"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" -- Benjamin Franklin
Over the past few years, micro-breweries and speciality breweries have boomed across the country. Gone are the days of there being just a few national beer companies selling watered down horse-urine. (My apologies to those of you who do like this stuff...) I admit like different types/brands/etc of beer. Stouts/Ales/Lagers/Pilsners, I love most of them! Spicy/Fruity/Nutty, yuppers! It always seemed that I frustrated the servers when I would go out drinking because I never got the same thing twice. This of course lead me to the idea of making my own beer. Why not? If I make something that is disgusting, well, its my own fault (and it works GREAT in composters), but at the same time, if I make something amazing, then I can feel extremely proud of it.
How to homebrew... there are many books and online references available that will teach you the mechanics of brewing your own beer (I list a few at the end). But I know a lot of people that will ask, "Why should I make my own when there are so many types available for me?" Well, let me attempt to answer that for you. Making beer at home gives you a number of benefits that you can not get through buying beer at the store.
1) You can control the ingredients. You know everything that is going into that and you can make sure that there are no chemicals or preservatives in your brew. There are an extraordinary number of health benefits from beer, just look it up!
2) You can get recipes for "common" beers online and then tweek them to make them suit yourself, or you can make up your own recipes. This gives the brewer the control to make exactly what they want and what they like.
3) You can grow all of the ingredients yourself. If things ever get too bad, you could still have your own homemade beer grown from ingredients that you have grown yourself. Also, those grains you would use? You could eat them if things got too tight!
4) If you stop halfway through the process, you could take what you made and make liquor out of it. (LEGAL NOTE: I make no claims about the legality of this. Verify the legality at your location before attempting. This is not legal in the USA.) The coooked wort (pronounced wert) is the end result of cooking the grains, sugars, etc. This is what would be distilled to make whiskey and whisky (yes, they are different). I can, and probably will, discuss this process in further detail in another post.
Now that you know Why, you need to know the basics of How. Beginning to homebrew does not have to be expensive. Homebrew supply stores, sell kits with everything you nee (except bottles). Bottles can be gotten from beer distributers (ask them if they have any returns that people returned for the deposit (this practice is unfortuntely diminishing, but it doesn't hurt to ask)), ask friends to keep non-twist bottles for you, etc. The equipment itself can be expensive, but if you go with the kit, it doesn't have to be that much (you can get by for less than 100 from many homebrew stores for a beginners kit). You can go all the way up to super-expensive for an all grain, complicated setup. It all depends on where you are comfortable starting.
I highly recommend "The Complete Joy of Home Brewing" by Charlie Papazian, and his followup "The Homebrewer's Companion". These books contain pretty much any and all information you would need to learn to home brew as well as a really large and diverse list of recipes.
Also check out:
http://www.beertown.org --- the American Homebrewers Association
These are just a few sites to check out, but there are many many more out there. Also, look around, many cities have homebrewing groups and organizations where you can get to know people that are currently doing it and their setups, feelings, likes/dislikes, etc.
I hope you find this informative. Tomorrow? Homebrew: CIDER!