The good old days

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by rocdoc1, Dec 18, 2012.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Aspirant (268) Jan 13, 2006 New Mexico

    Old Timers, how were things done when you got started brewing?
    For Christmas 1992 my wife bought me my first kit-a plastic bucket with spigot for fermenting, a bottle capper and 144 caps, The Joy of Homebrewing, and a funnel. The ingredients were a can of Coopers pre hopped malt extract with a little yeast pack taped to the lid, and 1.5 pounds of corn sugar. Heat until almost boiling, cover the pot and put in an ice bath for 2 hours. Pour the cooled wort into the bucket, top off with cool tap water and sprinkle yeast on top. Ferment for a week at room temp, transfer to secondary(a collapsible water bag for camping) for 2 weeks and then bottle.
    I did 3 of these kits, then started getting extract, grain and actual hops. 2 years of this and I built a ZapPap lauter tun and went all grain.
    You young whippersnappers have no idea how well good it is to start brewing today
  2. yinzer

    yinzer Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Yeah, about the same thing here. My first mash/lauter tun was two buckets, one inside the other. A bucket will lots of holes drilled in the bottom inside a bottling bucket. I think I started late 90's.
  3. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,316) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Started in Oct 92. A stout kit. Then specialty grains. Then partial mash. After 30 or so batches did a full mash in a bucket with a Phil's phalse bottom.

    Toady there is more equipment, ingredients, and information than back then, by far. Recipes available have grown exponentially, as ha e the number of homebrewers.
  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,112) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    A very short story on why I started homebrewing in 1995 (from a previous post):

    “I was traveling a lot to London back in the early to mid 90’s for business. I fell in love with cask ales and my absolute favorite was Bass cask ale at the Crown & Sceptre Pub (I learned later when I became a homebrewer that proper cellaring is important to cask ales). I would come home to the US and drink Bass Ale in bottles and go ‘yuck’. It certainly wasn’t the same beer! My first homebrew was a Muntons kit beer called “Traditional Bitter” (that was 1995) and that beer turned out great! It was much, much better than bottled Bass Ale. I have been homebrewing Bitter Ales ever since; let’s see, one batch of Bitter Ale per year makes my May 2012 batch the 17th batch of Bitter Ale. Nothing like a freshly brewed Bitter Ale.”

    My first beer equipment kit was a plastic fermenter plus plastic bottling bucket (and other stuff) from my LHBS (Beer Unlimited). I bought a stainless steel pot at a local Best Products store (boy, I miss that store chain; it had great prices!) for around 20 bucks. The only liquid yeasts my LHBS sold were from Wyeast (in small packs) and vials from a company called Yeast Lab (I am not sure when they went out of business). I used bleach as a sanitizer (and I still do) since there was no Star San or Iodophor when I started (or at least my LHBS didn’t sell it).

    My homebrews from that timeframe turned out great. I thought the ingredients available were just fine! I do like that there is more variety now (e.g., White Labs, more extract types available, more overall yeast strains available, etc.).

    Somebody once posted a statement like: “Give a man a beer and you waste a half hour, teach a man to brew and you waste a lifetime.” I personally would not have chosen the word “waste” in that sentence but I certainly can relate to the sentiment. In the next week or so I will be brewing my 300th batch: a Classic American Pilsner.


    P.S. I bought The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing in 1995 and read it cover to cover. It thought it was an enjoyable read and I learned a lot from that book!
    cavedave and tronester like this.
  5. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Devotee (400) Nov 21, 2008 Texas
    Beer Trader

    I too started with Coopers extract (in 1983 when I was 17.) I bought my original kit through an ad in the back of Field & Stream, and I had to continue to buy malt extract through mail-order until the nineties. When I started, Charlie Papasian hadn't yet written the first addition of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.
  6. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,305) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Here are the mimeographed instructions I got when I bought my first homebrewing ingredients and equipment in the fall of 1976, complete with handwritten edits from the owner of the shop. I used DME.

    I already had a couple of UK published books on home brewing, and probably bought Leigh P. Beadle's book around the same time as I bought the ingredients.

