Modern Homebrew Emporium


30 Reviews
Modern Homebrew EmporiumModern Homebrew Emporium

Type: Homebrew Store

2304 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02140-1812
United States

(617) 498-0400 | map

Formerly The Modern Brewer.

Added by Todd

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Reviews: 30 | Ratings: 38
Photo of stoppertb18
4.71/5  rDev +29.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

I received a kit from them as a gift and now have returned for batch #2.
They are just really helpful and want you to succeed. No question is too stupid and they have tried it all themselves so they are very knowledgable.
They swapped out the yeast in the Brewers Best Russian Imperial stout kit I bought without being asked because they thought I'd get a better result.
They don't look down their noses at kit people vs. hard core brewers.
Selection seemed good and had lots of stock. If you don't see something, you should ask as it is a small store from, but there is clearly more in the basement.

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Photo of kyle42780
4.5/5  rDev +23.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4

The best thing about this shop is the people. My friend and I are new brewers and have just finished batch #4. I can't say enough about the helpful advice and guidance that we have received from the employees. They have all of the necessary ingredients and equipment for our needs. If they don't have the exact ingredient, they are quick with an appropriate substitute. They have the knowledge and advice to help you build as elaborate or as simple of a system that you desire. Prices are reasonable too!

Great shop.

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Photo of Hopdaemon39
3.8/5  rDev +4.4%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

This is the only homebrew shop that I have been to in my short time brewing but generally they have been very helpful and accommodating. They have a binder full of house recipes that have helped me and my friend get started and whenever I've called with questions they've been helpful in answering them. It seems that they have a good amount of stuff but for example today I wanted to get an oz of whole-flower chinook hops but they didn't have whole-flower or the pellets; however, they had another binder all about hops that gave me a list of appropriate substitutes so I was able to get whole-flower Zeus (Columbus). If you're in the Greater Boston area this is the place to go for your homebrewing needs.

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Photo of kdp2011
4.38/5  rDev +20.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

I had the chance to visit this place a couple of weeks ago. They have a very wide selection of homebrewing supplies and ingredients. One thing I thought was really convienent about this place is that you can give them a list of ingredients and they can get it ready for you to pick up. From what I saw fresh ingredients, a wide selection of malts and hops, and plenty of cleansing supplies. Everyone there was very knowelegeable and helpful. Good place to stop and get some ideas and stock for brewing.

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Photo of donkeyrunner
4.8/5  rDev +31.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

I go here so often I can't believe I haven't reviewed it yet.

The atmosphere is that of hanging out at a freind's house. That's because the staff is often hanging out waiting to help people. Very casual which I like. I've never had a question that they couldn't answer. In addition to answer my finer brewing questions I also often see staff guiding a first time brewer through selecting a beginner beer kit.

The shop is small and it gets crowded on weekends. Saturdays and Sundays it's tough to find an unoccupied bucket to gather grains, an unoccupied scale to weigh them and then wait for the grain mill. It's probably not as bad for people who aren't as impatient as I am.

As far as selection goes I've been homebrewing for 3 years and they've almost never not had anything I wanted. They do often sell out of Simcoe though.

Prices are average. Hops seem to be a little more than online but the grain seems to be a little cheaper. Evens out in the end I suppose. I also like that I can buy exactly as much grain or hops as I need so I'm not left with a spare 1/4 lb. of chocolate rye that I'll never use.

I believe that people vote with their feet and as such that this is the only homebrew store I go to is a pretty big compliment.

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Photo of DrinkingDrake
4.14/5  rDev +13.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

I go here often for my supplies. Employees are extremely prompt to help with the majority of them staying out of your way. Great selection of whole grain, hops and yeast. If they don't have a specific ingredient the staff is knowledgeable enough to guide you to a correct substitution. I love being able to weigh all my grains into one bucket and grind all at once into a couple bags. They trust you enough to mark the correct amount so you don't have someone constantly over your shoulder. You can weigh out specific amounts of hops and grain so you don't have anything extra sitting around wasting away. There is a great selection of homebrew equipment and if you know exactly what you are looking for it is easy to find fast. Great prices on ingredients. With my last visit I was brewing a Bitter which cost me only $30 including my liquid yeast. They also carry Rhizomes in the spring and they have a giant plant creeping through the store right now. Convenient location if your live close to the city. This is my regular store.

