Some Homebrewing Questions

  1. How much does the initial investment cost to get an operation going from the ground up? (Assume for beer for personal stock, or to share with friends; not starting a commercial microbrew.)
  2. Disregarding the cost of initial investment, do you save money over the long run by brewing your own beer?
  3. Assuming you’re a complete novice with no knowledge of the process beyond what’s in the instruction book, can you still make a decent brew with off-the-shelf ingredients?
  4. How much space does a small operation take up?
  5. If you have the operation in your garage, and the garage door is open on a nice day, and the cops drive by, are they likely to mistake your operation for a meth lab?

Thanks!

Can I piggie back on your topic? After a tour of small brewery, I want to also try my hand at home brewing. Anyone have any good recommendations for a good starter kit? I don’t want to piece anything together, would prefer a kit that has everything I need to get started (except for ingredients).

  1. I would think you could get started for $150-200 with a bottling kit. Lots of beer supply places have starter kits that pretty much include everything you need initially. Eventually you will find the stuff in the starter kit is not sufficient if you get into doing this more often–but as an initial start it is probably the cheapest way to find out if you enjoy the process.
  2. No idea, I don’t homebrew to save money. I do it because I enjoy it and enjoy making beer. Also depends on what kind of beer you drink. I love the fact that I can make a beer at home that is just as good, if not better, than a lot of commercial micro brews. I like sharing my beers with my friends as well.
  3. Not too much space, I keep my stuff when not in use on a shelf in the garage, when I have a beer brewing it is in a corner of my kitchen.
  4. Unless your garage is heated and finished I wouldn’t recommend doing it there as you have to maintain a more constant temperature than you will be able to do in a garage. Not sure what a meth lab looks like but beer making is pretty straightforward and would never been mistaken for anything else in my opinion.

There are TONS of brewing info out there, and a ton of message boards where you can get lots of advice. Like any topic you will have a range of helpful to snobbish and just take it with a grain of salt. You should do it because you enjoy it and that is pretty much my advice.

http://www.homebrewing.org/Beginning-Homebrew-Kit-Upgrade-2-_p_1692.html

should get you started. You can spend $100 more and get this

http://www.homebrewing.org/Beginning-Homebrew-Kit-Upgrade-3_p_1706.html

which includes a wort chiller. I personally don’t have a wort chiller but I could see where it could come in handy. Waiting for the wort to cool down is just time consuming, but it will happen. The wort chiller just speeds up the process.

one last link!
I like this message board but there are tons of them out there.

or

http://forum.northernbrewer.com/

this is also a good read:

http://howtobrew.com/

Hakuna Matata covered it well, but I just wanted to emphasize this part. Brew because you want to make beer. You may well “lose” money on the process, especially if you fuck up a 5-gallon batch, but I find it to be a fun hobby.

My husband started me on homebrewing by buying one of those Mr. Beer kits because he wanted to try it out. It produced really shitty beer. By the second batch he said something to the effect of ‘you’re really good at recipes, can you try it?’ After Googling and finding that How To Brew website, I improved the process a bit, then decided to go all out and bought a beginner brewer kit. He jokes that I’m the brewer while he does the heavy lifting.

Sanitation is 90% of the process in terms of importance, probably; essentially your most important job is being a really good “dishwasher.”

I usually buy from Northern Brewer, as the flat shipping rate and fast delivery is nice.

You don’t need a chiller but it’ll save you waiting for your wort to cool.

I haven’t brewed in a few years but it was fun, easy (after the 2nd time) and the results were good. The basic kitchen setup, partial mash is inexpensive and doesn’t take up too much room.

As for bottles, I have swing tops so I never had to get a bottling “system”.

you really have to mess up bad to have homemade beer taste worse than large brewery main line beer.

what your mom taught you about being clean; you need to do that three times over.

About the cost - once you figure in the fuel needed, plus the ingredients, you may save little to no money. You certainly won’t if you’re trying to make something like the standard macrobrews.

I brew so I can make beers that I like, have fun doing it, and occasionally amaze my friends with how good it can taste. If home cooking can be better than store bought, why not home brewing?

RDWHAHB (relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew)

What are your thoughts on a beginners kit with keg upgrade:

http://www.homebrewing.org/Beginning-Homebrew-Kit-Upgrade-4-with-keg_p_1707.html

If I can’t refrigerate the keg, I would assume the beer inside would go bad quickly?

well I have a 3 keg kegerator but it took me awhile to get there. I prefer kegging to bottling but it seems to me you should do it a few times to see if you enjoy the process. The process is relatively easy (in my opinion) BUT the clean up and stuff to make sure your beer isn’t contaminated is more than some people can handle or enjoy. So personally I wouldn’t go to the expense of a keg system until you have some confidence you will move forward doing this.