    If interested, I think I also have a large cardboard sheet with beer making instructions from Blue Ribbon Malt that dates from right after legalization in '78. Before that, of course, Blue Ribbon Hop Flavored Malt Syrup was only used for baking :wink:.
    cavedave, tronester and telejunkie like this.
  7. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,620) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    My brother returned from England in 1986 with a Coopers "Can and Kilo" hopped extract that wound up under the Christmas tree with my name on it. In 1987, after I graduated college, I got around to brewing it. It was supposed to be an English Pale Ale. I had so little information. That batch and the next 3 or 4 were infected messes. I gave up brewing between ~1991 and 2005 in favor of grad school, marriage, more grad school and a career. But with grad school behind me, and BeerAdvocates and John Palmer showing me how, I found time to learn how to do brew something that was drinkable.
  8. MrOH

    MrOH Defender (690) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    I first started homebrewing mead and cider when I was in high school in ~'96-7. The internet was new, so I got instructions for how to make mead off of it, and completely disregarded them. Shit was terrible, but pretty high-test, which was all that mattered. Also made a couple of really crappy hard ciders. I wanted to make beer, but didn't know where to buy ingredients, and was shit scared that if I did find a place, they'd card me. Gave this up around 99.

    Three years ago my wonderful girlfriend gave me a starter kit for Christmas, and am over 60 batches deep. Right now in fermenters, over 15 years since I started...

    I have a mead and a couple of ciders.
  9. marquis

    marquis Crusader (744) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    On 3 April 1963 the need for a homebrewing licence was abolished . The big problem was that there was at that time no real sources of ingredients. We could buy malt extract (the sort without the added cod liver oil!) at a chemist's but not hops. Although our hedgerows were thick with them , this was April and so these hops were months away.
    Very quickly though, kits appeared. Basically they were a packet of unnamed hops and some crystal malt plus some dried malt extract and a packet of unspecified dried "brewers' yeast", it was expected that table sugar be added.
    The next problem was equipment.Fortunately my friend's mother had a large earthenware jar of around 5 gallons, bought for salting beans.We also had large preserving pans.There was of course no sanitising material around so suds and hot water had to suffice.
    Bottles were no problem, there were lots of 40 ounce heavy thick brown beer bottles with screw in tops available. I still have a dozen or two of them , we called them quart flagons and they were the standard beer bottle of the day.
    Within a very short time lots of stuff became available, brew shops sprung up and companies began producing hopped malt extract kits. Not the best beer in the world but acceptable to us at the time.They also made a decent base - extra hops for example could be added.
    I didn't go all grain till the late 70s , there was an excellent maltings nearby which passed us really fresh milled Maris Otter at the back door for a trivial sum.Brewing then became so cheap that we could make a gallon for the price of a commercially brewed pint.Later still I was able to get all my materials from local micros at cost.
    tronester and jsullivan02130 like this.
  10. telejunkie

    telejunkie Disciple (320) Sep 14, 2007 Vermont

    any Brewing Quality Beer readers from back in the day here?

    Noob in the group, started hb'ing in college around 2000. I was handed the Homebrewer's Companion in my interview as assistant brewmaster after college and that was my true intro to brewing after several kit beers. I was told to read it cover to cover prior to 1st brewday and come in with questions in hand. Afterwards, built my zapap lauter tun and homebrewing got a little more serious. Lucky for me there was a lhbs back then in little old Rutland, VT which has since closed.
  11. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,620) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    After my first disastrous batch in 1987, I got this book.
    As I recall, the book shed very little light beyond the instructions that came with my prehopped extract. About the only thing I learned (or remember learning) was how to cap bottles (and how not to cap bottles) and that Fuggles is a type of hop that the author liked.
  12. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,112) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    So, nobody learned how to brew from the book “How to Make Panther Beer” by J. Panther Pilsner?
    cavedave and pweis909 like this.
  13. MLucky

    MLucky Aspirant (286) Jul 31, 2010 California

    Much respect to all you guys who pioneered the hobby. I think just about anybody can make good beer these days, given the easy availability of fresh ingredients, advances in sanitizers, and most of all, the wealth of info available at the click of a mouse. Basically, if you can read and follow directions, you can make decent beer. But back two or three or four decades ago? I'm amazed you were able to get anything drinkable given the obstacles.
  14. macandrewsRIP

