Home Brewers,… I Need Your Help!

I had a proposition this weekend that made me start thinking whether or not I should begin to home brew.  First of all let me say that I had a pretty good weekend.  Saturday I started off the day by going to work, but then I came home and my wife and I took our son and his friend to a College of Idaho basketball game, then I went out to our local watering hole that night and had a great time.  I was fortunate enough that the owner had a case of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale that I could drink in this well drink and mega brewery beer bar.  So I was able to drink good beer and threw in a couple of Wild Turkeys for a kick.  Then Sunday we did a little shopping and I was able to cook a great dinner of Sweet and Sour Chicken stir fry, and capped the night by watching and learning a lot about Curling and having a Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout.  Very tasty and more on that later.   So all in all a great weekend.

Well where it got interesting was when I had a chance as the night was winding down on Saturday to sit and talk with the local bar owner.  I told him about this blog and the kind of beer I had been drinking lately.  That peaked his curiosity and I started describing all the unique stuff that is out there and where I bought it.  He then turned the conversation to home brewing.  He asked if I was doing any of that, and I told him I had not ventured down that road yet.  I said I might when the kids got a little older and maybe one or two of them move out, somehow thinking that if they would get out of the house that somehow magically enough space would open up to really make a go of home brewing.

Well then he made me an offer I am thinking I can’t refuse.  He said that when he lived in Alaska that he was really into home brewing, and that he still has all the equipment, but since he moved to Idaho and is working construction and owns the bar that he no longer has the time of inclination to home brew.  So he offered to let me use all his home brewing equipment!  He said I was welcome to it and that he might even help me get started with mentoring from what he had learned when he home brewed.  And from the sounds of it he made some pretty interesting brews!

So this is my question to all of you…Is it worth it?  Do you have to make a big investment, even if you have the stuff to start?  Can I make mind bending brews soon, or do I have to work up to it?  So many questions to answer…Help me out.  Give me your insights to the upsides and pitfalls.  Remember I’m the whiskey guy, so this is very definitely uncharted water for me!

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23 Comments on “Home Brewers,… I Need Your Help!”

  1. February 22, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Of course you have to do it. He’s handing you the tools and is ready to share his knowledge. If you have the space, then why not? You like to cook, why not brew?

    Start with a high-gravity stout or something else dark and hearty. Go for it!

    • Don
      February 22, 2010 at 11:48 am #

      We actually have a great home brew store here in Boise too, so I know I can get all the stuff. I’ll investigate further.

  2. Marvin
    February 22, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Well, depending on the equipment your buddy has you might not have much of an initial investment, which isn’t too high to begin with (about 200 bucks for a basic kit). I mean you can brew beer in plastic buckets if need be, not that high tech at all.

    The real investment comes when you fall in love with it and want to build a better system for yourself. It becomes a big project, a guy toy if you will. I love brewing so much I am working towards opening a brewery myself as there are few things in life that I do that I have this much fun with.

    Main investment is time. It takes time and patience to brew. Pick up the New Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian. It’ll give you a lot of insight to the process. The average brew day for my is about 5 hours and that includes clean up. Then the patience sets in, give it time to mature properly. Then a little more time for bottle or kegging followed by a little bit more patience. As long as you are meticulous with your cleaning and sanitizing you can make beer.

    Nothing more satisfying than drinking your own brew, the one you made with love. It’s a living breathing thing and over time you come to appreciate more and more what it takes to truly make a world class beer. Plus it’s cheaper than buying it in the store. 30ish dollars for 2 full cases of beer is not bad. And if it helps beer and whiskey start out under the same process, maybe you can turn to distilling once you get the mashing down.

    • February 22, 2010 at 11:51 am #

      Now I want to brew, too, Marvin!! I need to start aging a barrel, stat! Hmmm…Knob Creek or Elijah Craig…

    • Don
      February 22, 2010 at 11:54 am #

      That is really insightful Marvin. I will find that book because i am the type that just doesn’t jump in with both feet, but I kind of put my big to in first and then slowly wade into things. The book by Charlie Papazian sounds like a great starting point. All that patience might be a little rough too, but it is nothing compared to the patience needed for distilling! 🙂 Space might be an issue, but I think I will see if my bar owner friend might be willing to help out there as well. It is just him and his wife and he might have some place to store the bottles while we are putting all of this together.

  3. February 22, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    If he’s handing you the equipment and giving you some guidance then you should by all means jump in and get your feet wet. You can get a kit for maybe $30 and that will yield you a nice 5 gallons of beer… pretty cheap investment I’d say.

    It does get pricey when you get into it, especially when you are trying to brew you’re own imperial oak aged chocolate bourbon stout at home but brewing is a long journey so you should enjoy just making your own IPA or Hefe to start out.

    And, if you hate it, you really just spent $30 which is one less night at the bar, right?

    • Don
      February 22, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

      Good points Chris. The trouble is i really want to make my own high ABV barrel aged chocolate stout! So I’m wondering how long it takes to get to that point?