Beer going bad? Hmm…never happens at my house. However in theory if I understand it correctly is that as long as you keep the keg in a cool dark space (with c02 fully charged) it should last a long time. In theory it is no different than a bottle of beer–just a big bottle of beer! There are homebrewers here much more experienced than I who might be able to answer that question or search for it on one of those message boards.

I second the idea that it won’t likely go bad any faster than it would in a bottle if you store your beer in an unrefrigerated keg. Because there’s no ability for light to touch the beer, it might even taste better longer. But if you don’t have a fridge to hold the keg, I don’t know why you’d want to go that route.

Also note that the keg in that kit is used. All that likely means is that it will be scuffed up, dirty on the inside, and could have some stickers on it. However, it might also require a small amount of maintenance to get up and running. I wouldn’t (and didn’t) get a keg when starting out to keep things simple and add complexity later. Yes, bottling takes longer. But if you want fast beer your best bet is to get it at a store.

My friends who home brew tend to give away quite a bit of product…serving it at parties, for instance. That can make the “do you save money” question tricky.

You can get started for about $140 http://www.austinhomebrew.com/ This site has everything you need. I’ve been using them for years and am happy with them. You could probably find someone local if you prefer.

You aren’t going to “save” money, but you’re going to get a better product for your money. Its like paying for Coors but drinking Bass or whatever you think is a “good, expensive” beer. A $35 kit yields about 18 liters of beer. Humm… maybe I am saving money!

If you can boil water, you can brew beer. From the first batch on…

You don’t need much space, just somewhere to stack your bottles up. Avoid the garage, simply for temperature variations and dust/dirt.

No way in hell homebrew equipment can be mistaken for a meth lab, unless you are doing something seriously wrong!

Last thing: Homebrew makes tremendous farts! :smiley:

Good luck and have fun!

I’d guess that you could get away as cheap as $100 bucks if you got one of those starter kits and provided your own bottles (i.e. scrounged them up from somewhere for free) and used a large pot/kettle you already own (canning or turkey frying work well).

Ingredient-wise probably, but when I factor the cost of my own time in, there’s no possible way. I could probably brew a cheap extract ale for somewhere between $15 and $20, but it would still take me the better part of an afternoon to do it between boiling and cooling.

Absolutely! Palmer’s “How to Brew” or Papazian’s “New Complete Joy of Homebrewing” are great places to start. I’m partial to Palmer’s book, but that’s just me; plenty of people have loved Papazian’s for something like 40 years.

My first batch was following the instructions from some no-name guy’s book that I got off the clearance rack, and it was actually a good beer!

Not too much really. Most of it will fit in a couple of copier paper boxes, with the exception of your carboys, plastic buckets and brew kettle.

Haven’t had that happen yet.

Usually with brewing you get started on extract brewing (the kits you can buy - dead simple) - if you like it as a hobby then you’ll move onto partial then full mash, or all-grain brewing, where you extract the malt yourself from grain using simple mashing techniques. Requires some more equipment.

There’s an approach that has gotten popular in recent years that’s called Brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) - it compresses the all-grain mashing process into a single step / vessel and it is really simple - loads on the web and youtube about this. I’d almost be tempted to start with this nowadays - certainly if you have a big stock pot lying around then all you need in addition to standard kit brewing is a bag that costs next to nothing.

I’ve got a couple of BIABs under my belt after getting back into brewing this year - I think it’s a lot cheaper but I haven’t sat down and worked it out comprehensively. Depends on the price of hops and grain you’re sourcing but it’s got to be a lot cheaper than buying good commercial ale. It’s never going to compete with the price of shite commercial beer.

Just want to point out that if you want to start kegging your beer, you are looking at a much more significant investment. You would need in general terms a keg, CO2 cylinder, regulator and tap that will cost upwards of $200 and potentially much more depending on other factors. Bottling is the more time consuming, but cheaper way to get started. You can start by only buying beer in brown, non-twist top bottles from now on and rinsing them out as soon as they are empty and saving them. A 5 gallon batch will need about 48 bottles give or take a few. So quick slackin’ and get drinkin’ son.

My son is the brewer and I do the brewery building. I save a ton of money buy using spare parts and junk and converting things. I used an old freezer for a 5 keg dispenser by adding an adaptor to make it taller. I built his 3 burner brewers tree from scrap iron and pipes. I use old water coolers, fridges etc for evaporators, coils etc. I think he may have about $700 out of pocket and everything else is home made. He took his first first prize recently and we were both proud. The hobby is addictive, both brewing and building the brewery. I guess all hobbies are addictive for that matter.

Is there any drawbacks to using flip top bottles? Istm that would be a lot easier than getting a capper.

I liked them and they are easy but more expensive and you have to occasionally replace the seals.