What's your story Brewadvocate?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by InVinoVeritas, Aug 12, 2018 at 1:51 PM.

  1. InVinoVeritas

    InVinoVeritas Devotee (403) Apr 16, 2012 Wisconsin

    So for some reason, I couldn't for the life of me remember what year I started brewing. My first equipment was purchased via Craigslist, so fortunately I could look up the date within email, which was 3/18/2013.

    My back story is two fold.

    Part one, I fell in love with craft trying Belhaven Wee Heavy at a now closed craft bar. At the time, 2001, The Brickskeller Washington DC, had about 1,000 different beers. I asked the bar where I could get Belhaven, Chevy Chase Liquor was their response. From there I started trying all sorts of new beers and keeping track of the one's I like, scoring 1 to 5 via Excel - engineer here.

    Part two, before I started home brewing, I was trading beers. My wife hated the wasted money of shipment. So I made the beer trade of a lifetime and trading stoping trades for blessing to start brewing.

    So what's your story Brewadvocate? Why, how, or when, did you start home brewing?
  2. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,715) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    In 1985, a college friend returned from a semester in the UK. He brought a stash of bottles with him back to campus: Guinness, Newcastle, Whitbread, and Sam Smith (Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Taddy Porter). Piqued my interest, as I only knew macrolagers. I have loved English beers ever since.

    Christmas 1986, my brother gave me an English ale homebrew kit. I believe it was a Coopers English Pale Ale, can and kilo kit. I didn't brew it right away. When I did, (summer of 87 or 88?) I made lousy beer. Old ingredients, no knowledge of sanitation. I'd brew about 1 extract batch a year for 2-3 more years and tried to convince myself it was good. It wasn't.

    In 1992 I took I grad course in microbial ecology. In one of the labs, we used fermentation of ales and lagers to study microbial systems. Yeast population growth and metabolism, and competition with bacteria. We made extract beers, still using cans of hopped extract. We took the beer on a weekend field trip, and to my surprise, it was good. One of my friends convinced me to show him how to brew, so in the spring of 1993, I made a batch of pale ale with another canned kit. It was subpar.

    I got married and started a PhD program and didn't brew again until 2005, and it was a direct consequence of finding this forum. I found BA because I started drinking a bottle of imported beer every night I traveled for my post-doc research. Chimay white was my first exposure to Belgian beer and I didn't know what to make of it. Googled for info on it and found Beeradvocate, lurked and found the homebrew forum, where people claimed to routinely be making beer as good as the pros. Made two miserable batches and was prepared to quit, but went all-grain instead, with temp control and aeration, and started to like what I was making. The key to success really was the knowledge and encouragement I found in this forum (and the book Homebrewing for Dummies -- surprisingly good introduction). Soon after I was listening to podcasts and reading most homebrew books I could find cover to cover, and working my way towards 10-15 batches a year.
  3. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,296) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Was already interesting in beer while working in a few different bookstore in the early 1970s, where single copies of books like Making Wine Beer & Merry, Brew it Yourself (Beadle) and US reprints of UK's Home Brewing Without Failures (Bravery) and other UK based books* were often stocked on bottom shelf of the "Food" section, along with the wine books. Soon, between employee discounts and used books stores, I had a little library going..

    (* See my post about the problem with UK book terminology for US homebrewers...)

    My favorite was a thin little 95¢ Dolphin Doubleday paperback entitled An Essay on Brewing, Vintage and Distillation Together with Selected Remedies for Hangover Melancholia OR How To Make Booze by John F. Adams. Maybe not the best brewing guide but an entertaining read.

    So, I knew, even in those pre-legal days it was possible and relatively easy to find equipment and the ingredients to make your own beer. (Heck, the Two Guys grocery section still sold Blue Ribbon Hop-Flavored Malt Syrup).

    1976 and I was living in Los Angeles and had a job driving for a distributor (tools, not beer :slight_frown:) and often stopped at antique and rummage shops looking for breweriana, liquor stores for beer, etc., that I passed making deliveries all over the greater LA metro area and one day came upon a homebrew supply shop (probably also sp;d wine-making equipment, common back then) somewhere down around El Segundo. "Hmmm... so you can buy all this stuff at a "one stop" shop..."

