For the past few years homebrewing has grown in popularity. What I have noticed since I started the hobby in 1998 is the pattern repeats during a down economy. Once upon a time you could make beer for pennies a pint and now the price of ingredients has grown to the point that is no longer true. Of course the price of commercial craft beer has increased as well so you still can brew at home for less than pints and six packs. One of the biggest differences is the equipment costs have skyrocketed. I remember getting used 5 gallon kegs for $10 each and now if you find one for $25 or at all you are doing well.
So what is actually drawing people to homebrewing is a bit of a mystery to me. The information one can now find on the internet is so much better than when I started brewing. It was not that many years prior to my start that availability of ingredients for homebrewers was sparse. The AHA book on Oktoberfest published in 1991 and didn’t have any Vienna or Munich malt listed in the recipes since you couldn’t get them as a homebrewer. Heck, the US has exploded with beer. In 1985 there were only 26 listed breweries in the United States. Not even one per state. Now in North Carolina alone we have over 75 and if things continue I expect us to top 100 by 2015.
So if you are reading this and thinking about homebrewing give it a try. Not much is needed to get started with extract, a pot big enough to boil, a way to cool the volume of wort and a container to ferment the beer. The biggest improvement you will make is fermentation temperature and keeping an ale from getting too warm. A yeast starter is key to starting fermentation off with a bang. From there boiling all the wort down to the proper volume is next IMO. Fresh ingredients are another boost to quality. From day one cleaning and sanitation is 100% important. I started not knowing much and today could probably make beer with a cooler off the side of the road and a flip flop. I don’t brew much anymore since I don’t have much time, but it is a great hobby. I’ll try to post more homebrewing topics this year so stay tuned.