Homebrew supplier Northern Brewer sold by ZX Ventures (AB InBev)

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by mike22ne, Jul 13, 2019.

  1. mike22ne

    mike22ne Zealot (531) Aug 5, 2014 Massachusetts


    Looks like AB-InBev is backing out of the homebrew space?

    I always preferred going in person to my local homebrew shop, haven't purchased from NB since before they were bought in 2016. Any thoughts on how the business has been changing?
  2. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (266) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    Is homebrewing still big? I got heavy into it around 2011, while sort of letting up around 2017. So many quality package choices out there now. Plus the local brewery choices have made it easier to just stop in for a pint.

    I should add. My local area had two shops for years. It got up to 4, with talks of five to six. I think we’re back down to 3 and the place never seems busy. The last time we brewed, there was all sorts of yeast varieties that were a tad old. Yet just two years before that, they couldn’t keep the stuff In stock.

    Maybe its just my area But it feels like a smart move by ab to get out. There’s minimal growth in the homebrew scene.
  3. BeastOfTheNortheast

    BeastOfTheNortheast Disciple (393) Dec 26, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I think you're onto something. I used to homebrew as well, but it really isn't cost efficient - I've already argued this on here before, but it really isn't when you add all resources, supplies, and time in too. I like all different styles and it's just easier and cheaper to pick up a variety of beers that I know will be great rather than attempting to brew a beer and screwing it up.

    So, smart move by AB-InBev IMO.
  4. ovaltine

    ovaltine Poo-Bah (2,672) Apr 6, 2010 Indiana
    Society Trader

    It's not cost efficient, IMHO, and, in my sad case, it was REALLY not taste efficient.

    My one try at homebrewing proved conclusively that I am a world-class consumer and should stick exclusively to that side of the brewing process flow chart.
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  5. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (399) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Homebrewing was picked up by a lot of folks who thought it would be a good way to make beer cheap. It's not. Never has been. It is a hobby and like any hobby can be enjoyed many ways but it requires time and money. The BA forum has noticeably slowed down recently. Now we tend to discuss fairly deep nuance among the hardcores. The proliferation of Everything Needed In One Brew Box kits (Bed Bath and Beyond) made for some crappy attempts with stale ingredients brewed by ill prepared Dads.

    I've been brewing since around '95 (?) and I'm just as happy to see the hobby contract a bit. Sort of like when your favorite Indie (band, actor, etc.) makes it big and you lose a little bit of what made it special.

    Even still it is an order of magnitude bigger than when Northern Brewer began as a mail order biz.

  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,098) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Is homebrewing ‘cost effective’? It depends.

    If you factor in your time and cost it out at x dollars per hour than maybe it is not cost effective depending on how expensive you cost your time. I personally do not view my hobbies that way.

    The material cost for a typical 5 gallon batch (two cases) will vary upon the beer style but for me I typically spend less than $50 per batch (and often significantly less than 50 bucks).

    I typically homebrew beers that I cannot (or choose not) to purchase.

    Let’s consider Belgian Trappist type beers for example. I am a BIG fan of Dubbel, Tripel and Quadruppel beer styles so I homebrew those types of beers. I homebrew two batches of Dubbel per year that a friend of mine calls “Better than Chimay”. A case of Chimay Red costs well over $100 at my local beer stores but let’s just say it is $100 for discussion. I can homebrew two cases of my Dubbel for less than $50 but if I purchased two cases Chimay Red that would be $200. For my palate (and family and friends) the Dubbel I brew is even of ‘better’ quality. I would state for this batch it is very cost effective to brew this sort of beer vs. purchasing.

    So, now let’s discuss brewing beers that are not commonly available for purchase. Below is a list of beer styles that I homebrewed this year that is not available for purchase at my local beer stores:

    · English Bitter Ale (using the Timothy Landlord yeast strain)

    · Spruce Ale (using my next door neighbors fresh growth Blue Spruce tips)

    · Galaxy/Citra/Mosaic IPA

    · Classic American Pilsner

    · 1896 Michelob (my reconstruction of the first Michelob beer brewed in 1896)

    · Tmavý Ležák (Czech Dark Lager)

    · Altbier (Sticke version)

    Homebrewing is a hobby that needless to say takes some time and attention to detail during the brewing process and thereby not something for everybody.

    If homebrewing sounds like it might be a satisfying hobby for you, why not give it a try?