    Was back in NJ by Fall of '76, found the Wine Hobby store outside Princeton, bought the necessary equipment and ingredients and brewed my first batch using their recipe sheet, with bottling help a weeks later from my oldest friend and beer-drinkin' buddy (RIP).
  4. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (56) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    For those who are prone to TLDR, see synopsis in the last line

    For decades i was open to trying different beers, but price point was usually the determining factor until the early 2000's (Busch was my go-to). When the orangey-wits (Blue Moon, Shocktop, etc.) gained popularity, I thought I was hip in my circle of friends. My buddies, who were mostly in to Coors Light and similar, “just didn’t get it, and I did” :rolling_eyes:
    Still relatively uninitiated I was given a homebrew at a poker game and the guy said, “It’s an IPA”. I thought to myself, “hmmm....thought he was giving me a beer.”

    About six years ago a friend said, “Try this” and gave me a freshly poured glass of Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA. I was blown away by the floral aroma. That’s when it dawned on me that starkly different beers were in fact beer, and not just carbed yellow drinks with misc weird stuff added for what I wrote off as being nothing more than marketing ploys.
    It wasn’t so much because I liked the 90 minute (which I did), but more because it fostered an increasing interest in what I’d previously considered as odd-ball brews. Then I started noticing craft beer on the shelves, which fed my interest. Craft already had a presence but I hadn't noticed; kind of like getting red Ford Mustang and then realizing how many of them there are on the road.

    Shortly after the Dogfish revelation, someone close to me noticed my interest and gifted me a one-gallon kit. That kit sat around for at least 6 months to a year and turned out to be an epic fail, which I attributed to angst that I’d flub it, the instructions were frustratingly lacking for a first-timer, and (more recently determined) how long I let the kit sit before using it. The fact that I was responsible for messing it up, coupled with seeing so many folks say homebrew is (can be) as good or better than commercial brews, stuck in my craw.
    With help from a LHBS I picked up ingredients and equipment for a partial mash extract beer. That also sat around too long; long enough that the grain became infested with bugs. Went to another LHBS and asked for a simple recipe with minimal ingredients; he supplied an all extract Hefe.
    That one finished better than I either thought or hoped it would, and provided the oomph to begin skimming books and the net for tips on making better beer.

    Batches have increased from 1 per year to 3 per year to about 1 per quarter. I commute ~650 miles round-trip weekly, which makes logistics for brewing/packaging a challenge. Until retirement my cap will probably be 6-8 batches per year. That’s okay....it’ll provide enough to drink and enough and give away, and not so much that I won’t augment with commercial to see what’s shakin’ in the industry.

    Enter Beer Advocate; it's where I landed more frequently than other places when looking for tips about issues I might have.
    There’s a slew of unsung brew heroes in this forum. I’ve gleaned an amazing amount of info here from folks who might never know the ways in which they’ve made a positive impact on my process.

    One of the biggest rewards for me is pouring a homebrew for someone and after they taste it hear, “You made this? This is really good.”

    Looking forward to my first AG batch in the next few weeks!

    In a nutshell:
    Like beer – like more/different beer – make beer – make more/better/different beer – share the wealth
    #5 riptorn, Aug 12, 2018 at 6:29 PM
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018 at 6:35 PM
  5. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (101) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    I hated Sam Adams until i had their Oktoberfest from a keg. Went home and googled "How to make Beer". Northern Brewer came up first so i ordered a starter kit. They didn't have a Oktoberfest so i started with a Blonde Ale. No one in my family drinks so we think i got the bug from my great grandfather who made wine.
  6. Prep8611

    Prep8611 Aspirant (228) Aug 22, 2014 New Jersey

    My meth business got shutdown so I needed something else to make with all this equipment .

