The craft of brewing beer has been around for thousands of years. Some even believe that beer could be the driving force behind the agricultural revolution around 8,000 BC. Whether you buy into the notion that beer saved the world or not, there’s simply no denying the recent spike in the popularity of home brewing. It seems recently that home brewing supply shops are popping up around every corner and their clientele is on the rise. Having recently been bitten by this bug, I will explore the reason behind the craze while explaining just what you’ll need to join in the fun.
A case of beer from the local grocery store costs under $20 and takes less than ten minutes to obtain. Why then would someone want to purchase a bunch of equipment and spend 6 to 8 hours of their time over 4 to 6 weeks to obtain 5 gallons of beer? That’s only about two cases so it obviously has nothing to do with saving money or time or wanting a whole lot of beer to drink. What it really boils down to (that’s a brewer’s pun) is men like to “make” things. Forgive me if I sound sexist, but an overwhelming majority of home brewers do happen to be men. I think of that scene from “Castaway” where Tom Hanks thumps has chest over the fire and says, “Look what I have created!” Even on an island alone, he feels the need to brag about his accomplishment and it’s the same with brewing beer. After all the time and effort, there’s just something about cracking open that bottle and saying “I made this”. In addition to bragging rights, it’s the process that makes it an enjoyable hobby. You get together a couple times a month to drink some of the beer you made while making more beer, and on the process goes.
The general process of brewing beer at home has been finely tuned as beer kits have grown in popularity. These kits included everything you need for a 5-gallon batch including very detailed instructions. Follow them carefully and it’s nearly impossible to end up with an undrinkable finished product. The kits cost $30 – $40 and are available at local home brewing shops and online. Of course there is some equipment needed for home brewing as well. Here is a quick list of equipment needed to get started:
- Brew Pot with Lid – preferably five or six gallons, and preferably stainless steel
- Long Spoon – preferably stainless steel and at least 24 inches long.
- Fermentation Bucket – a food grade bucket usually comes in 6.5 gallon size at home brewing supply stores
- Carboy – 5-gallon secondary fermentors. Glass is most common although I have recently started to see stainless steel carboys on the market which actually make more sense to me.
- Air Lock – you need an airlock and a rubber stopper for each carboy. Different carboys have different sizes of opening, so make sure you have one that fits your carboy.
- Siphon Tube – Available in several configurations, usually consisting of clear plastic tubing.
- Racking Cane – Rigid plastic tube with sediment stand-off used to leave the trub behind when siphoning.
- Bottle Filler – Rigid plastic tube with a spring loaded valve at the tip for filling bottles.
- Bottle Brush, Large and Small
- Sanitizing Solution – Iodine, and/or Star-san.
- Bottles, Caps, and Bottle Capper
The complete list of items will cost between $125 and $150 if you go with a glass carboy. I did mention in the list of items that stainless steel carboys
are starting to appear as an alternative to glass (I have linked to an example). While the cost difference is significant, the advantages seem worth consideration. They are much lighter, easier to handle and don’t break. Once you have obtained your equipment and a beer kit, you’re ready to dive into the world of home brewing. Have fun… Cheers!