My brother, Andy, and I began homebrewing beer in January of this year. We had been talking about taking up the hobby for years and finally made the leap. Since then we’ve brewed about seven 5-gallon batches of different styles. We’ve used ingredient kits from Brewer’s Best, Midwest, and one from a local company. We’ve been really pleased with the Brewer's Best and Midwest kits.
One of our best and favorites (so far), a Russian Imperial Stout, was reviewed by Mr. Porch of BeerAndCigars.net about a month ago.
Saturday we brewed up a batch of American Micro Style Pale Ale, a Brewer’s Best kit. I was surprised to learn that Sam from BeerAndCigars.net would be joining us. Sam took a bunch of pictures as we tried to relay the little bit of knowledge that we’ve built up over the last couple of months to him. Sam published a short video of the experience and he did a great job!: http://www.beerandcigars.net/2009/home-brewing-in-5-minutes/
Now that we have a few kit beers under out belt we’re planning on stepping things up a bit. Next we’re going to move up to 10-gallon batches doing a full-boil. Full-boil means we’ll be boiling the full batch rather than only a portion and adding the remaining water to fill out the batch afterward (on the home stove we can only keep 2.5 gallons at a full rolling boil). For us, this means a 15+ gallon brewing kettle and a turkey/fish fryer – the kitchen stove won’t handle it. After that we’re planning on going full grain where we will actually buy our own grains and boil the starches out of it rather than use the cans of extract that kits provide. Among other things this gives the brewmaster more control over taste, texture and finished product.
There is nothing wrong with the kits though – there have been plenty of home brewing awards won with kit beers. They make great beer at about half the price it would cost for something equivalent off the store shelf. And you get the pleasure of saying that you brewed it yourself.
It’s really easy to get started and the equipment requirements are simple, as you can see in the video. If you’re at all interested in beer, especially good micro brewed beer, then find someone in your area who brews and ask if you can sit in on their next brew session. Home brewers are a really down to earth and overly friendly lot and love to share info, recipes and even beer. They’ll usually have a couple of different styles of brew on tap and are more than willing to pour you a pint or two or three. You might be surprised to learn (or not) that a lot of home brewers are nerds (programmers, engineers, etc) like yourself.