Beer Brewing

I am interested in trying to brew my own beer. I have a few gift certificates to a hobby shop that carries brewing supplies, but my question is this:

Is the brewing kit you can get at Wal-Mart a pretty good starter kit? I’d rather save the certificates and use them on good ingredients later on, if the WM kit turns out okay.

Any thoughts?

The brewing kit you get at walmart is that plastic POS, right? It would be good enough to learn on but you would probably want to upgrade. The people I know who are serious moonshiners (teehee) they go with different types of barrels saying that adds more to the flavor. My grandfather used to brew a lot of wine and said that the quality of the container had more to do with the flavour than just the aesthetic appeal of the container.

Most of those starter kits are just fine for your first couple of batches. It’s a good way to go if you’re not sure how serious you’re going to be about the hobby. I would go for one that one and you can always expand on it later… adding the 7 gal and 5 gal glass carboys for your primary and secondary fermentation, buying a wort chiller, then moving on from bottling to kegging. All those excuses to buy more stuff. :smiley: Seriously though, if you are going to get into brewing on a regular basis the glass fermenters are the way to go. After a while, the plastic buckets never quite come clean enough.

Basic starter kit should contain:
[ul]
[li]Brew Pot[/li][li]Fermenter (food grade HDPE bucket or a glass carboy) with cover and airlock[/li][li]clear plastic tubing for siphoning[/li][li]Racking tube[/li][li]Bottling bucket[/li][li]Bottle capper and crown caps[/li][li]empty bottles (brown glass preferably) NO TWIST OFFS[/li][/ul]

I don’t think I missed anything there, but that’s just off the top of my head.

Here’s a good link to get you started:

So, what style were you planning for your first batch?

Pebs

I haven’t gone out and bought the stuff yet, but I bought a great book on homebrewing. Keep us posted.

World Eater: Hopefully the book is by Papazian.

Here are some sample starter kits from my local brew supply store. You can get started for about $50, but your first batch or two will taste like plastic. For $65, only your first batch will taste like plastic. For $100, none of them will. Northern Brewer also lists all of their recipes on-line, in case you have access to the ingredients cheaper. They have PDF’s of various instructions, too.

Helpful hint: Everything you work with must be sterile. Sterile! WE’RE TALKING CLEAN ROOM, HERE! Sorry. Sterile. And clean. Yes, there’s a difference.

This place also has a lot of good stuff.

I’ll probably start with a lager, and get darker. My in-laws have switched to Grolsch for the holidays to get me some of the bottles.

Thanks for the tips. I won’t be able to get started for a few more weeks, but hopefully I’ll be able to watch the Daytona 500 w/ a few of my own brews.

Whatever you do, even if you do get one of those basic starter kits from a regular store - buy different yeast, and don’t use their directions. (It’s rather like buying boxes of bread mix for a bread machine, in that respect.) Follow the directions that you find on the web or in a good book about homebrewing. The reason to not use the yeast that comes with the kit is that you don’t know how long it’s been sitting on the shelf in that store, or what quality it is. Get some yeast from a homebrew shop instead.

To clarify my last post - that was meant if you buy a prepackaged homebrew beer mix kit, where you get the can of hopped malt extract and a little packet of dry yeast with it. Unless you have reason to believe otherwise, it’s wise to treat the yeast as not good enough and buy some separately. If you live near a homebrew shop, see if the shopkeeper/clerk has any good recommendations for the type of beer that you’re brewing.

I’ll second the advice to get a glass carboy. Plastic can be used (make sure it says “Food Grade” on it; do not use the hardware store paint buckets—alcohol, being a solvent, will eat them) but glass is better. And once the plastic gets scratched inside, even a little bit (and it will), it will be impossible to properly sterilize them.

And get Charlie Papazian’s excellent guide, The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing. It’s the best, and most entertaining book on the subject I’ve seen.

His mantra is “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.” Great advice. Remember that it should be fun, not stressful. And it ain’t rocket science. It’s a lot easier to brew great tasting beer than most people imagine.

Oh, and a final note about those starter kits: nothng wrong with them, for your first couple of batches anyway, but don’t be afraid to add stuff—more hops, flavoring, specialty malts, whatever—if you feel like it. Experimenting is fun.

It’s great, they updated everything except for the photographs and the illustrations. They’re straight out of the late 70s/early 80s. :slight_smile:

I heartily second that!

Pebs

Here’s yet another Message Board to waste time on if you home brew.