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  7. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (266) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    Other than time (two dudes wasting away a Saturday morning for 5-6 hours. Then 2-4 times dealing with transferring and cleaning), and resources (maybe $1,000 spent in pots and old challenger kegs and posts), we got basic styles down to maybe $39$-50/$10 gallon batch. But we had to do double batches to really efficiently use our cleaning time. And then we were left with 10 gallons each of the same beer. We got tired of our product fast and Always wanted to try something else but we weren’t about to waste our time and effort on 5 gallon batches.

    I feel common 1/2 bbl kegs can be had for $125-$175. Your 1/6 5.2 gallon kegs can be had out the door for maybe $70. We were effectively brewing beer at more than half the consumer cost (about $5/gallon) if we excluded time and initial resources. Include our time and initial resource money, and yeah, we’re nearly in the red.

    Honestly it was more fun when our area had 10 breweries and not 35, and our garage variety was a comparable product. We may get going again but we’ll need to change our methodology. We definitely need to spend a bit more and go with rarer styles.
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  8. RobH

    RobH Defender (623) Sep 23, 2006 Maryland

    You do it (home brew) quite well, Jack!

  9. invertalon

    invertalon Crusader (765) Jan 27, 2009 Ohio
    Society Trader

    Homebrewing is very much cost efficient for me. My hefe, for example, after all costs (grain, water usage, natural gas, hops, yeast) is around $30 per keg.

    My lagers and such might be around $35 due to additional cost of DME for my yeast starters.

    IPA and DIPA will approach $50 simply due to hops. But still, I'm always under a dollar a bottle at the end of the day.

    My most expensive has been my whiskey barrel aged stout due to the barrel cost. Even then, far cheaper than anything similar. Barrel was 115 or so, beer raw ingredients around $30. $150 for 5 gallons of a 12% barrel aged stout comes to around $2.80 per pint. Typically those are around what, $6 at least at the store.

    I buy my grain and hops in bulk and yeast is harvested and reused. It helps cut costs. I reuse a $7 vial of yeast upwards if five or six times. Yeast becomes $2 per batch or so once I include the DME for starters. Hops are often $1 an ounce as I buy by the pound or so, and buy enough that shipping is a wash. Grain $1 to 1.50 a pound on average from the LHBS or online. I can get a 50lb sack from more beer delivered to me for about $50 total, shipping included.

    I spend far more in buying beer, per volume, than what I spend brewing my own.

    Always have 4 beers on tap... Currently have a Doppelbock, American Pale, Apricot Mango Sour and an English Porter on. German Pils and Rauchbier on deck. It's nice being able to brew whatever you want, whenever you want.
    #9 invertalon, Jul 13, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
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  10. jeebeel

    jeebeel Initiate (174) Jun 17, 2003 Texas

    This is also why I continue to homebrew, with the beer styles I make almost always being one of the following: bockbiers (especially helles bock), dunkels , märzens, altbier, trippels, and English bitters.
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  11. GetMeAnIPA

    GetMeAnIPA Zealot (589) Mar 28, 2009 California

    Homebrewing isn’t about cost effective it’s a hobby. You have to like the process of making something yourself, experimenting and sharing it with people.

    Last night I had 8 friends over and did a bbq and cornhole tournament. Had 3 homebrews on tap that cost me like $150 for ingredients. The cost doesn’t include time of course.

    But the best part with telling my friends just grab and glass and pour yourself a beer. Nobody brought beers over and everyone was stoked because they great.
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  12. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (266) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    @GetMeAnIPA I’m not a snob to complimentary beer but were they better than retail options? I guess that’s where my disconnect is. It’s getting harder to homebrew a beer that shocks people, without going way over budget.

    But even then, I like a sn hazy little for its $8/six price compared to locals going up to double that. At some point, You can’t compete and just enjoy the cheapness. It’s definitely a hobby but I’m no dummy to price vs time vs enjoyment vs quality analysis.
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  13. islay

    islay Aspirant (278) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    I wonder if any of AB InBev's High End or ZX Ventures' investments in aspects of beer that stray from international macro pale lagers has been financially successful. Goose Island, possibly, but that was so early and so cheap compared to later acquisitions, and that brand seems to require a ton of expensive coddling to prevent it from pulling a Ballast Point and taking a nose dive in the market.

    I happened to be listening to a beer podcast earlier today from 2017 in which the host and guest were worrying about the possibility of a local brewery selling out to AB InBev. It sounded so quaint and naive with the benefit of just a couple of years of hindsight.
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  14. GetMeAnIPA

    GetMeAnIPA Zealot (589) Mar 28, 2009 California

    I am not a beer drinker or brewer that brews beers to shock people. I brew good clean beer. The 3 beers on tap I had were a cream ale, ipa and coffee porter. All were equal to commercial equivalents.