    I started cause a friend brewed twice a year and I was interested after getting into craft. He got more into it but I Brew about twice a month now and he’s like every other month. I started all grain and it was a rough learning curve and am still learning a lot after 4 years.
    Layerup, pweis909, Buck89 and 4 others like this.
  7. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (56) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    Literally cracked me up!.....sounds like LEO humor.
  8. skleice

    skleice Aspirant (240) Aug 6, 2015 Connecticut

    I was a big fan of craft brew for ~20 years (Damn, I sound old). I used to make pilgrimages to Hill Farmstead, Alchemist, Tree House, Trillium, Allagash, etc. Loved beers of almost any style and had no interest in brewing. Then it happened.....a little over a year ago I was diagnosed with Celiac's Disease (Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). The first thing I thought of was giving up beer. It killed me. I tried wine, cider, meads, hard liquor, etc. None were really working for me. The gluten free beer on the shelves is absolute dog shit (and most of it isn't truly gluten free). I thought it was over.

    After some research I found there were some gluten free breweries out there that were producing decent to good beer. Most of them didn't excite me much, but some gave me hope (Ghostfish is legit!). I also found the gluten free forum on HomeBrewTalk and learned that it is possible to brew GOOD or even GREAT gluten free beer. Big thanks to those guys!

    I started with 1 gallon extract batches just to see if I liked the process...which i did. However, the beers were not great. Sorghum syrup is pretty gross and has a real metallic, sour taste. I then did a couple of partial mash brews using GF grains from the supermarket. There was a noted improvement overall. Then around 9 months ago I went all grain on my stove top using malted gluten free grains purchased online. It finally tasted like beer! I made some pretty good IPA's to start and a nice hoppy amber as well. However, my efficiency was shit. In march I upgraded to a grainfather. This was crucial because gluten free brewing requires long step mashes (and added enzymes) to get proper conversion. The grainfather allows me to hold these temps with ease. It's not a perfect unit, but it works pretty well for my needs.

    Anyway, now I'm really in love with brewing. I'm constantly reading and delving deeper into the process. It's tough because it's really uncharted territory, so I can't just find the info by googling it. In the beginning I brewed very similar beers and just changed 1 or 2 things to see the result. So much experimentation. Also, if I didn't have guidance from the guys on HBT I would be lost. Many of them have done extensive experiments to get where we are now. And now I'm just another brewer trying to push us all forward. I am making some tasty brews and I'm very happy with most of them. People at parties are even asking to drink them and say they'd have no idea they are gluten free. I'm actually getting requests to rebrew some beers and share (to non GF drinkers). Thinks are looking up!

    On the downside - GF grains are ~5x the cost of normal grains. BOOOOOOO! But we all know we're not saving money anyway....Cheers
  9. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (743) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

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  10. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (356) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    My story?????? to long and sorted to tell, unlike the Prep, lol.

    Got home brewing about 6 or so years ago, learned from others and books, then heard about beer advocate. Most said it was a bunch of opinonated assholes who probabaly did not know a thing about beer. So , of course, I had to log in. after several years here I think the assholes are the other guys who were talking about this site. its been great fun, helpful and super informative.
    Best story is reading all the other brewers wins , loses and opinions. Its just a super site.
    Buck89, Prep8611, riptorn and 3 others like this.
  11. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (186) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    I agree, the assholes here on BA forums generally seem smarter than the gentler newbs on many other forums.

    Buck89, Prep8611, skleice and 2 others like this.
  12. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (743) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    So . . . this might get a little circuitous, so bear with me while I provide a little background.

    Went to grad. school before I turned 21. Most of my experience with beer up until that point was BMC. Started drinking with a couple fellas once I turned 21 and many times we'd head out to Old Chicago, which had Samuel Smith's in bottles. The Oatmeal Stout was a revelation. Started drinking more and more craft beer throughout school with frequent trips to local brewpubs and better bars, like The Fox and The Hound (this was Iowa in the mid/late-90s, so cut me some slack) and continued doing so when I moved to Atlanta after school. Atlanta in the late 90s, early 2000s wasn't exactly a beer wonderland, but it wasn't a complete beer wasteland either, so I did the same thing that I did in school. Tried to drink the best beer available.