    macandrewsRIP Initiate (25) Oct 28, 2007 Massachusetts

    yeah i remember reading Papazian's book finally a friend sent me a glass carboy and hoses and capper etc., &c., to kick my butt in gear, March 1989. One thing that struck me was the sheer abundance of malt extract kits on the market as opposed to now. Morgans and Coopers form Australia, Glenbrew and Ironmaster from Scotland, Otto Hoxheim from Germany, stuff from Belgium and Ireland. There were these extracts from England or Scotland that had little scrunched up bar towels in the top cap with the yeast formed into a hockey puck, add water and presto! Instant bar towel. Muntons made an Australian malt extract kit, best damn kit i've ever tasted. Kind of wish they brought it back just for giggles. Yeah the good old days but the variety of hops on the market was piss poor. At the best you could get fresh Cascades, but there were no Simcoe, Citra or Centennial. Just Northern Brewer and way too much Bullion. And don't even think of fresh yeast. It was all dried and sitting on the shelf.
  15. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (524) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    I started in early 1987 and my experience was a lot like rocdoc's, but just a little better because the local shop owner had higher standards than most. He insisted that I use no sugar; extra extract instead for my first batch and lectured me on sanitation. It was a 1.048 stout that turned out well. The second batch was ok too, though there were a few duds brewed in the next few months. I did my first all grain about 6 months in and was blown away by the improvement. Then the lhbs owner taught me to make starters from bottle conditioned beers (Coopers Sparkling Ale was a favorite). In 1988 Wyeast appeared and I had the experience shared by many old time homebrewers - "my starter was the best beer I've ever made"... Brewing was on and off for awhile in the 1990's due to moves and job situations, but mostly kept getting better. Now it's incredible; we can get the exact same ingredients the world's best brewers use, we have access to the same technical information they do, and often similar equipment, scaled down. Just wish I had the spare time to brew that I had 25 years ago.

    edit: the hop situation did suck until about 1994 or so. In the late '80s we mostly had Bullion, Cluster and Cascade with Fuggle occasionally available. I wish I could time travel and check out those beers I dry hopped with Bullion (or maybe not).
  16. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Aspirant (268) Jan 13, 2006 New Mexico

    "Drinkable" was pretty much a moving target for me the first 6 months, but with persistence and an iron gut I was able to brew decent beer on a regular basis pretty quick.
  17. DrewBeechum

    DrewBeechum Meyvn (1,236) Mar 15, 2003 California
    Supporter Subscriber

    That was my first homebrewing book! (I started in 1999) In fact our shop owner (Home Beer Wine Cheesemaking) still includes a copy of it in his beginner kits.
  18. marquis

    marquis Crusader (744) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    Munton's still manufacture extract kits , they are high quality and quite expensive.They are designed to replicate individual commercial brews . I've tried a few and found that they are close enough to identify which brew they emulate though of nothing like the finished quality.
  19. NiceFly

    NiceFly Aspirant (275) Dec 22, 2011 Tajikistan

    That statement says alot about the state of the art way back when.
  20. CASK1

    CASK1 Disciple (336) Jan 7, 2010 Florida

    I brewed my first batch in '91. It was a bulk extract kit with specialty grains (Nut Brown Ale). Selection and quality of ingredients are the biggest change I've seen in 20+ years. There is also a much wider appreciation for process improvements like yeast starters and aeration than back in the "good old days". I switched to all grain after about 25 batches, but I still have and use the glass carboy and 5 gallon stainless steel pot from that first batch.
  21. clearbrew

    clearbrew Initiate (0) Nov 3, 2009 Louisiana

    I started in '98, but I'm 32 now. So I hope I don't fit the "Old Timers" description yet!!!
  22. telejunkie

    telejunkie Disciple (320) Sep 14, 2007 Vermont

    Wow...i wonder even if Byron still uses it in his kits :slight_smile: It was definitely interesting learning about the history & hb/wine scene out in the bay area back in the day.
  23. Naugled

    Naugled Crusader (737) Sep 25, 2007 New York

    Good times rocdoc... I'm a little rusty on the exact dates, but it was the mid to late 80's when I started. Mainly because my dad started. We used to buy the cooper's malt cans with the yeast taped to the top in the local A&P, right of the shelf. We used one of those crocks like you see in the stooge video above. We mixed it up, I think we did a partial boil and cooled the wort by adding cold water to top off (not certain now), sprinkle the yeast in and cover the crock with cheese cloth to keep the bugs out. I don't remember how we bottled. I still have the old capper though. I think we siphoned to a new vessel, it wasn't a plastic bucket, probably just a stock pot, added sugar then siphoned to the bottles.

