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Homebrewing 101, Part One

by: BeerAdvocate on 10-04-2000
IntroUp until February of 1979, homebrewing was illegal; it had been illegal since the beginning of Prohibition, back in January of 1920. Thanks to Congress and President Carter, however, a bill was passed that signed into law the repeal of the restrictions on brewing beer at home. Here are the guidelines: Adults 21 years of age and over may brew 100 gallons a year and up to 200 gallons a year for any household that has more than one adult. Homebrew is for personal use, and it is very much illegal to sell your homebrew or any other homemade alcohol; but this does not mean you can’t share it with your friends and family. Mysteriously losing track of how many batches you produce a year also helps.

There are lots of reasons why people get into homebrewing. For one, it’s much cheaper to brew your own beer. We average around $10-$12 for a five gallon batch (2 cases). You can also brew any style of beer you want … ales, lagers, Lambics, Meads (honey wine), stouts and so on, or you can make up your own concoctions. It’s an art similar to cooking, so you brew to your specific tastes.

It’s also nice to have access to a stash of beer, especially on Sundays when all of the liquor stores are closed. Your friends will be begging for your fresh homebrew when they run out of beer after Saturday. You will be very popular and loved by all. Plus, there are health benefits to consuming unfiltered/bottle-conditioned beer; the brewers yeast is a great source of vitamin B.

Okay, so now you are absolutely convinced that you want to brew, but you don’t know where to start.

ReadingReading is paramount to your success as a homebrewer. Once you understand what you are doing and how to implement the newly gained knowledge … man, oh man, you will wonder why the entire world doesn’t brew, especially after you sip your very first, perfect homebrew. Bury your head in these reads to become a rock-star homebrewer:

Brew Your Own Magazine is the quintessential "how to" homebrew magazine. Full of great articles, recipes and essential beer knowledge it’s an excellent monthly read for the novice and professional brewer alike.(  http://www.byo.com  ).

Brewers Publications: These guys put out an awesome series of beer books, which each represent a specific style – their history, profile, brewing methods, etc. They’re excellent reference points when you want to hone your skills in a certain style, and they are all authored by industry experts and brewers.

Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels is, in our opinion, one of the best brewing books out there. This could very well be the brewers' bible. Just go buy it.

The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian, the godfather of the homebrewing revival is full of old school homebrewing techniques and information. It’s a must-read for all aspiring homebrewers and the easiest to grasp out of the lot.

Homebrew OrganizationsReading is not enough. You’ll need to be inspired by like-minded individuals. Homebrew organizations are an excellent source for this. There are many organizations out there, but here are two worth joining to lock in your rock-star homebrewer status:

The AHA (American Homebrewers Associations), a non-profit organization, was founded back in 1978 by some eccentric homebrews in Boulder, CO who wanted something more than the usual doldrums of life. It has created a new industry and helps organize homebrew clubs across the country. It also sparked a renaissance of beer knowledge and respect. There are tens of thousands of members across America -- all of them being educated and educating others in the art of brewing. Some of their activities are the Sanctioned Competition Program, National Beer Judge Certification Program and Annual National Homebrewers Conference & Competition. The AHA also publishes the bi-monthly magazine Zymurgy, which is included with membership. It’s a great resource with articles written by the top homebrew gurus and includes many award winning recipes. For more info: AHA, PO Box 1679, Boulder, CO 80306-1679, 888.822.6273,  http://www.beertown.org/homebrewin ... index.html 

Then there’s The Boston Wort Processors, Boston’s oldest homebrew club. Since 1984, this bunch has been discussing, brewing and living beer. They gather every month to share homebrew, talk beer and share homebrewing knowledge. The club also boasts an exotic collection of pure yeast strains from around the globe – available for only a buck if you’re a member! Membership is only $20 a year. For more info:  http://www.wort.org 

Next week we’ll discuss beer styles and ingredients to help you better understand what it takes to make your own beer.

Respect Beer.
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