    Fast forward to 2002 and I'm planning a cross country trip from Pittsburgh to LA to move my brother and I used BA to help me find places to go to find craft beer in St. Louis, Denver, Las Vegas, and LA. I've been using BA as a resource ever since.

    Moved to Denver later that year and that's where my involvement in BA, and eventually homebrewing, took off. Met a couple guys through BA and they encouraged me to start the hobby. I loved drinking all types of craft beer by this point, but the thought of brewing it just conjured thoughts of making a mess and having to clean it up. How right I was!

    Christmas of 2004, I received a homebrewing kit and off to the races I went. Started with extract and kits but shortly made the transition to my own extract recipes and, eventually, to partial mashed recipes. Not long after that I was brewing all-grain and doing some out of the box stuff, like using apple cider as strike water and putting black beans in my mash.

    Tried a lot of "weird" stuff, a la DFH, until I found my stride with braggots. Sour and funky beer followed not long afterwards.

    Really took the dive about 7 or 8 years ago as far as sour beer brewing went and my eventual involvement with Milk the Funk only served to stoke the fire.

    About 3 years ago I started brewing a lot less. Twice a month turned into once a month which soon turned into every other month then once a quarter. Just kinda lost the inspiration to brew anything other than the hoppy beers that were my everyday drinkers.

    Enter BA about a year ago and with the help of you all I've gotten back the interest in brewing and have found a new voice from a creative and educational standpoint. You lot have really helped me a ton, both with inspiration and learning things that I didn't know before, and I'm very thankful to you for it.

    Cheers to BA!
    Buck89, Prep8611, jbakajust1 and 4 others like this.
  13. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (743) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    I'll take that as a complement. :wink:
  14. skleice

    skleice Aspirant (240) Aug 6, 2015 Connecticut

    I don't want to derail the thread, but clarity ferm is not safe for Celiac's. Many people drink these 'gluten reduced' beers and feel no physical side effects. However, their blood work and endoscopy show major damage to their small bowel. No bueno.

    *Steps down off soap box*
    Maestro0708 and Buck89 like this.
  15. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (743) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    No derailment. I think it's a very appropriate discussion. The take away, however, is that just because a person exhibits "gluten sensitivity" does not mean they have "Celiac Disease/Sprue".
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  16. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (743) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

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  17. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (56) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    Great thread....hopefully more will share. It's good to read about the paths folks took to start brewing and what keeps them in (or brings them back). Overcoming challenges associated when brewing (and we all have them) fosters a greater appreciation for the hobby.
    When does this transition from hobby to obsession (as in, "Man, that guys got a problem")? It's something I need to guard against, especially when moving in non-brewing circles. Most folks I talk with FTF don't brew and know much less than I do. Even with my limited knowledge it's easy for me to get overly exuberant, and I need to watch for glazing of their eyes.

    I didn't give a wit for dark robust beers until I had Smith's Oatmeal Stout with a wonderfully cooked medium-rare ribeye.
    Maestro0708, Buck89, Prep8611 and 3 others like this.
  18. Naugled

    Naugled Zealot (586) Sep 25, 2007 New York

    This is great, it's nice to see the ages of some of you guys.

    I was only a kid back in the seventies, but I remember when homebrewing was legalized and the local grocery stores started carrying cans of pre-hopped malt with a packet of yeast taped to the top. They were right on the shelves in the canned goods section. A got a couple of friends together to pitch in and buy some. (the grocery store would sell malt to minors). We were like moonshiners, we had to find hidden places to mix and ferment. Boiling was not always required. A neighborhood church attic that we gained access to became our fermentation room of choice. The beer did not ever come out tasting as good as the Rheingolds I was sneaking out of dad's beer fridge, but it was a start. Been brewing on and off since then, mostly on for the last 3 decades.

    The advent of the internet and forums like this greatly improved my brewing skills. Books and a home brew shop were a good source before that, but they were limited.
  19. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (1,238) Aug 25, 2009 Oregon

    I grew up in a home where alcohol was a no-no, and drinking was going to send me to hell. In my teens I was into hard alcohol, and never really got into beer.