    I’ve brewed some beers that may be shock worthy I.e. bourbon vanilla stout, maple stout, etc. which were fantastic. Where they as good as fundamental observation or good morning good no. I would say there are some beers that I can’t replicate such as big bourbon stouts. NE IPAs? No problem. I would take my NE IPAs over 80% of what is in the market today.

    I am quite happy with a keg of homebrew Vienna lager vs the latest and greatest stout or IPA. However, that is what I like.

    If you’re talking specifically about shock or innovative beers homebrews exceed commercial beers by far. Homebrew beers have no limitations. A homebrewer has no boundaries. A homebrewer doesn’t have to recoup the cost and if the beers sucks the loss is minimal. You want unique and shocking go to a homebrew festival.

    The cost vs time: I don’t even figure time in. The time I commit to is fun. The cost to brew beer is half the cost of commercial beer if you don’t include time. But again I like the process. The amount of time and effort is irrelevant. I don’t brew beer because of cost. If I just wanted beer I would buy it, but I love the process. I love designing my own recipe. I love tweaking a recipe and experimenting until I find the exact flavor I am looking for.
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  15. GetMeAnIPA

    GetMeAnIPA Zealot (589) Mar 28, 2009 California

    I am part of a homebrew club and the vast majority of the beers I drink from the group are great. I am always baffled when people try my beer and say this doesn’t taste like homebrew. With all the information available such as publications and websites if you make mediocre or bad beer you just suck and are a bad cook too.
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  16. mike22ne

    mike22ne Zealot (531) Aug 5, 2014 Massachusetts

    Interesting. I agree, to me homebrewing is more of a hobby than a cost-saving measure for sure. I've been brewing for years and the initial equipment costs have washed out. Dollar cost per serving (<$1/12oz) is certainly lower than comparable commercial brews, and as for the time/effort I don't even call that a cost - I'm happy to spend a weekend afternoon practicing a fun, creative and technical challenge.

    And as mentioned, I also like brewing less-common styles or unique variations. Where else can you get 40 bottles of the same batch of coffee-cocoa-vanilla stout and sample as it ages over a year or two, all for <$50? And yeah, it was good.

    Maybe 10-20 years ago it was indeed the best/only way to have "quality" beer on hand at all times. It seems the hobby has not exploded in popularity the way craft beer production and consumption has, so the fraction of craft drinkers who brew is lower nowadays. And I suspect homebrewers have an even stronger "independent" spirit than typical consumers. I guess many folks are still focusing local, maybe it didn't have the growth in profits they expected from the commercial investment.

    Anyways, cheers!
  17. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,451) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    The hobby had double digits growth for years, the slowed about 3 years ago.

    ZX ventures bought it at the slow down. Either they expected more growth and return on investment, or they got the data they were looking for and it was time to sell. It could have been both.

    I've been homebrewing since 1992. It's a hobby, the cost is not a concern. A hunter friend says the venison he eats is the most expensive meat he consumes.
  18. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,098) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Another aspect to keep in mind is that via homebrewing you can tailor the resulting beer to be in your personal palate's 'sweet spot'.

    An analogy that I sometimes use in discussions with non-homebrewers is cooking a batch of Chili. When you make your own batch of Chili you can make it exactly the way that suits you:
    • Include meat or not
    • If meat is included you get to select which meat you want: beef (ground beef vs. cubed beer), turkey,...
    • Your preferred bean type (e.g., pinto beans, kidney beans,...)
    • What type of spicing - jalapenos, cayenne pepper (dried or fresh), favorite hot sauce,...
    • What to use for the base: water vs. broth, format of tomatoes (whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste,...), etc.
    • Process for cooking: slow cooker, stove-top, etc.
    At the end you can get exactly what you want for a given beer style/batch. Does it get 'better' than that?

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  19. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (159) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    Same here, especially since I convinced myself that the cost of equipment is a diminishing expense as I make more batches.
    Homebrewing is enjoyable enough to me that I don’t put a dollar value on my time for it, any more than when pursuing any other hobby.

    Whoa....you're harshin' my mellow, man. :stuck_out_tongue:
    I've made mediocre, bad and good brews; but I was before (and still am) a good cook. :wink:
  20. EastHarris

    EastHarris Initiate (45) Jan 9, 2012 Pennsylvania

    I got into homebrewwing around 2011 and for the first few years was buying bigger and better equipment to make my brew day more efficient. At some point, I realized that it was going to be a 4-6 hour process no matter how I sliced it, including setup and tear down/cleaning. I can’t remember the last time I had a window like that on the weekends and wrapping up at 11pm on a work night with an hour of cleaning still to go got tiresome. At the same time, the local beer options have exploded so it’s much easier to grab a four pack of something and never get bored because of the variety.