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Photo of FightingBob
3.05/5  rDev -16.2%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 1 | selection: 4

Okay, so I read some of the positive reviews and some negative reviews on this homebrew store and I went back twice before writing this review.

MHE is great in that they have most everything a homebrewer would need. Things are a bit more expensive than other locations. I knew this going in, but being new to the area, I was hoping to gain some knowledge that I hadn't elsewhere.

If you are new to brewing this may not be the best place to start. The employees who work here will treat you rudely if they think you may be a novice.

The craft brew and homebrewing cuture is all about sharing knowledge and making a better beer for all. Learning about the process, equipment, styles, and art from others is all part of it. There are many different ways to go about this and no one has all the answers about how to homebrew. Even homebrewing pioneer Charlie Papazian said on the 9/28/06 podcast of Basic Brewing Radio that even after three decades of brewing he is learning new things. The guys who work here act like you are wasting their time for being in their store if you ask questions that make you appear to be a novice (god forbid if you are one) or suggest that you may try a different approach than what they suggest. There are less expensive and more welcoming places to go outside of the city.

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Photo of JBK
4.65/5  rDev +27.7%

The people that work there are so amazing and always helpful, the store is awesome and has everything and I love the complete self service style they got going on. All in all a great store. I live in PA, but make sure when I go to visit my parents I stop off here and get all my supplies for my next couple of beers. The prices are great at least from my perspective of only 8 homebrews under my belt. This place rocks, I would totally recommend it if you are anywhere in the boston area or within driving distance of boston.

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Photo of dcosmas
4.3/5  rDev +18.1%

They have a great selection of malts, and the staff is always ready to make suggestions if they're out of something, you need a substitution, or even if you don't know what you're looking for. On some of my earliest brews, I didn't know which crystal malt I wanted to use. Their solution? Have my chomp some barley kernels until I found the one I was looking for.

They have a pretty wide selection of hops, but I mail-order mine by the pound, so I haven't bought too many there. Whenever I've needed something esoteric, though, they either had it or an acceptable substitute, again, having me smell them until I found the right one.

Prices aren't really explicitly stated on most products, and they don't give itemized receipts, but I've never paid an inappropriate amount for what I was getting, and it's still cheaper than I'd get from the web, considering shipping vs. the $0.50 for parking.

Parking can be tricky in that neighborhood, and the shop can get pretty chaotic on weekends.

Overall, the employees are competent and friendly, the prices are reasonable, the selection is great, and, most importantly, it's inside rte. 128.

EDIT: They now have itemized receipts.

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Photo of joebrewer
3.3/5  rDev -9.3%

I've been to the Homebrew Emporium many times and it's been hit or miss. The first time I would have rated every category a point higher as the staff was helpful and I got what I came for. The other two times were failures. The staff I met on those trips had minimal knowledge. The ingredient selection was poor with some missing items, the grinder is broken, the place isn't that clean, and prices don't make up for shortcomings. The homebrew store in Woburn is worth driving the extra miles. I would only go here if I called ahead to ensure they had an item and if freshness didn't matter.

UPDATE: I've come to realize that Modern Brewer is a good homebrew convenience store that has a limited purpose. I can't go in and expect them to have everything under the sun, but they will have a fair amount of stuff and they are the cheapest place in Boston for yeast, which is my most common homebrew purchase. I also really appreciate that they help with the homebrew community.

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Photo of BetterDarker
3/5  rDev -17.6%

I only go here when I do not feel like driving out to Woburn or waiting for Northern Brewer. Every time I leave this place I tell my wife "The next time I say I'm going here, stop me." They know virtually nothing about kegging, make sure you know exactly what you need before going there. Do not call and ask them if they have parts, they probably will not know what you're talking about but pretend to anyway. I gave selection a 4 rating because they do have a good selection, just don't ask any questions.

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Photo of greenethumb
4.35/5  rDev +19.5%

I really like MHE, especially after becoming more or less a regular customer. I hit them up at least once an month and buy all my grain/hops/yeast there. I even did a c02 exchange last time around.

The first time I was in there, it was like a whirl-wind. It was very busy (usually is on saturday afternoons) and people were going everywhere. I can see how some feel the staff is a bit stand-offish at first, but they are really great guys and always seem to lend advice whenever asked. Now that I have been going there a while, I am getting to know the guys there, and started to meet some other regular customers, and getting a little more connected with the boston homebrew scene.

