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how many chowhounds also homebrew?


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  1. or do wine, mead, vinegars, rootbeer, all of that?

    1 Reply
    1. re: soupkitten

      Count me as one. Ales and lagers.

    2. - I brew beer (all-grain) & mead.
      - Attempting sake in the next couple weeks.
      - I make my own vinegar from leftover red wine in a small wooden cask (american oak).
      - Am in the process of designing a temp-controlled shed for cheese-making & cured meats (as well as lagering beer).


        1. I have been homebrewing for almost 5 years now and have ramped production up to a whopping 4 bbls./yr. I started because I couldn't find fresh German hefeweizen at a price I was willing to pay. Well, early on, I couldn't brew anything worth drinking, nevermind hefeweizen and I even gave up for a little while. But I am glad I came back because in my downtime, I learned a few things, and when I fixed what I was doing wrong (more likely what I was not doing right), made drinkable beers. Now I've gotten to the point where I prefer my own beer over most commercial beers that I rarely purchase bottled/canned beer except for maybe SN Celebration/Bigfoot when they come out or Smuttynose big beers once in a while. Plus I just got tired of getting burned by unfresh, boring, or poorly made micro brews.

          My goal is to move up to 10 gal. batches this spring/summer when I buy a house, then I can cut back to brewing once a month instead of every other week. Gotta keep up with demand, and in my belly....er, I mean house, demand is high.

          1. It's my intention to begin homebrewing, once I've managed to put together the basic hardware I'll need. I just have to get together some money, but I'm also trying to save for a new computer (since mine died, and I've been using my gf's laptop), so the homebrew thing is getting pushed back a bit.

            1. We brew beer, mead and cider. We're going to tackle sake sometime soon. Mostly, I help whilst my husband, a brewer for aroun 10 years, does most of the planning and work.

              He also Judges commercial and homebrew contests.

              His club is the best!

              Think about this, if you start homebrewing, you end up saving money, cause it's cheaper to make beer than to buy it. The set up will pay for itself soon, and then you can save on just beer.

              What computer does that?

              Get the beer set up, let it pay for itself, then put the beer money you save into the computer fund.

              You'll also have more fun saving!

              1. mais oui! we've made some pretty good brews this year...made a clone of Racer 5 which was killer, on to a single hop IPA which seems to be v. popular these days

                1. I have been meaning to start but the lack of a cool space for the beer to ferment has kept me from trying. hopefully when i move back to NYC during the fall.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: MVNYC


                    If you like Belgian Ales - like Chimay - you can brew those at warmer temps - 72 & up.


                    1. re: evans

                      Thanks for the tip, i love belgian ales. This seems like a hard style to try though for my first batch. Have you ever brewed one, and if so what tips would you have?

                      Thanks in advance

                      1. re: MVNYC


                        Belgians aren't harder to brew than other styles - in fact, in some ways maybe easier. I'd start with a clone recipe for Chimay Red - one of the Szumanski books ("Clone Brews" maybe) has one. It will be a partial mash recipe using some grains for flavor/color & extract/table sugar for fermentables. Finally, I would recommend using a commercial yeast instead of culturing from a Chimay bottle - it will be much more reliable, less risky & certainly easier. The Abbey Ale strains from Wyeast & WhiteLabs are both excellent.

                        If you want to read more in-depth about the style, get a copy of "Brew Like a Monk" - an interesting tour of the Trappist Breweries which delves into the recipe formulations & methods.

                        Good luck & enjoy.


                        1. re: evans

                          MVNYC, if you're looking for White Labs yeasts, I believe that Ballast Point's Home Brew Mart on Linda Vista Rd. sells it. (White Labs is local to San Diego)

                      2. re: evans

                        Be careful with this. My understanding is they start at cooler temps and then slowly ramp up as time goes on.

                    2. I brewed for about a decade, mid-70's-mid-80's. I found my old brewing log the other day and was surprised at how often I brewed. I guess part of that was being unemployed for a coupla years during that period- but lack of money was also why I didn't expand into draft and all-grain brewing. When I started working regularly again, I had the money but not the time (ain't it always the way) so I actually have a 5-gallon "soda keg" draft system I never even used.

                      During that period I did some fruit wines (watermelon, plum, dandilion, cranberry<my favorite, etc)- since grapes seems so *boring* - and tinkered, unauthentically, with sakes and meads.
                      For a time I lived in the Finger Lakes area and could buy grape juice direct from vinyards and did some 5 gallon batches of wine but, in some ways, in was *too* easy and my heart's with beer.

                      Now, in a forced retirement period again, I *toy* with the idea again (blowing some buyout cash on a "turnkey" system) but there's just so much good beer available these days and it's so easy to just be a "spectator" and (How did the slogan go? To paraphrase...) "Relax, don't worry, have (somebody else's) brew".