    The nice thing about homebrewing is that all of the equipment will still be as good 10 years from now as the day I bought it and that money has long been spent. So I keep telling myself that I’ll jump back into it at some point. This isn’t the case with all hobbies.
  21. invertalon

    invertalon Crusader (765) Jan 27, 2009 Ohio
    Society Trader

    I think some people assume home brew is always this sub-par, usually flawed product that is not as good as commercial stuff you can buy. It can be, that’s for sure. It can be fairly tough to find someone who produce very well made beer (but it’s the case with commercial places, too…).

    If find if someone is brewing just because they think it will be cheaper, or so that they can produce a ton of beer to get drunk on, etc… Then yeah, likely it will suck.

    It doesn’t matter how fancy the equipment, how automated or the size of their “home brewery”. It comes down to technique, experience and IMO the passion one has for brewing (not just beer). It’s also very much an artform, not just a skill you learn. Combining raw ingredients to varying degrees, water chemistry, how you ferment at what temperatures, when you transfer into kegs/bottles, yeast health, etc… As Jack had mentioned, you can adjust the recipe to get exactly what you want, for your tastes, out of whatever beer you are brewing. I love having that ability to produce exactly what I am after.

    For myself and I’m sure many others here, we strive to produce an end product that is BETTER than what we can buy. I’d put up many of my beers to the best examples of the style and be confident in them that they are at the same level, or better. I am legitimately spoiled by my own beer, which is awesome.
  22. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,596) Mar 12, 2009 New York

    A few random points. Disclaimer: I don't home brew now for a variety of reasons I won't detail here, so I am unaware of current ingredients and equipment costs.

    My second hb system, an all grain system, was put together for free. I believe anyone can do the same, or near to it. Or you can spend as much as you want on your system, skies the limit for big spenders.

    I don't try to figure out and add the "cost of my time" to things I do when I am not working, including the time spent driving to and from, and time spent at, the beer store. Why in the world would I add that cost to home brewing I do in my free time?

    Every batch of beer, without exception, that I made was cheaper than buying that same style and quality at a store. Many were a quarter the price, or less

    The best examples I have ever tasted of NEIPA, Imperial Stout, and fruited Gose were done by home brewers.
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  23. scream

    scream Meyvn (1,086) Dec 6, 2014 Wisconsin

    I do not know what the economics are these days. I used to homebrew on a frequent basis - all grain. I think I stopped once good craft beer became more available. This I do know and that is that I never made a bad batch. They were always very good. Wife loved it too and said the whole house smelled of malted milk balls when I was doing a boil.
  24. fostwal

    fostwal Devotee (477) Apr 10, 2008 New Jersey

    Most homebrewers don't do this to save money. You come out losing if you value your time more than $15/hr. But, it's a hobby and not a job. Just like people that take up golf, fishing, or . The homebrewers that I know do it to socialize, have fun, and for the challenge. Getting a return on your investment is just a nice benefit.
  25. memory

    memory Initiate (199) Oct 2, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Been brewin and growing my own hops about 13 years. As others have said I like process. Can't remember last time I used recipe software. Made wet hop brews that compare to eating fish just after catching it and cooking it. That's hard for a commercial brewer. Picking hops minutes before going in the boil.
    But home brewing is a curse. Paying the prices I see set at establishments for X oz. amount of beer has gotten laughable in comparison to brew your own.
  26. Grackos

    Grackos Zealot (531) Sep 6, 2014 Florida

    You don't homebrew tro save money. You do it because you love it, enjoy creating something and then sharing it with others, and some do it for the rush of competition. You also get to meet a lot of really cool people with similar interests. I love the hobby.
    bluejacket74 likes this.
  27. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,596) Mar 12, 2009 New York

    Agreed. But gotta admit it was my ex wife's desire to save money that made her buy me the first brew system I had in '88 as a birthday gift. She thought if I brewed my own I would stop paying so much for those "expensive English beers" I loved so much. She was right. All those things you mention, and more, are what I loved about home brewing. Cheaper beer is just another benefit that comes with it.
  28. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (159) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    The DIY aspect of fine tuning my own nectar.
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  29. ingchr1

    ingchr1 Initiate (149) Jun 4, 2008 New York

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  30. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (159) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    In case I missed it, what was it that caused you to stop homebrewing? Do you think you'll resume?
  31. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,596) Mar 12, 2009 New York

    I helped put together a nine barrel brewhouse and worked with two partners to be the brewery at a hop farm located near to here. Long story short, the farm didn't want to fund us all the way, and I wasn't ready to invest the amount needed. There were other demands from the owner of the farm we all were against as well. One partner went on to be head brewer at Kent Falls in Conn. I just couldn't get used to brewing smaller batches again, and the local beer scene here just exploded, so I put my home system away. I do plan to brew again.
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  32. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (159) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    Homebrew, or can you still not get used to smaller batches?
  33. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,596) Mar 12, 2009 New York

    Well, I am older now, age definitely catching up with me, so part of it is the rigors of a long brew day. Definitely over the brewing professionally thing, very happily retired now.