I have never had a problem with not receiving fresh ingredients. They are very fresh, and all the grain is ground on site, so plan on using what you buy within a couple weeks. I find their speciality grain selection pretty strong... you just have to look for it or ask. They have a lot of smaller buckets of some pretty unique grains. I would like to see more hope variety there, but they have a pretty solid selection. I can always find decent substitutions for missing varieties.

Finally, I have gotten in the practice of dropping off a few bottle of my brew each visit. The guys like it, and it just write my email addy on the bottle and always get nice review and critique of the beer.

Overall, this is my favorite home brew shop in the area, and i find the prices very competitive with the online retailers.

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Photo of IBUnit63
3.35/5  rDev -8%

Stuff didn't look too terribly bad on the shelf but the place is a little disorganized - not a tiny selection but not huge, either.

Service wasn't terrible, but those there were scurrying about weighing out hops and gave out "approximate" price ranges. What about putting the price on the shelf?

Speaking of price, I expect Cambridge real estate to command higher prices and I wasn't disappointed.

It's right around the corner so if I'm in a pinch I'll go there - but I'd rather plan in advance and hit one of the larger places in the area or do the mail-order thing.

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Photo of HT75
4/5  rDev +9.9%

The Modern Homebrew Emporium is the most accessible homebrew supply shop in the area. Other than that it has little going for it. They have pretty basic supplies for today's brewing needs and has pretty decent hours. The place is really dirty. This can happen pretty easily in homebrew shops with a grinder and requires the store get a daily once over with a duster or a handheld vac. Unfortunately they never seem to clean it at all. I'm not obsessive compulsive about cleanliness, but this is a place I'm buying to create something for consumption.
The selection is OK but not great. If they run out of something its usually a week or two for them to get it in rather than a few days. You'll never find anything other than the most basic strains of hops and yeast. I'm sure they would order something for you, but you;d probably get it faster ordering from many places online.
The staff really does try to engage you, but often comes across as standoffish to newer people to the store. Their limit to their friendliness seems to be whether they have to come out from behind the counter. I definitely don't beleive the staff tries to be unfriendly, I just think they aren't social people and don't realize they have to make an effort. They do seem to be knowledgeable, so keep bugging them if they aren't talking.
Oh yeah, their stuff is kind of expensive too. I realize they have overhead, etc. But my dollars are tight and I can't go around spending $40 for supplies for a 5 gallon batch of all-grain. And since service doesn't come with it I'm better off ordering online.
So again, the location and hours make it a good place to pick up something last minute. But if your interested or just starting into a hobby, this place will turn you off fast. You're better off joining a club and ordering supplies.
During the holiday season it seemed they did clean the place up quite a bit and try to get a better selection of supplies.

Update Again:
This place is a complete 180 from before. Still on the pricey side, but these guys have been going to an extreme to get unique hops and malts. Cleaner, and much more friendly, more equipment and supplies. This place was a C-/D+ 2 years ago for me. It's changed a lot thanks to Randy.

Update again....
It's getting to the point that this place will get you anything you want. The staff is super friendly, due to a couple of people leaving, and there are more and more specialty grains. Complete 180 from 2 years ago.

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Photo of lhibbard
3.8/5  rDev +4.4%

Very nice to see that Boston has a good homebrew shop. Coming from Greensboro NC, I found the Modern Brew very well stocked with everything that I could want as a homebrewer. Yes, the prices of some of the items are a little more expensive than online (ie: CO2), but then again, why not just buy that online! In comparison to the other brew shops that I've visited, the price and selection is exceptional. While I was there they were out of some hops, but they had an excellent guide on the fridge for substitutes, and the employee's were very willing to give some advice. While I was there, 2 or 3 new brewers came in and bought their first kit. Now, this did take up most of the employees' time, but that's okay, I'm okay with just doing it myself.

Overall, this is a very good homebrew shop and I will definitely be going back.

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Photo of leif86
3.45/5  rDev -5.2%

Please bare in mind that I the only comparison I have for this store are online retailers. In doing that comparison this place comes out just about average: some items (CO2 for example) cost much more than they need to here while other items (yeast) are fairly cheap, even more so when you don't have to pay shipping. I recommend this place because of the service. More than once I have had different workers at the store advise on ingredients, even to the point where it costs you less money. I have even had the same individuals tell me not to buy something at their store because I could find it somewhere else cheaper. A good place to pick up things like yeast, specialty spices, and some hops. Do your research on prices and all should turn out well.