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: JessKidden

                        What comprises a 5-gallon "soda keg" draft system?

                      2. I've been brewing at home, and occasionally professionally for around 16 years.
                        I do beer, mead, hard cider on a regular basis; wine every now and then, and a few dozen vinegars are always in the making. I have enough equipment to have 12- 5 gallon batches in one stage or another. I am planning on sake one of these days when I find enough time. 24 hours is too short a day.

                        1. Just wine, hopin to start doing beer soon though.

                          1. Have a batch of beer fermenting at home as I type this.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Willisinaustin

                              I am also fementing a belgian brown in the kitchen. I started over ten years ago and now am the President of my local homebrew club.

                            2. i want to homebrew. honest.

                              but i just know somehow i wouldn't sterilize something correctly and end up ruining all the effort and money. i don't make much in the way of homemade hot sauces for the same reason -- i am always worried that something will be spoiled and i won't be able to tell.

                              basically, i am chicken.

                              plus, i don't have room to let the batches sit for weeks. (i recall watching a good eats ep where he put the bucket of fermenting beer in his bathtub.)

                              i've been to a few homebrew fests and the people and the beer are spectacular. i wish there were some homebrewers closer to me so i could actually hang out and watch what they do in person. not to mention drink their beer.


                              3 Replies
                                1. re: hitachino

                                  You don't actually have to sterilize anything. You just use a simple sanitizing solution.

                                  1. re: Josh

                                    good sanitizer WILL sterilize everything. You ca get it all at your supply shop. It's not hard to do. Invest in a great book. Your homebrew shoip can point you the right way.

                                2. they're too far away from me to utilize on a regular basis, unfortunately.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: hitachino

                                    Where in FL are you? I lived there for 2 years and found several homebrew clubs and stores within a 20 minutes drive. I may be able to locate some help for you.

                                  2. I've brewed, won a homebrew contest some years ago. But I have not dne not much in recent years. However, I expect that to change.

                                    1. I got a homebrew kit for christmas and have brewed two batches thus far. My first was an amber ale that turned out suprisingly well and my second batch is currently conditioning.

                                      1. Homebrewing is a great hobby. Even if you screw the pooch on a batch you still make beer.

                                        1. yay! i knew you guys were out there-- working on quite the set-up in the cellar, making mead and ales mostly-- i am totally intrigued by those of you attempting sake-- what can you say about the process & the results? Also want to try hard cider, but am not nuts about "kits" with concentrated apple juice--are any of them good? anybody have fave tips/ brand recs?

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            IF you can get unpastuerized apple juice, use that. Lots of online recipes will help you choose a good yeast. You can use regular pasturized apple juice from the supermarket if you must, but unpastuerized fresh-pressed is the best.

                                            Forget kits, it's so much more fun to brew and ferment from scratch!

                                            1. re: Diana

                                              oh good-- i'll just get unpasteurized juice from the same organic orchard folks we get apples from in summer & fall. just can't do anything now, i guess! thanks Diana

                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                No problem...just be certian to sanitize all your equipment well. Also, try picking up around 8 gallons for a five gallon batch. It does boil down a bit. You'll have some left over, but it's better to be on the safe side. Aslo, you may want to add supplimental sugar or cider after fermentation, as cider can get very dry.

                                                1. re: Diana

                                                  "Boil" unpasteurized apple juice (aka "cider" in some parts of the US) when making hard cider? What's the point?

                                                  Hard cider is one of the easiest alcoholic beverages to make, and since it is fast and requires so few steps and pieces of equipment, it's easy to make in small quantities.

                                                  I always just transferred the cider to a glass wine jug (a gallon of juice in a 4 liter wine jug works out nice), added champagne yeast and put an airlock on it. Hard cider is also known as one of the few beverages that can be consumed *during* fermentation- it'll be not quite as "hard" and a bit more "sweet" obviously if drunk before it's fermented out but it has a nice "sparkling" quality (and, a yeasty taste, which some might not care for).

                                                  Once it gets to a balance you like, stick it in the 'frig (tho', to be safe, don't cap it tight or just continue using the airlock- which can be a primitive homemade lock- a child's balloon).

                                                  Adding sugar or more cider (krausened cider!) will mean continuing/restarting the fermentation unless you sterilize and kill the yeast, somehow.

                                                  As I understand it, some states no longer allow unpasteurized cider to be sold and itis getting difficult to find it untreated with sulfides, as well.

                                                  1. re: JessKidden

                                                    We always boil it to reduce it, concentrate it a bit more, and such. Makes the kitchen smell great, too.

                                                    find champagne yeast, after experimenting with my husband, to not be the best. I forgot what we chose last year, but the cider was much better in flavor and mouthfeel.

                                                    Some of the club's embers do several sugar additions every so often...There are ways of stoping or slowing those yeasties!