    I visited my first homebrew shop either in 88 or 89. Well stocked for those days, but skimpy for what's avail today. I think that's where I got my Joy of Homebrewing book.

    I brewed my first all grain out of spite. In my first job after college I had guy at work who kept needling me about extract brewing. This guy didn't even drink, but he kept telling me I'm making cool aid, because all I'm doing is adding the water to the extract, pitching yeast and waiting. He told me until I start with malt like the real brewers all I'm doing is making cool aid. I finally had enough of his BS and went out one night and got all of the ingredients for an all grain. I had no equipment. I cracked about 8 lbs of malt with a rolling pin (first and last time), threw together a mash tun out of an old cooler. I used foil to make a false bottom, it actually worked pretty good. And it was one of the better beers I made to that date. I never looked back. I started building equipment and brewing more.
    utahbeerdude and cavedave like this.
  24. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,352) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I think I'm now beginning to understand the ridiculously large mill you built. (At least I think that was you.)
    cavedave and telejunkie like this.
  25. Naugled

    Naugled Crusader (737) Sep 25, 2007 New York

    That is exactly what planted the seed for my own mill. The only mills available to homebrewers at the time were the corona mills, and for some reason I wanted a roller mill. The only books available at the time that described mills for brewing were text books for commercial brewing. Thus I sized my mill for an AB brewery... here are some pics from the book I used (go to pg 180), now in google books, which also did not exist at the time.,d.aWM
    cavedave likes this.
  26. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,352) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Yikes. I'm now worried about the fact that my mill doesn't have an 'explosion preventer.' :slight_smile:
    cavedave, Naugled and WickedSluggy like this.
  27. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (524) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    Exactly. The dry yeast available back then wasn't very clean. I used baker's yeast once instead of Munton's and didn't notice a lot of difference, and Red Star was worse than either. Today's Fermentis is probably cleaner than the first round or 2 of Wyeast back in '88, but it was a huge improvement at the time.
  28. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (311) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    does anyone remember the usenet group homebrew.rec?

    i began brewing about 1995. there were two Papazian books to reference and a group of nerds on the then new internet to discuss the latest experience or invention. something like scoring a cheap scale for weighing hops was note worthy. this guy named Blichman, that guy, was considered a genius. there were so many user invented solutions to a homebrewers problem that the term "homebrewed" was applied to all sorts of hobbies. personal computer pioneers built their own homebrewed pc's. homebrewed home theaters.

    homebrewing was alot about new experiences and self discovery. i kind of miss some of that magic. i miss it alot actually. but i wouldnt want to go back to the usenet flame wars!
    tronester and franklinn like this.
  29. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,112) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I have no knowledge of homebrew.rec.

    I also started hombrewing in 1995 and I would go to (Homebrew Digest)and read the Homebrew Digests that were stored there (you could sign up to have the Digests delivered daily via e-mail but I never signed up). There were a lot of good, smart people who participated in the Homebrew Digest. I learned a lot from reading those Digests!

    The HBD is still ‘alive’ and they have a beer forum there called Brews & Views. The smart folks still participate a bit but unfortunately the level of activity is low. I am guessing the issue is a lack of ‘young blood’ that provides activity for discussion?

  30. DrewBeechum

    DrewBeechum Meyvn (1,236) Mar 15, 2003 California
    Supporter Subscriber

    I totally agree that I don't have the time or patience for flame wars anymore, particularly of usenet strength. (That was one of the founding principles of the AHA Forum that I moderate - to make sure that doesn't happen)

    I think one of the great strengths of homebrewing as a hobby is that there's always some new avenue to explore, a new ingredient, a new idea. Now, the thing itself maybe really old, but to you its new. Oh and the specialization aspect - you've got to find what gives you the tickle. For some folks it's perfecting something - that perfect exemplar of a style that you spend 20 batches tweaking to get precisely right. Others are all about the gear and making their perfect brew lair with the uber automated stand. Others want to play and to be weird (guess where I fall) and still others just want a good excuse to make something real and have a drink with friends.