    After going back to drinking sends you to hell beliefs for 5 years I had a come to Jesus moment that changed my outlook on faith and alcohol consumption. Had my first real beer in my life at a Chili's, they had Widmer's Snow Plow Milk Stout on draft and I got the 20oz pour (after not drinking a drop for 5 years that beer knocked me back). Continued to explore craft beer at a local Rogue satellite pub in town. I found BA and started reading through the threads. Moved onto DFH Midas Touch, forced myself to drink PtE because everyone on BA said it was the best beer in the world. This went on for 2 years.

    A friend of mine that I was on staff with at out church said we should brew a beer together. I kept trying to make it happen, and he kept not having time. My wife finally got tired of me talking about how I wanted to brew a beer but Matt keeps blowing my off. On my birthday that year (late November) she bought me a starter kit from the LHBS (sani, 6.5 gallon bucket, bottling bucket, capper, siphon, airlock, tubing, etc). My Mother-In-Law bought me an extract kit to make Snow Plow at home (yes my first beer was also my first brew). I made the Snow Plow and let it ferment away. Having jumped into the HB forum here I had learned that I could reuse the yeast. I also had a partial package of hops from the first beer. So I bought the kit again, made it a 3.5 gallon batch with brown sugar added in the fermenter, and pitched it onto the cake. After that fermented I put it into 1 gallon jars to age, some on oak and bourbon. Then batch 3 was a partial mash Tripel I wrote the recipe for with help from this forum. All grain black IPA kit for batch 4, AG ESB recipe I wrote and flew by this forum again #5. 6th batch was a double mash with 2 boils, Bavarian Hefe (on yeast I had cultured from bottles of Kellerwiesse) and a Pineapple Wheat IPA with Falconer's Flight (also sour mashed the leftover grains and made a putrid "berlinerweisse")

    8 years later I am still on BA, still brewing away at least once a month, do mostly IPAs, sours, Saisons, and a handful of other styles like the same Hefe, bourbon Imperial Stouts, big Belgians (all the beers I started with). Only style I have ever failed to make well is Wee Heavy. Have medaled in quite a few comps, and took Best of Show with my first truly wild ferment. Wrote a business plan and started the process towards opening a brewery but put that on the back burner to focus on my family and my son.

    It's been a blast to learn from some of the best homebrewers on here (sad some are gone from BA now, HB42). You have helped me build recipes when I wasn't confident. You talked me into using Belgian Saison for which I am forever grateful. You walked me through huge issues in my efficiency and a wide spread infection over numerous batches. You have given me a wealth of knowledge. It is quite humbling to have so many of the newer brewers asking me a lot of the same questions I used to ask you all. I never thought I would become one of the first 2 Homebrew Forum mods for BA. I never considered that I would have an article published in Brew Your Own magazine.

    Thanks guys, and gals, and bearded gals/guys (still not sure if that was a dude or a chick). Special shout out to @PortLargo for all the crap about the angle of my photos and the "emulation" with glasses strapped to boards at odd angles.
    #20 jbakajust1, Aug 13, 2018 at 9:04 PM
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2018 at 10:01 PM
  20. Buck89

    Buck89 Poo-Bah (2,158) Feb 7, 2015 Tennessee
    Premium Trader

    I grew up in SoCal but left in the early 90s, just as the craft wave hit. Anchor Steam, Pete's Wicked, and SN Pale Ale were my favorite craft beers back then, but I was less interested in the taste than simply partying. Spending the next several years in Baltimore, central VA, and then Nashville kept me largely away from great beer scenes, although I certainly enjoyed Flying Dog and a few others. I became mainly a Bourbon and wine drinker, enjoying a rare craft beer but not thinking too much about it.