                                                    We have one source of unpastuerized cider in So Cal...and they were lucky to be "grandfathered in", as it wre in Tehachapi. They get apples from other orchards and add them to thier press, which is usually a blend, and differes from year to year. Our yearly cider batch differs form year to year.

                                                    Sometimes, if the cider is too dry for me, my husband adds honey or agave nectar right before serving (I sometimes prefer girly girly sweet drinks)

                                                    1. re: Diana

                                                      I just want to comment that boiling and reducing the cider gives a very different flavor to the finished hard cider. Not a bad flavor, but different. A few years ago I did a comparison. The fresh cider fermented with a very fresh and lively taste. The reduced cider was a bit more wine like and had more body and higher alcohol, but was not as fresh fruit like in flavor. They were both good.

                                          2. When I got out of college, probably with a degree in BD (beer drinking), I took a job with a company in a foreign country that outlawed alcohol. A stupid proposition I know but the money was good. It probably took me 2 weeks before discovering and expanding a highly illegal beer brewing operation. Each of us had a responsibility to bring in one ingredient needed for the beer, hops, yeast, malt, etc. We brewed 100 quarts every 2 weeks and bottled it in quart juice bottles with snap tops like Grolsch bottles. Given the environment, I think it's the best beer I've ever had.

                                            1. a great site, our club..the oldest homebrew club in the US! it is a great source of info, recipies, whatever:


                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Diana

                                                I always go by their booth at the So Cal homebrew festival. They make some great stuff.

                                              2. Been homebrewing off and on since 1979. Used to be the only beer you could get was generic yellow american meggabrewery beer. Heniken occasionally. Called for making your own.

                                                1. My wife gave me a homebrewing kit in 2005, and after starting my first batch (an IPA as I recall), I have been brewing on a weekly-biweekly basis since, my best guess approx 100 batches. Strictly an extract brewer, but gotten pretty good at it, especially stouts and IPA's, with a few Belgian tyoes just for fun. My best brew? I made an IPeachA with some left over peaches from my bakery...it was great!

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: fenwick_mike

                                                    If you're a baker (like me) you should try All-Grain. I've been brewing a little over a year and started AG about 6 months ago. The ability to completely control the recipe is what got me hooked.
                                                    My best yet is my sweet stout!!

                                                    1. re: niquejim

                                                      I understand the advantages of All-Grain brewing, but I already spend 6 days a week at my business! The sundays I home-brew give me a chance to relax and experiment while not consuming too much of my free time....and the beer is pretty good as well!

                                                      1. re: fenwick_mike

                                                        Been there with my own bakery so I know where you're coming from, as long as you're happy, life is good.

                                                        1. re: fenwick_mike

                                                          The main difference between AG and extract is the mashing and sparging process of AG. With mashing you just setup it up and forget it, not a big time consumer. Sparging will add time if you are going for true efficiency. I don't have an elaborate system, but I can brew up a 5 gallon AG batch in 4 hours total. The time spent during the mash I usually run short errands or pay bills, most of the time of the boil I'm able to do other stuff although I am kettle side for the last 15-20 minutes of the boil.
                                                          I probably could improve my process, but I do get a lot of compliments on the beer. Even placed in competition. Do some research and try it out if it's feasible for you, you may find that AG doesn't cut into your spare time like you think.

                                                    2. I used to homebrew, quit when I move to an apartment where it was impractial (too small, inconsistent temperature) but now I'm in a house where the basement is always a steady cool temp and I think I'm going to pick it up again. I think I'll just brew meads, however, good beer is a lot easier to find than it used to be.

                                                      1. Been homebrewing for almost two years, just finished the seventh batch (there were some breaks in between). It's a wonderful hobby.

                                                        1. SoCal homebrewer here, all grain and mead. Have a nice blueberry vanilla mead fermenting now.

                                                          1. I don't brew my own but my brother does and I drink his! It's fantastic. He makes different ones for each season (doesn't sell it).

                                                            1. I started brewing a year ago. By mistake I bought an all grain (AG) kit but did some research and found that AG is a little more time consuming but not harder than extract. Batch #15, an IPA, is in the secondary awaiting bottling right now. Batch #2, which is a recipe of my own creation, placed in a competition. Batch 13 (Imperial IPA) and batch 14 (a remake of batch 2) are entered into a competition being held in early October.
                                                              I'm not saying all this stuff to brag, my point is that brewing (even AG) isn't hard. Keep the equipment sanitized, the yeast happy, the grains (for AG) fresh, and do some homework and ANYONE can brew good beer. If all beer drinkers knew how good beer really can be (through home brewing and true craft brewers) the commercial beer makers would lose a lot of business.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: HeBrew

                                                                I brewed for a while and recently switched to a soda keg system this spring. Best thing I have ever done! I now brew probably 3 times what I used to. No more washing, sterilizing, rinsing 48+ bottles per batch. Scour the internet and get a deal on some used Pepsi or Coke kegs and start force-carbing. Initial cost may be prohibitive, but worth it. Makes the process faster and (IMO) more fun.