    And what makes it different from a lot of other hobbies, is that at the end when its time to share our fruits, everyone can appreciate the things you do, even if its not their cup of tea. IOW there's very little classism between brewers. Fairly few people (those mostly with pole in pigu syndrome) care if your beer was made with extract or grain, as long as it taste good.
  31. marquis

    marquis Crusader (744) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    Anybody here brewing in the days when it was recommended that the yeast was placed on a slice of toast before adding to the wort? I've had a sudden flashback of memory , my Dad called it a "Brewers' Float" and it was in many of the books :slight_smile:
  32. DrewBeechum

    DrewBeechum Meyvn (1,236) Mar 15, 2003 California
    Supporter Subscriber

    Hrm... wow.. I wonder what the effect was supposed to be? Did the toast actually go in beer? Could it have been a way to gradually introduce the yeast?

    Then again, it was that weird one side toasted British "toast" wasn't it! :slight_smile:
  33. yinzer

    yinzer Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    I remember it, but didn't hang around too much. I do miss though. That was a fun group.
  34. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,352) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    The 'rec' would actually have been the first part of the group name, as rec was one of the original big 8 Usenet hierarchies. I don't recall ever seeing a rec.homebrew, but there was (and still is I think) a rec.crafts.brewing.
  35. marquis

    marquis Crusader (744) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    Yes, you just floated it on top of the wort. Don't ask me why!
    Never come across one sided toast. Moebius bread?
    My toaster does both sides at once :slight_smile:
  36. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,305) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Had the earlier version just called Quality Brewing...

    [below] One of my favorite homebrewing books, written and published in pre-legalization days (and, unlike many of the UK and US homebrewing books to follow, it was even published and kept in print for many years by a major US publisher, Doubleday) was this one:


    © 1966 so it was already "obsolete" by the '70's (sort of "Prohibition" era info - cane sugar, ceramic crock, mentions the "yeast on toast floating on the wort" method mentioned above, etc) but it is a fun, entertaining book, and not the dry no-nonsense "manuals" that came later nor the hippie/goofy vibe of Papazian's early editions and his "Groucho glasses & mustache- Professor Surfeit" Zymurgy shtick. I always made sure it was on the shelf at the bookstores I worked in (back when any beer book was rare) and it looks like it's still available on used book sites like ABE and AdAll -tho' not for 95¢ anymore.

    (Of course, in '66, 95¢ would get you a two-pack of Ballantine XXX Ale quarts and if you returned the bottles, you'd get a nickel back on each one.)
  37. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,112) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “…hippie/goofy vibe of Papazian's early editions” Boy, you make it sound like that is a bad thing!?!


  38. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,286) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    Brewed for 3 years starting in '89. Got my stuff at the local Science and Hobby store. Made some pretty good extract and partial mash brews back then, me and Charlie P. my silent partner, enough so I had too much on hand all the time. Wife couldn't stand the smell, hated that I had so much beer around, pretty much hated everything about it. Told me she's leaving me if I don't stop. I did. For a long time.

    4 years ago I got donated equipment, enlisted my friend Paul, and we started brewing. Things are amazing for homebrewers today, the resources and supplies are stupid excellent.

    Oh, and the wife is still here, it was all talk no action.
    Naugled and MrOH like this.
  39. Gilmango

    Gilmango Aspirant (224) Jul 17, 2007 California

    My dad brewed before it was legalized in the States, in both the U.S. and esp. in Canada (he lived in Nova Scotia every summer), so I knew it could be done pretty easily. I started in 1981 as a freshman in high school when it got too cold to stand outside asking college students to please buy beer on our behalf. Hopped extract kits at first. All the old books over time. Taught many class mates in h.s. and college how to brew.
  40. BobCS

    BobCS Aspirant (200) Sep 15, 2006 New York
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I also started around 1990/91 - not sure exactly although I have all my old notebooks and could look it up. But I know I was brewing long enough by 93 that I had switched to all grain by then and was able to brew 7 kegs for my wedding. I tried the double-bucket mash tun, as well as an early BIAB but for many years used a Schmidling easy masher (which I still have), although I switched to a a false bottom cooler at some point. I still use a lot of the equipment I started on - carboys and kettle for example have stuck with me all these years (so has my wife). I had the Dave Miller books as well as Papazian, and learned the basics from local mentors. Back then reading HBD really brought things to a new level for me (as well as BJCP). Information is so much more available now. Heck, good beer is much more available now. Still a lot of fun though, and I have kept up a pretty steady rate over all that time.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  • About Us

    Founded in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.