If you’re thinking “Mr. Beer” at Wal-Mart, I’d recommend against it. While it may make a drinkable beer, the quality will not be sufficient to make brewing seem worthwhile. For just a little more you can get a setup like Ethilrist recommends.

I’ll also second the comments about sanitation - although sterile is a little overstated. You must keep everything sanitized (sterile being near impossible in your home).

This is true. Cleanliness IS important, but you needn’t freak out about it. (Remember, “Relax, don’t worry…”) You don’t need an autoclave and surgical masks. Just a bottle of bleach.

The most important part is to make sure the bottles you use are clean. Make sure they have no residue in them, and soak them in a bleach and water solution (details in the book). You can buy fancy bottle washers and brushes and stuff, but I don’t really think it’s worth the trouble. If a bottle is so dirty you need all that time and gear to make it usable, just recycle it. Bottles are cheap. Leisure time isn’t. (IMO, anyway.)

I strongly suggest you get a Beer Machine. Hubby had the urge to home brew last Christmas, so I got him one. He has a lot of fun with it. It’s simple, virtually mess-free, and odorless, and the machine will fit easily into your refridgerator. It makes 2.5 gallons of beer per mix pack, and I think it’s around $13 for three mix packs, which comes with Co2 cartridges, and all of the other little accessories you will need each time you brew. They have mixes for beers from all over the world, though American Pilsner is our favorite.

As a homebrewer living thousands of miles away from the nearest brew shop, I have come to find that the plastic carboys that mineral water comes in makes a most excellent fermenter. If you buy the 5 gallons of water in the sealed fermenter, you don’t even have to sterilize it. Just pour out some of the water, boil up the wort and pour it back in leaving about 6 inches of air at the top. You can easily find a cork and airlock that fit into the top.

When done with the batch, just return/toss the container without trying to reuse it. Pretty hassle free brewing.

You can make a very decent beer with the kit. Boil 2-3 pounds of malt with some hops seperately and mix em all up at the end. It will be tasty. Papazian has recepies for doing this.

The other little trick I’ve learned that really helps is you should start the yeast 8-12 hours before you plan on brewing (eg. the night before or first thing in the morning). You can just take a big bottle, sterilize it, boil a little malt in water (hops optional), pour into the bottle, let cool, toss in the yeast and put an airlock on it. The yeast should be going strong by the time you start to do your mash (if it’s not, then try again with a different package of yeast). With the yeast going strong, you can pitch it into the final wort and it really reduces the chance of wild yeast getting in.

Enjoy

Off the top of my head I can’t recall. If it’s not, I’ll look into getting the one you mention. Thanks

Heh. yeah, no need to freak out obout the sterile thing. Relax, Don’t worry, Have a homebrew. I actually did work in a clean-room environment for a while. Not just sterile but trace-metal clean. Laminar flow hoods, gloves, gowns, autoclaves, acid baths, the whole deal. Sterile distilled, de-ionized water was filthy by this lab’s standards. The first few batches I was worrying about whether my roommate’s nose was above or below the level of the rim of the fermenter when he breathed out. This level of paranoia is not needed. Relax, don’t worry, and have a homebrew. The more recent batches have featured a puppy dog running around the kitchen wagging her tail everywhere, and they turned out just fine, too :slight_smile: Keep stuff clean, sanitize the fermenter and bottles, boil the caps and all that, but Clean-room-clean is overdoing it. Did I mention relaxing and having a homebrew?

I’m thinking about brewing my own too. keep the tips coming ,any good reciepes for a porter?

I had asked for Homebrewing equipement for Christmas. My mother in law got me Mr. Beer. Not being one to waste a gift I followed the instructions to mix up the American Pale Ale that was included. I’ll know in two weeks give or take a few days according to the instructions.

Another tip, you suggested you wanted to start with a lager…don’t. Start with an ale and get a feel for brewing first, the temperature control and aging needed to create a good lager are more hassle than you need when first starting out. Brew up a couple of ales that don’t require a lot of aging or any fermentation environment other than room temperature to see if you’ll enjoy the hobby or not before jumping straight into a lager. Impatience is the enemy when brewing beer, trust me, you’ll want to bottle sooner than you should and you’ll want to taste it sooner than you should. Neither of these are bad things, you should enjoy the beer you brew, but you’ll get much quicker gratification and learn the basics by brewing an ale or two and enjoying your homebrew.

So my dreams of a stout are long into the future? Okay, makes sense. Gotta crawl before I walk I suppose. Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions, advice, and tips. I’ll post back here when the first batch is done. In the meantime, I’ll keep checking in for more hints and suggestions, etc.