Beer Making for a newbie

So I have been thinking I would like to try my hand at doing a homebrew. In my new house I have a nice big 3 car garage (even with a upstairs–yes be jealous, very jealous). I think I have plenty of room to do this beer brewing in.

I tend to like beers in the amber range. My favorite local (Seattle area) beers are Manny’s Pale Ale, MacnJack’s African Amber or Redhook ESB. So I would like to brew something in that range but have no idea of how easy or difficult that will be.

My questions

1-how difficult will this honestly be? Are we talking cases of cases of mediocre beer before I find a reasonable tasting beer? I hate to think about drinking all that crappy beer when I could have a good one that I actually like!
2-how much money will my initial investment be–roughly? What kind of equipment will I need?
3-any advice you have would be awesome


  1. Not difficult at all. You will have an occasional bad batch, but overall you’ll have much better beer than you can buy.
  2. Not sure. My brother in law was brewing beer and got me started. I acquired my own equipment gradually.
  3. Talk to other home brewers, talk to the guys at the beer store. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

It will be messy, and sanitation is a must for brewing beer. (Most of the time when beer goes bad, it is due to poor sanitation.)

Get the For Dummies book on Homebrewing. It’s filled with lots of good information, and quite a few good recipes.

Good luck! and welcome to the club.

  1. It’s not difficult. It can be a pain in the ass sometimes, like when you have to wash 50 bottles.

I hear a lot of people say that you can make better beer than you can buy. That is not true IMO. I’ve homebrewed and I’ve had the products of dozens of homebrewers. Many good beers but none were better than what you can buy unless you only have access to Bud and Miller.

Do it for the fun, education and the almost free beer.

  1. The most basic supplies are: a big boiling pot, a food grade bucket, a glass carboy or another bucket, some tubing, bottles, caps and a capper and something to sanitize with (I started with bleach but that has problems) plus a beer kit with the malt, hops and yeast.
    Google a homebrew supplier and get a starter kit.

For good beer you’ll need to mash you own malt and that requires more equipment. If you enjoy doing it you’ll want a whole lot of other stuff, just like any other hobby.

  1. Make wine instead. It takes a little longer but you don’t have wash and cap all those bottles.

OK, let’s say that the beer you make can/will be *as good as *the beer you can buy. :slight_smile:

Plus, it has that you know, je ne sais quoi, that you *can’t *buy.


Brew and put it in kegs. Easier than bottles by far, and you can drink it sooner. :slight_smile:

I just started last year. It’s not hard. It’s time consuming. You’ll need about 2 hours to brew and about 2 hours 7-10 later to bottle. It can be messy. Once bottled, you’ll need to wait anywhere from 2 weeks to a few months for your beer to age. But you can make good tasting beer from the first go. It will cost about $30 for two cases of beer. That’s about 1/2 the cost of Sam Adams around here and nearly 1/3 of the cost of the true micro brews. If you do it right the quality of your beer will likely fall somewhere in between Sam and your favorite Micro. You won’t make truely great bear unitl you start what they call whole grain brewing. this requires more equipment and experience.

I suggest getting a beginner’s equipment set up with ingredients on line for your first batch. The whole thing should go for about $100. You’ll need bottles. I saved bottles until I had enough for a batch (48-52 bottles). And you’ll need a brew kettle. You can get by with a giant canning pot. It needs to be big enough for 3-5 gallons and non reactive. You can get those at most grocery stores for about $20 if don’t already have a giant stock pot.

You could just follow the instructions that come with the kit but some solid back ground reading will help you get the steps right and have some confidence. I’d suggest the latest edition of the Complete Joy of Home brewing. Charley has the right attitude (Relax have a home brew).

I agree with shiftless; if you’re into beer and buying good beer, you’re not going to be making better beer than you can buy for a long time, if ever. I think this is why my husband dabbles and experiments but hasn’t gone whole-hog into home brewing. He can make some decent enough stuff, but he’s not going to be supplying us with the beers we’re used to drinking. Decent ones, yes, but both of us are picky enough that it would be an undertaking to recreate our favorites. The people I know who like their own brew best are the ones who weren’t particularly “into” beer before making their own. That’s by no means universal, though.

Get a starter kit. Not one of those plastic brown things that you see at bed, bath and beyond, but a nice one from a home brew supply company. I had good luck getting my husband a kit from Midwest (, but that was years ago; I have no idea how their stuff is now. Recently, my husband’s been buying more from local stores. The bottling is by FAR the most annoying part of the process. My husband solved it by converting a chest freezer to a kegerator that holds sixtel kegs. (However, being able to get all his favorite beers on tap in the basement kind of killed his interest in brewing his own for the moment. )

Not too difficult. You can look up some old homebrewing threads where your questions have been answered (I’m at work and don’t have time to search).

A complete newbie starter kit can be done cheaply. Personally, I would get a plastic carboy (like spring water comes in), a really cheap airlock and a hand bottle capper. You don’t need all the other stuff at least for your first few tries. Then you’ll have a better idea on the equipment you need or if you want to stick with the hobby.

Most homebrew stores sell a pre configured kit like “American Amber” with directions.

If you want to go really easy for the first batch, do one of the canned “dump and stir” kit’s. For these, you probably want to seperately make a wort out of 2 pounds malt and 1 oz of hops. Then add in the dump and stir and put it in your carboy. Pre fill the carboy with 1-2 gallons of cold water and the cooling process will be fast.