    I bought a Grainfather, and have it ready to go when I get the itch, should make things easier. Pretty much over the big batch thing also, and am planning to home brew with friends again this fall.
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  34. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (159) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    Will revisit this come November, +/-.
    cavedave likes this.
  35. LeRose

    LeRose Meyvn (1,387) Nov 24, 2011 Massachusetts

    The local home brew shop that I like has had to diversify into wine making and has even gone so far as carrying "gourmet" food products to help make ends meet. Hopefully Northern sticks the landing and hangs in there.

    I stopped brewing for one major reason - space to brew. With my son, daughter in law, and grandson occupying the house with us, it is next to impossible for me to the tie up the kitchen for an entire day. As @JackHorzempa can attest, I absolutely love the process right down to the math. I am an R&D process engineer in the food and beverage business by day...home brewing is a natural outgrowth for me and I will get back to it when I can realistically commandeer the space or create a dedicated space. Boiling wort and a toddler who loves being in the kitchen helping Papa and Nana isn't a great combo, either. Not yet, anyway...

    One thing have observed is the level of equipment available to home brewers is astounding. Blichmann, SSBrewtech, Anvil, etc. It truly is just a matter of how much you want to spend. Just today read about a glycol chiller for home brewing. It seems to take away one of the things I enjoy - the ingenuity to truly build it yourself. I do have an edge - I can snag some cool stuff that is en route to the dumpster, but I still have to make it all work. Sure...I very well know what new shiny bits to order and put together. We have four knackered brite tanks in my pilot plant now plus a small can filler and seamer for carbonated juices. But I enjoy the challenge of the build and minimizing, where I will know everything about every piece of gear because I put things together myself.

    FWIW, the wife loved brew and bottling days because the kitchen and everything in it was impeccably cleaned every few weeks.
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  36. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,451) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Walking into the expo at HomebrewCon last month, I was astounded by the change in the expo. The amount of shiny Stainless Steel brewing systems has increased dramatically in the last few years. Automated systems large and small were everywhere.
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  37. TheInsomniac

    TheInsomniac Aspirant (267) Jan 11, 2015 New Mexico

    Can we be friends?
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  38. meefmoff

    meefmoff Defender (647) Jul 6, 2014 Massachusetts
    Society Trader

    I understand the sentiment (and I don't homebrew myself) but you could say the same thing about having a garage band with friends. Why bother when there is an endless stream of music just a mouse click away?

    'Cause it's fun!
  39. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (399) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Personally I have mixed feelings about homebrewing precisely because of this. The hobby has lost a lot of its magic and mystery. Homebrewing was illegal for so long it felt like you were really doing something a little illicit. And very few people had any clue how beer was made.

    Homebrewing used to be very much about solving problems creatively. Now it is basically investing in your hobby. No different than golf and other rich guy things.

    If you could score a junked water heater you could make an awesome burner.
    If you knew how to wrangle copper refrigeration tubing you could make your own fantastic wort chiller.
    If you could weld stainless you were a sort of God.
    If you learned how to culture yeast on a slant, from a difficult to find bottle conditioned Belgian import, you could make Belgian styles.
    And so on.

    Now you just get online and have it delivered in 2 days. Maybe you join BA and get some opinions.

    Wozniak and early home computer pioneers were in a group called the Homebrew Computer Club. They adopted the anything can be done attitude and applied it to home computing. Now you buy everything online made in a Chinese factory. Just like homebrew. We're just not that special anymore.
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  40. TheInsomniac

    TheInsomniac Aspirant (267) Jan 11, 2015 New Mexico

    I mostly still brew like a college student. Partly because I'm cheap. Partly because I don't want any more clutter around the house. Mostly because I can. I think before I turn my garage into a microbrewery I'd be more likely to try to invest in starting an actual brewery. If I had the time (and unlimited disposable funds) I probably would have already done so. But I'm not going to turn my homebrewing into a simulacrum of a brewery.
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