 p.m.

Thirty bucks would buy you the real stuff you need to do it. Whatever. People ignore my advice the first time.

Zomby woof
Zomby woof SuperDork
2/23/12 12:19 p.m.

You're doing better than me. People ignore my advice all the time.

mtn
mtn SuperDork
2/23/12 12:36 p.m.
Dr. Hess wrote: Thirty bucks would buy you the real stuff you need to do it. Whatever. People ignore my advice the first time.

Show me. In my (admittedly not well researched) searches online, and in talking to the guy at the home-brew store, I keep coming up with $55-$75 bucks to do it.

alfadriver
alfadriver SuperDork
2/23/12 12:46 p.m.
mtn wrote:
Dr. Hess wrote: Thirty bucks would buy you the real stuff you need to do it. Whatever. People ignore my advice the first time.
Show me. In my (admittedly not well researched) searches online, and in talking to the guy at the home-brew store, I keep coming up with $55-$75 bucks to do it.

Hopefully hess will prove you wrong.

But my response is- so what?

How much beer can you get with $55?

If Beer making is anything close to wine, with a 5 gal batch, I get 2 cases of WINE out of that. Actually, 25 bottles. 5 gal = 640 oz of beer. Typical bottle of beer is 12oz, right? So that's over 50 bottles of beer.

$1.10 a bottle.

If you make reasonably well, that's a good price.

If you find that you like it a lot, much of that $55-75 will be reused, and the price per bottle plummets.

seems worth it to me.

alfadriver
alfadriver SuperDork
2/23/12 12:55 p.m.

In reply to mtn:

Just for fun, i craiglisted beer making- came up with people who are selling the bulk of their equipment for cheap.

don't need new glass to store beer/wine.

sjc
sjc New Reader
2/23/12 1:04 p.m.

When I started brewing on my own, I found John Palmer's book to be invaluable. He has the first edition free on the internet: http://www.howtobrew.com/intro.html

Granted, I had almost 10 years of prior experience homebrewing with a friend, but I think Palmer does a really good job with his explanations. He also has a list of bare-bones equipment to start your first brew (see Chapter 1 in his book).

poopshovel
poopshovel SuperDork
2/23/12 1:05 p.m.
Surprised to say I liked the beer selection better in the states.

I've heard that a lot. BTW, I had a Barrell Aged Old Rasputin this weekend. Life will never be the same.

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