I also recommend starting the yeast the night before in a quart sized bottle, some fermentable sugar/malt/honey and a few ounces of water and make sure to use the airlock on it. That sucker should be really foaming the next day when you make the beer. This way, you have your yeast fully active and can dump it into the carboy once everything has cooled down and your fermentation will take off very fast (and prevent wild yeasties from getting started).

As for the beers you like, one of the biggest things to get the slightly sweet taste and mouth fullness will be using crystal malt. Ask at the home brew supply store.

Some people advocate kits, some people advocate mashing your own malt. The latter is much harder than the former.

I do something a little in between, and I’ve gotten excellent results.

For one thing, doing no mashing results in little head, and I like to get as much head as possible. If you use nothing but malt extract, you won’t get much head. I usually use 6.6 pounds of extract, maybe a pound of DME, and a pound of cracked barley. The barley will give you the proteins you need to get some good head. These need to be steeped, preferably in a muslin bag, for 5-30 minutes at 53F (ales) or 48F (lagers).

So you’ll need a thermometer.

Also, stay away from darker extracts. To me they taste a little chalky. Use the lightest extracts available, and use the cracked barley to get the color you want. They come in different roasts from very light to dark chocolate. That, as well as how long you steep them, will determine the color as well as how much head you get.

But start out with a kit the first few times.

A glass carboy should only really be used to make lagers, and as a beginner you won’t be making those unless your garage is the same temerature as a cave in the Czech Republic and you want to wait three months to taste it. But I like using one for ales, doing a second fermentation for about three weeks. It mellows the flavors a little.

This is all IMHO. After some experimentation I got the results I wanted by doing these things.

Oh and Hakuna – I don’t know where you live, but if it’s in the Boston area, I know where you can get all the equipment you need for free. If you can lift it, you can take it.

I couldn’t find any of the previous threads - can somebody suggest good online stores?

Northwest Brewing Supplies

Can we do that? Somebody stop me if we can’t…

I second Vihaga’s recommendation of Midwest. 'Course, I live not too far from them and can pop down whenever I want, so there is that. Top notch store, great people, really good advice. You can’t go wrong with them.

My husband and I have brewed from their kits before, and they work really well. We’ve also brewed up an ad hoc recipe they helped us develop to take care of some wild hops, and it turned out well - similar to an American macro-brew lager like Bud Light or Miller Light, which was better than we expected, really.

They’ve starter kits for all of the equipment, run you about $120 or so. And kits for the beer, these average $40 - $70. And they’ve got “clone” kits aimed at reproducing your favorite brew, although how successful you are at that will largely depend on you. And they’ll send you a DVD.

Good people.

D’oh! That’s who I was thinking of, not Northwest.

Another thought – unless your garage is climate controlled, it’s probably not a great place to ferment. You want to keep a pretty steady temperature of about 65-70F. I’ve never even tried brewing in the summer.

I think there’s a store in town, actually - I’ve never been in, I suppose I ought to venture it.

My favorite is Northern Brewer. A flat shipping rate can be a godsend. I would recommend against kegging and grinding your own grain/all-grain for now. See if you even like what homebrewing involves and save money if you don’t; if you find that brewing is great but the only thing holding you back is bottle-washing, then spend a little more money and keg away.

My husband started with a Mr. Beer kit but was dissatisfied with the results, I started Googling for ideas to improve it, and he said, “you’re good with recipes, see what you can do.” I found John Palmer’s free edition of “How to Brew” online and started from there.

Homebrewing for Dummies is decent but I’m not fond of his (last I recall) advocating using bleach for sanitizing. Not bad in a pinch but really, iodophor or Star-San are better. (I use PBW for cleaning, low-foam StarSan for sanitizing.)

I’ll write more when I get to my home computer rather than tapping at a smartphone.

It’s pretty easy. Basically, if you can bake a cake, you’ve done something more difficult than making beer, especially if you’re using malt extract instead of all-grain.

That being said, it’s pretty labor intensive. You have to clean EVERYTHING, and then sanitize it. This takes time and effort- probably as much as the actual brewing.

The equipment costs aren’t that high though. You can easily get a complete setup for basic extract brewing for under $150, I’m sure. Then, as you progress, you can upgrade piecemeal- bigger pot, glass fermenter (not just for lagers anymore!) better thermometers, better chiller, etc… without breaking the bank. I have a pretty sweet setup, but I haven’t ever spent more than about 60 bucks on any one piece at a time.

Midwest is a good store, so’s Northern Brewer. And my local HBS, Homebrew HQ is pretty good as well, although I haven’t ordered online from them. Grape and Granary is another one I’ve had good luck with in the past.

I may be violating some rule here, but go to, and read up. There are pretty much threads for every question you may ask, and many of the homebrewing scene’s luminaries post and read on there.

Finally, and probably most important of all, go get a copy of John Palmer’s “How to Brew” This is by far the best beginner’s book on the market.

Thanks for the advice. I actually have a good friend who owns a brew supply store and just talked to him. He offers classes, etc. So I think I will join him on one of these upcoming Saturdays.

He sells a good starter kit. I have had his homebrew and it is awesome. But of course he has been doing it for years. As a newbie I think I will start simple and go from there.

I have some free time now and this looks like it could be an interesting hobby.

I did some home brewing back in college with a cheapo kit (like this one). It worked fine. My one piece of advice is that you might consider starting with a cider instead of a beer for your very first batch. Way more forgiving.


I’ve been brewing since it became legal. With very little effort I can crank out a beer that is the equal to anything you can buy at a reasonable price. Take a class or two and solicit advice from people you trust. Start with a kit or two, then move on to extract/some grain brewing. When you feel comfortable with what you can do, shift to all grain and prepare to be very popular.