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Is Brewing Beer From Home Right for You?

Hoppier days are right around the corner!

Tracy Block Staff Reporter
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I think homebrewers can absolutely match – or exceed – the quality of some commercially produced beers.
- Jesse Robles, brewmaster at American Icon Brewery


So, you’re still sheltering in place without the ability to grab a cold one at your local watering hole and your favorite microbrewery has slowed down production. What’s a thirsty beer enthusiast to do? Well, you could always brew your own beer – right from the comfort of home. According to the American Homebrewers Association:

• There are an estimated 1.1 million homebrewers in the US.

• The average homebrewer is 42 years old; 52% are between ages 30 and 49.

• A total of 31% of homebrewers reside in the southern US.

• Nearly all homebrewers (94%) shop in 1 to 2 local homebrew stores 8 times per year.

Still on the fence about putting in the work? We spoke with a professional brewer and a seasoned home brewer to help you decide whether to hop on board. (See what we did there?)

Get a Good Beer Kit

Now brewmaster at Florida-based American Icon Brewery, Jesse Robles says he doesn’t know where he would be if he hadn’t found homebrewing as a young adult. “I truly believe brewing saved my life!” he exclaims. “Having a unique way to express myself was just the beginning. The more I did it, the better I wanted to get at it – for my own satisfaction.” Furthermore, Robles recommends the practice, whether an at-home hobby or a possible career path.

To get started, Robles says all you really need is a good beer kit. “Most basic homebrew kits come with everything you need for an introductory take at brewing: malt extract, hops, yeast, and a bucket for fermentation,” he shares. “You will just need a boiling pot, some water, and a serving vessel – like bottles, cans, or kegs.”

Pro Tip: Robles says more advanced, all-grain setups include isolated mash/lauter vessels to extract sugar from the malt, as well as wort chillers to cool the wort as fast as possible before fermentation.

Home Beer Brewing Starter Tips

If you decide to get your feet wet with homebrew experimentation, there’s plenty of ways to customize your experience and your end product. Robles makes the following recommendations:

• Go all-grain. Malt extract is a fine way to get started, but you will not develop your own unique flavors until you start to mash your own grains.

• Use liquid yeast. And, use more than one pack, or make a starter. Dry yeast is popular because of its storability and ease of use, but it can be very inconsistent and often produce flavors that aren’t accounted for in most recipes.

• Avoid oxygen pickup. It’s important to remove incidents of splashing from all points of the process. This is the No. 1 enemy of beer and should only happen just before fermentation – when adding yeast.

• Don’t beat yourself up. Brewing can be a taxing endeavor when you start to take it seriously. Try to keep things simple, educate yourself, and focus on one thing at a time. Good things are sure to follow!

The Benefits of Homebrewing Beer

Michael Rivera is a New Jersey CPA by day and a veteran homebrewer by night. In the past 6 years, Rivera has graduated from small-kit brewing to a 5-gallon scale, and from extract brewing to all-grain. “I have experimented with many things,” shares Rivera. “Some have worked, some have not.” Rivera’s newest goal is to progress to 10-gallon yields, which doubles his current product. (He even has the equipment on hand already.)

For Rivera, who sometimes brews alone, he got into home brewing to spend more time with his friends. “It is highly recommended to brew beer while drinking beer with friends and family,” he says. Additionally, it’s all about setting goals and learning from your mistakes. “Keep a log,” Rivera suggests. “It is not the end result, but the process which is most important. Perfecting the process will improve your end product.”

This summer, Rivera is experimenting with 3 varietals: Hefeweizen, Double IPA, and Oktoberfest. And if his experiments don’t match his expectations, he has a Plan B in place. “Almost all mistakes are drinkable,” he shares.

Homebrewers vs. Commercial Breweries

“I think homebrewers can absolutely match – or exceed – the quality of some commercially produced beers,” offers Robles. “When it comes down to it, it’s all about the quality of your ingredients and the science – and that can be replicated on any scale. Having an efficiently engineered brewhouse of stainless steel certainly has its perks, but it’s only a medium to perform basic tasks.”

And, with the rise in popularity of the homebrewing industry, micro versions of commercial equipment are available for nearly every application. “Educate yourself and focus on proper techniques at every point in the process,” encourages Robles. “There is a ton of information out there on brewing practices.” To illustrate, Robles says beer filtration is probably the hardest process to replicate on a homebrew scale, but this is not necessarily the goal of the typical homebrewer - to produce a world-class beer.

Alternatives to Brewing Beer From Home

If you decide that brewing beer from home is not right for you, there are other experiments to try. “Wine or cider-making can be much simpler than beer-making,” says Robles. “Also, kombucha can be a fun experiment.” If those don’t work out so much, Robles suggests trying your hand at baking. “The similarities between brewing and baking are numerous, and it’s a more approachable way to get creative with your taste buds.” 


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