  4. February 22, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    Do it. Don, here is our series on how to home brew. I don’t know if he did extract or actual mashing. Our series is on the former and we’re writing one now and mashing, so there will be plenty of guidance in that respect. You have to do this. It won’t take that much money if you have the equipment that he gives you. If you can’t get a barrel for the aging, you can always buy wood chips, soak them in bourbon, and put them in. Let me ask you this, too. Who else is going to come along and get you some equipment to get going? http://thankheavenforbeer.com/category/how-to-brew-series/

    • Don
      February 22, 2010 at 5:30 pm #

      Great points Mike, and if I get stuck, I know a certain brew master I can call upon to get me unstuck! 🙂 I’ll look through your series as well. We have a good home brewing store in Boise that I haven’t been in (never had a reason to go) but Once I get a glimpse at the set up I will be inheriting I’ll stop in to see what else I might need, and decide how to get going. Thanks for your support!

  5. mikemoriendi
    February 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    Yeah you really should especially if he is giving you the equipment. You will get addicted. I have after only one brew.

    • Don
      February 22, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

      What did you brew Mike? I want to be able to brew just insane stuff, but I think I might be too ambitious for a beginner. I’m thinking a super hoppy IPA to start should be relatively simple. We’ll see. Perhaps an ale would be easier, but I just want to stay away from Lagers. They do very little for me.

      • mikemoriendi
        February 22, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

        I did an American Pale Ale. I’m just doing some basic extract kits at first to get my feet wet then will venture into the all grain brews. Also I don’t see myself doing lagers because of the need to keep it cooler than ales and I just don’t have that ability.

        • Don
          February 23, 2010 at 10:05 am #

          See I didn’t even know that about lagers. I have so much to learn!

  6. February 22, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    c’mon Don, join the party. Everyone’s doing it! 🙂

    Aside from the satifaction you get from brewing and drinking your own beer, you’ll going to have a whole new appreciation for beer.

    I strongly encourage everyone to brew beer!

    • Don
      February 23, 2010 at 10:04 am #

      I definitely feel like this is a one sided conversation were having here, perhaps everyone is doing it! I still need to go over to his place and see what he has by way of equipment, and if there are any other things I will need to get started. There is a good home brew store in Boise that I will go to once I know what I’ve got to work with and I can fill up any gaps in equipment and then get the supplies to get started. I don’t know if I will go the syrup route to start or actually try to create a mash. I think that is the most intimidating part of the whole thing. But, I’m expecting if you go the syrup route you just get a mild beer. I’m sure there will be more to come here.

  7. February 23, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    Ditto what Peter and the others have said – go for it.

    “I really want to make my own high ABV barrel aged chocolate stout!” <–I like the ambition! You will go far in this hobby my friend.

    • Don
      February 23, 2010 at 10:06 am #

      Do you Brew at home Billy? What have you been able to create? There seems like a lot to know, but I’m sure it will be interesting, and I hope fun.

      • March 9, 2010 at 10:30 am #

        This is why I can’t forget to subscribe to comments. So 3 weeks later…Yes I sure do homebrew. Most people classify themselves as “extract-brewers” or “all-grain” brewers, but I still do both. About 50/50. I enjoy making clone recipes and then tweaking them. I’m dry hopping a Pliny the Elder batch right now that came out at close to 400 IBU!

        I’ve been hearing a lot about Jim’s brewing experience but haven’t got an update on yours. Did you take the equipment? Don’t let him hog the spotlight! lol

        • Don
          March 9, 2010 at 10:46 am #

          Mine is on the S L O W track. I actually knew that if I said I was thinking about home brewing little Bro would jump in with both feet up to his eyeballs, and I was correct. He is so predictable. But turns out the guy I’m getting the equipment from has it buried in a storage unit that he has to dig it out of. Since he is essentially giving me the stuff, I don’t want to really push him too much with it. When it comes it comes. Another problem I have is that I really don’t have anywhere but the garage to brew, so temp flux could be an issue too. I’m content letting Jim make all the mistakes and learning from him. I’ll get into it, but just a little at a time.

  8. February 23, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    Don, I don’t see how you can’t. The two main barriers that seem to keep people from trying it are (I think) cost of equipment and knowledge. Seems to me both of those areas are taken care of in your case! I’m also looking forward to the names you come up with for your creations!

    • Don
      February 23, 2010 at 10:08 am #

      Space, Ambition, Confidence, all play into the decision more than just the equipment, but I think for me it is mostly confidence. Don’t get me wrong I will get into it, but I’m a little apprehensive about it today. I’m sure it is like anything you need to get one or two brews behind you and it will get easier and more fun.

  9. Katie Pizzuto
    February 23, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    No question, here Don….you’ve gotta do it. Having all the equipment is most of the long-term investment. Everything else is just ingredients. Have been a homebrewer for years, and it pays you back tenfold to be able to sit and boast about your own beer. Go forth and brew!!!

    • Don
      February 23, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

      I’m thinking I will Katie. Just nerves getting started. Even with all the “stuff” it is a little daunting to think about what I might be getting into to. I’ll probably start out with the EZ Bake version and see how it goes.

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