    In late 2014, I gave my good friend a relatively cheap homebrew kit as a birthday gift and it really piqued my interest. Surprising to me, he never showed any interest in brewing. However, I started looking into (obsessing about?) homebrewing and found BA. I lurked for a few weeks, watched a few YouTube videos, and pulled the trigger on a 5 gal starter kit from a LHBS in January 2015. Brilliantly, the starter kit included Palmer's How to Brew, which I read before my first batch. Doing "market research," I discovered all the great craft that I had missed, and I started ticking/reviewing on BA. I became totally hooked on all things beer and brewed nearly 20 beers in 2015, switching from extract to BIAB after 5 brews. By the end of the year, I had built a keezer and started kegging. 6 months later, I was out of the kitchen using a turkey fryer in the driveway. After 40+ brews in 3 years, we moved across town into a renovated house. There just happened to be a small space in the basement that wasn't being used, and I managed to put in a vent hood and a 240V outlet for electric brewing. My new system is a 1 vessel eBIAB, and after 3 brews I'm very happy with it. After a 5-month hiatus, I've got 2 beers in the keezer and a Belgian dubbel in the fermenter.

    And finally thanks to everyone at the BA homebrewing site. I check this site nearly every day and I'm grateful for all the advice and support here. Cheers!
  21. Jesse14

    Jesse14 Initiate (178) Jul 21, 2011 Massachusetts

    Got into Microbrews back in 1993 and 1994 when I went to some big beer festivals in Boston. Tried a lot of different beers and styles and fell in love.

    Fast forward to 2009 when I went to a beer festival at My. Snow in VT and tried DFH 60. I was blown away. I bought some after and shared it with friends. One in particular just had a girl the same age as mine. He said he used to homebrew and wanted to start again.

    We went to his house for a day with just us and the 2 girls. The kids played while we brewed. It became our version of a play date for a couple of years. I've been brewing since. It will be a lifelong hobby for sure. Love the experimentation and creative outlet.
  22. invertalon

    invertalon Devotee (400) Jan 27, 2009 Ohio

    Started before I was 21, of course… I was with my girlfriend at Sea World Orlando sometime around 2007-2008, back when Anheuser Busch still owned the properties. They used to have free beer at two stations in the park, with a decent selection of options available for tasting, which was if I recall probably 10-12oz pour. Since my girlfriend was of age, she would go and grab samples for me, and in that Florida heat, enjoyed those beers immensely. Literally went back and forth between those two “hospitality centers” and drank probably 5-6 beers that day. That was probably the start of it all, honestly. Those were probably my very first beers, aside from tasting thing here and there. I wasn’t really a rebel when I was under 21 sneaking stuff, so rocking it at Sea World was my thing. Ha!

    As time goes on and I become of age, I really enjoyed trying out what Dogfish was putting out. They were my go-to in the “craft” segment. As time went on, I would start picking up different beers here and there at the grocery store and have maybe 1-2 a week on weekends. This went on for a while (few years) until we start going to a few different breweries here and there. I start reading more into brewing beers loosely on this site if I recall. Then going to different breweries and touring the facilities, I soaked up that process like a sponge. It was at Southern Tier the second time we have been, on their tour, that I looked at my girlfriend while on the tour and told her “I got this, I’m going to start brewing!”.

    After that weekend trip, I spent a week reading “How to Brew” over and over, among many other resources. I’m one that when I get into something, I go all-in. I spend the time researching hop flavors and profiles, grains, recipe building, water, etc… I started all-grain from the very beginning, brewing my first beer, “Ruff Ale”. Which ended up being a hoppy amber which turned out really good, actually. 100% my own recipe, I take pride in that I have never have cloned or copied anybody else’s beer, to this day. Inspired by some, sure, but never identical and always tweak to fit my own tastes. That Ruff Ale was heavier on caramel and Munich malt, hopped with cascade and chinook, perhaps some Citra if I can remember. I would like to re-brew that one day soon to be honest.

    From there, I brewed a Hefeweizen next and I think a DIPA was my third… The rest is history. I quickly got into controlled fermentation temps, more complex water treatments, buying my own malt mill, switching from bottles to kegs, yeast growing/harvesting, etc.... Now here I am!
    jbakajust1 likes this.