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Photo of palmdalethriller
3.85/5  rDev +5.8%

Let me say that I put the selection as "3.0 average" because it's the only homebrew shop I've ever been in. That being said, I went in for my first time a couple days ago and was helped out by a friendly employee. I'm pretty new to brewing and just told him that and he hooked me up with some good stuff. I'm now brewing a dry stout that I hope turns out well with ingredients bought from there.

Their selection of hops was somewhat slim, although they had a decent amount in pellet form. From what I understand though hops are very hard to come by anyways. When the hops that my recipe called for weren't in stock, the guy working there was able to suggest a good substitute. Well, I guess we'll see how good the substitute was when my beer is done. All in all an enjoyable experience - better than I expected.

I would recommend the modern brewer to anybody who wants to get into homebrewing.

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Photo of Sufjan
2.4/5  rDev -34.1%

I just went in there for the first time, looking for some hops and yeast. I was hoping to talk to a store employee, as I'm new to brewing, but I was ignored for half an hour while the dude helped another customer. I was never even acknowledged.

The store seemed decent, although hop selection was understandably low. Given the above experience, I'll probably visit the store in Woburn or go online next time. Retail stores are already struggling against the ease and selection of online stores, and MHE just shot themselves in the foot.

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Photo of stephenpcowan
4.5/5  rDev +23.6%

I've been going to the Modern Brewer for the best part of five years, and I've never had much of a problem, especially when i was starting out.

For the most part the staff are really down to earth and usually know what they're talking about, although there are a couple of guys that personally focus mainly on wine and don't care about beer all that much. Sometimes they'll have some homebrew to share, and you can always make a friend by bringing in some of your own.

The only real WTF moment I've ever had at the Modern Brewer is when i went in this past week and their grist mill was down. What's an all-grain brewer to do? I ended up going to the shop in Woburn since I didn't have a choice.

The mill has been in fine working condition the past few times i've been in. There's also a vacuum for people to clean up after themselves, so overall it's much less dusty. Great work guys!

Sometimes the hops aren't up to par, but as someone else mentioned there are often fresher choices if you dig a bit. With the current hop shortage they still have a great selection.

Overall, I would recommend the Modern Brewer as the best homebrew shop in Boston, especially for the novice brewer.

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Photo of BattleRoadBrewer
3.35/5  rDev -8%

Considering there are entire states without LHBS's, we're pretty lucky in the Boston area to have two pretty close and three or so more in the ex-burbs. It's really handy to have a place or two to pop in for emergency yeast, or just to browse.

The selection here is small enough that it takes all of 5 minutes to browse everything. They have a pretty large selection of books, and haven't ever commented on my extended reading when I have time to kill.

From time to time I grab ingredients here, a can of extract or some hops. They have the pellet hops in bulk, and you weigh yours out yourself, or else they'll do it for you. Pretty good selection. I can't say I've ever had a bad outcome from using these hops, but my preference is vacuum or nitrogen packed hops, even though those cost a lot more.

The selection of specialty grains isn't too impressive, but I've only tried to make up a recipe once there and did OK.

The employees are hit or miss, some of them don't seem to want to help or to know much about brewing, and one of the guys is really opinionated; he criticized my technique to my face with another customer standing there. I wasn't insulted, but I thought it was pretty kooky.

Latest visit was a good experience all around. So you never know. But just like the other LHBSs in the area, I don't feel like they've got everything I need, and they don't take care of me the way a mailorder shop can.

Re-review: I've been there a couple times recently. I'm pleased that they've always got a big selection of fresh Wyeast activators. I've been doing partial mashes, and they've got an easy setup where you weigh and crush your grain in the electric mill and mark it on the bag. Plenty of hops, but with reduced selection. Missing key items I need (huge bags of B-Brite and Polyclar finings). And god knows how old all those cans of extract are. I go there for dry extract, grains, hops, yeast and it's just fine.

