Monday, October 24, 2011

Brewing in my spare time

Hello general appreciators of malted beverages!

It has been a while since I have actually posted anything besides the podcast (thanks to all of you for listening). I decided that I would talk about homebrewing. I am a homebrewer, have been for a while. I got my first kit in college when I was 19. I realize the age doesn't actually mesh with federal drinking laws, but interestingly enough, anyone can go into a homebrew store and buy all the ingredients necessary to make beer, wine or cider; a fact I learned in college.
My first kit was actually bought by me, but I got help from my mom preparing my first batch. For those of you who know my mother, sweet woman as she is, you are probably falling over in your seats with raucous laughter. I don't think she was a proponent of underage drinking; I think she was just glad I found a hobby that we could all enjoy.  I brewed throughout college and had many successful batches as well as many horrible, horrible disasters. I have had beer that has tasted like it was fresh from a brewery and others that tasted as though they were just freshly squeezed from the armpit of a professional wrestler.
Starting to homebrew can be a daunting task if you don't go about it the right way. My philosophy was, at the beginning, similar to the phrase, "It's better to have a friend that owns a boat..." I just borrowed friend's equipment for the first few batches as I pieced together equipment a little at a time, as many people do. At first, many of the batches I made didn't really appeal to many people... mainly anyone. To say I was bad when I started would be a gross understatement. After college was when much of my brewing was put on hold. If my wife had her way, I would have probably thrown out my equipment. Luckily for many of you who have either brewed with me or tasted my beer, I did not. Since starting up brewing again in 2009, I have brewed several batches hand have had much success. According to my family, that is.
I never could decide on a style of beer that I liked the best. The only style that I have done twice, though, was a Belgian triple. I have always been drawn to Belgian beers for their full bodied character and their propensity for having high alcohol content. The first time I brewed the beer I followed a recipe that I got from a local homebrew store here in Indianapolis called Great Fermentations. As homebrew stores go, this one is probably the best I have been to.
Right now there is a trend in Indianapolis. Breweries have popped up around the city over the last couple years, with more to come. This resurgence of breweries has led to an increase in interest in homebrewing. This is by no means limited to Indianapolis. Across the country, according to a random site I found on the internet (possibly unreliable), as many as nine million six-packs were made by homebrewers across the US. There are now more than 750 homebrew clubs in this country as well. I belong to a group called the FBI, or Foam Blowers of Indiana. They are a local homebrew club here in Indy.
There are many advantages to brewing your own beer. Not the least of which is cost. Although the initial cost of homebrewing can be steep, if the brewer stays with the hobby they can save themselves a fortune in beer cost. The average micro-brew six pack costs around $8-9. The average homebrewed six pack costs around $3 dollars. If one sticks with the hobby long enough, the equipment will more than pay for itself. The average cost to start homebrewing can range anywhere from $200-400 depending the equipment you decide to purchase.
My advice would be to start cheap. I would not suggest going out and buying a 20 gallon stainless steel fermentor and a Blichmann Boilermaker. That kind of equipment could run you around $1000. I started with a $60 turkey fryer, propane burner, and a glass carboy. The same one I still use today. One thing I would suggest NOT skipping on is your fermentor, don't buy a plastic fermentor. I have had an overall bad experience with them. I realize some companies have made strides in plastic carboys to prevent this, but I still get off flavors when use them. I recommend glass carboys to start off with. They are easy to clean, and you can buy handles for them so they are easy to carry. Oh yeah, and buy the 6.5 gallon ones, otherwise you just might end up with hops and yeast all over the ceiling of your basement closet.



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