                                                              2. Just getting started - 1st batch.

                                                                I'm heading to the store this weekend to buy the ingredients. Any suggestions on a beer for a first timer?

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: bworp

                                                                  Guess it depends on what you like to drink! I prefer IPA's, stouts and porters....I started with an IPA, then a dry stout, then various styles till I found my favorites. I'm not big on hefewiesens, but other than that I keep experimenting...

                                                                  1. re: fenwick_mike

                                                                    Thanks - I'll probably give a stout a try....
                                                                    If it turns out good, I'll post back.... If not I'll give it to my neighbor, he'll drink it.

                                                                2. Another homebrewer here...mainly ales and meads but I'm starting to dabble in wine after thinking about it forever.
                                                                  I started homebrewing in July 1971 and have brewed regularly since then, save for those occasional periods when I have extended out of town gigs. I try do brew at least once a month, but sometimes manage more frequency than that in order to build up stock (I particularly like well aged brews).
                                                                  Brewing is definitely my "treehouse". I love the process (I do all grain) and savor the results.

                                                                  1. I all-grain....been brewing for one year. Brewing Network Army for Life! (Google it)!

                                                                    1. I also homebrew. I started back in 2003 for about a year, but then let it slide until September 2008. So far, this year, I've brewed an Irish Red, Pale Ale, and Irish Stout... all from extract. I have the equiptment to do a partial mash, but won't do that for awhile yet. I'd rather get my technique down first with the extrace and experiment. I also recently brewed a batch of "Ed Wort's Apfelwein", which is a hard cider I found on this forum: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/. I you are interested in homebrew, but don't know anyone that is in the hobby, everyone on this forum is very cool. There are a number of regulars that give great advice.

                                                                      1. I am about to switch from part extract to all grain brewing. Most beers that I brew are in the style of stronger Belgian beers or their Montreal counter-parts.

                                                                        Also, I make wine with grapes from California, Washington and Italy.

                                                                        Beer is more fun but wine ultimately more rewarding I think.


                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: The Chemist

                                                                            I'd be curious to hear why you think wine is ultimately more rewarding also. Not a dig at all... simply curious to hear your opinion. I've never done wine because I have heard that while a homebrewed beer can equal or rival commericial versions, I have heard (not from personal experience) that wine made in the home can't rival a good $10 bottle.

                                                                            1. re: Throckmorton

                                                                              Alright, time for explanation:

                                                                              I know from experience that you can make great wine at home if you have a large amount of space and money for initial investment. That being said, it's very hard and requires a long trial and error period over which you will make poor quality wine even from good grapes. And I AM talking grapes here, I made kits for a long time but I won't use them anymore after having switched to real grapes. A lot of people will defend kits, but I am very sensitive to the particular 'taste' of kit wines, and in my mind they will always be inferior.

                                                                              So, back to trial and error. To make a proper wine, you need at least a 2 year investment. Assuming you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the grapes are harvested around Sept-Nov, fermented for a month or so, go through a bacterial fermentation for a few months (if you're making a red), sit around until the next fall dropping sediment, then you bottle, wait a month for the bottle shock to pass, then wait (hopefully) about a year for the wines to age just enough to get a sense of what it is. Say you messed something up, you may not know for 2 years. This cycle means that it takes a long time to learn from your mistakes, you need a ton of space is used for your 'pipeline' (you will probably have multiple batches going every year), and that you need a lot of patience to defer your enjoyment of your labor. Also, the style is dictated by a relatively small number of adjustments you can make and really is ultimately limited by the grape variety and source. Oh, and the ingredients NEVER deviate from grapes, water, and yeast (ignoring corrections for pH, and perhaps some oak, and preservatives).

                                                                              Beer, on the other hand, is the wild west and the turnover seems like lightspeed in comparison. You make barley soup, let it sit for a few weeks, bottle it, and drink it mere weeks later. Chances are, it will be okay the first time through and if not, hey, just wait another month for batch number two! The ingredients you can use are much less limited... you can add freaking chili peppers if you feel so inclined. It's just easier to experiment, faster to get feedback, takes less space (initially) and is cheaper.

                                                                              As an anecdote: The first batch I made of real wine from grapes was in the range of maybe $6-8 wine quality. I priced out that it cost me around $4 per bottle, everything included. You aren't saving a ton of money really... not that that's the primary goal or anything. The first batch of beer I made compared favorably to microbrews that I really enjoy (although it was a little flat, but I have corrected this). It's nice to say: hey I can do something correctly.

                                                                              Personally, I prefer brewing to wine making. Hope that all made sense.