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Photo of YonderWanderer
3.35/5  rDev -8%

The Homebrew Emporium is a decent homebrew store, typically containing all the standard ingredients and equipment that one might need. However, it's organization is a little rough, as it took me some time to find everything. It's just somewhat scattered in its layout. The hops selection was solid, but I've seen better. They did crack all my grains for me which was nice of them. Prices were on par with other homebrew shops I've been to. Overall, I'll come here if I need something quickly, but for the most part I prefer going to Beer & Wine Hobby in Woburn.

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Photo of Scheity
3.85/5  rDev +5.8%

I was struck immediately with the hop freezer and the cans of extract on the right hand side when you walk in. That being said, both of those displays could be vastly improved.

A great number of the cans were out of stock when I was there. I mean, it's not like this stuff needs to be produce-fresh. Just put some stuff in the back and bring it to the front when it runs out. If I'm itching to make a weissbier with pale and all you can give me is 37 cans of amber. But the selection isn't bad, with all the big names represented.

The hops -- I'm always in heaven when I'm around hops -- are numerous, and everything was in pretty good shape, whether they were pre-packaged pellets or the bulk stuff in ziplocs. But the reference sheets on the front of the display are terribly out-dated. The guy who owns the place even said so...then walked cryptically around the room.

Also, the guy who runs the place...he just strikes me as somebody with a lot of secrets, always making furtive jokes and smoking a carton of cigarettes every time I'm there. But he's friendly enough and provides all the information you seek from him.

The only place I've gone to get my homebrew stuff. It works.

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Photo of PeatReek
3.05/5  rDev -16.2%

Modern Brewer ("homebrew emporium," it has a thousand names) is my local, I get nearly all my ingredients and equipment there unless I need to run up north for something fancy. It's generally good quality, they tend to turn over their grain pretty quickly, and I've never gotten cheesy hops or dead yeast. People complain about the dirtiness... it's really mostly dustiness; they could stand to sweep and mop about twice as often as they do, but there aren't vermin running around or anything.

My only real complaints with this place are the high staff turnover rate and the high prices. Employees come and go like crazy here; I know where stuff is better than most of the guys running the place at this point. It's no big deal I guess, I tend to get all the info I need online and from books. The main price problem is with the extract -- $5 a pound is just too much. One of my favorite places in San Francisco sells bulk syrup for $2.25 a pound and still seems to turn a profit somehow. I do mostly grain brewing anyway, but it sucks that my batch price would basically double if I wanted to skip the mash for once and make an extract beer.

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Photo of Longstaff
3.2/5  rDev -12.1%

I consider this my local homebrew shop even though strange brew and that piece of shit shop in Woburn that I will not mention by name are equidistant from my house. For the most part, this is a good shop - people who work there are friendly, and seem to be knowledgeable enough for beginners to get good advice. Others have mentioned the lack of cleanliness, but c'mon its a homebrew shop, not a restaurant. Every small homebrew shop I've been to has been in the same shape. Grind a few pounds of grain and watch the dust fly, you'll know why it is the way it is.

Some of the hops are suspect, since they only order 1lb sealed bags and use ziplock bags once they are open. Only 1 lb pellets and 1 oz. whole cones (limited inventory of cascade and some british hops) come in sealed packages. But anytime I see an unopened bag of something I want, I pick it up and keep it well sealed in my own freezer. Basic hop varieties are covered, but they refuse to order Simcoe, even though I have asked them to about a half dozen times now. Alright, I'll just order them online.

What gets me about this place is how they always seem to be running out of basic items. One day, no wheat malt, another, no maris otter, another, no dried beer yeast. WTF, how can you expect to run a business and make money this way. I have been a loyal customer for over a year now and spend about $40 - $50 a month, but I am going to have to start ordering everthing I need online, because you can't rely on getting the ingredients you need, when you need them.

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Photo of warchez
4.3/5  rDev +18.1%

This shop is a great one for the brewer that has a little experience. I only say this because they don't do a lit of premade ingredient kits other than the "true brew" series.

With that said though the staff is very helpful, and will walk people throught their recipe library to build a list of ingredients.

For the more advance brewer this shop is a no nonsense shop. The ingredients are well laid out and the variety is better than most shops around.

Overall, this a great place to pick up replacement equipment or parts, and a good place for bulk ingredient purchases.
If you are a newbie you can do it here, but you'll really love this shop when you get more experience.

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Modern Homebrew Emporium in Cambridge, MA
3.64 out of 5 based on 38 ratings.
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