My brother-in-law, Jay, is a homebrewing fanatic. He produces some really excellent beer, and a wide variety of it. His website, kruskis.com, is a continual source of mouth-wateringly delicious-sounding reviews of beer and bourbon, tips for the at-home brewmeister, his adventures in smoking and BBQ, and little vignettes of the world he shares with his wife, Stacey (who takes most of the photos on the site.)
Without further ado, here’s my bro-in-law!
How I became a Homebrewer
Hello Homestead Geek-ers, and thank you Erin for having me as a guest author. To be honest I am not much of a homesteader but I am an avid homebrewer. By trade, I am an Acoustic Engineer, focused on developing premium audio systems for cars. By passion, I am a food-loving beer-geek who loves learning and is always willing to give something new a shot. I am here today to tell you a little story of how I got my start into the rewarding hobby of homebrewing.
Now I can admit I did brew a few batches of beer years before I actually considered myself a homebrewer. Back in the 2001 timeframe, along with some college buddies, I got my first taste of brewing at a local brewery that offered a brew-on-premise option. B.O.P. is a service that you allows you to pay to brew your own beer using a home brew store or small brewery’s equipment, recipes, and know-how.
The brew-on-premise process typically consists of two separate events. The first day, you will select the style of beer you wish to brew, and then begin the actual brewing session. Weeks later you will return to package your sweet nectar up into bottles (with your personalized custom artwork,) and take them home for consumption. To be honest, at this point I did not really pay great attention to details, or remember much about how or why we did things during the brew session. I was just having fun with my friends, tossing in hops, smelling and stirring the sweet wort in the brew kettle, and slugging down mugs of tasty beers from my local brewery.
In the end I made three different batches using this system with my friends. I strongly recommend folks to try brewing-on-premise to test the waters of brewing your own beer. This will allow you to see if you enjoy the process before making any significant investment in equipment for your home.
Now let’s fast-forward a few years to Christmas break of 2007, when I received a phone call from my good friend Billy T. Vego. He was in North Dakota visiting his wife’s grandparents, and they had just given him a gift card to the local homebrew supply store. I immediately thought that this was one cool gift. If my one of my best friends was going start brewing his own beer in his kitchen, I needed to begin my adventures in homebrewing at the same time as well.
I immediately started obsessively reading and researching the art of brewing. My research began with a Google search that resulted in the URL for www.howtobrew.com. This website basically is a first-edition, digitized copy of John Palmer’s book How To Brew, and the site allows you to read the entire book for free.
Reading this book should be every prospective brewer’s first step.
I also registered for an account on homebrewtalk.com, one of the largest homebrew forums on the web. I read thread after thread after thread into the wee hours of the night. I was able to find answers to almost every question I had by simply using the search function.
I had to force myself to unplug and go to sleep at night. When I was laying in bed at night it was hard to stop thinking about what I had just read. When I woke up from my slumber I began reading again. It’s hard to express the feeling I had; I was learning something I actually cared about. This may be the first time I had a strong passion for something that I had willingly chosen. Learning about brewing was the best!
When it came time for me to actually pull the trigger and buy my own equipment, I did what every ridiculous engineer would do, and I made a spreadsheet. I was trying to find out which major online homebrew supply website was going to give me the best deal. It was a frustrating challenge as each site had one thing cheaper but was more expensive on the others. In the end there was no clear winner but my two favorites are northernbrewer.com and homebrewing.org. I personally buy all of my ingredients from the local homebrew store and am fortunate that my local homebrew store also is one of my two favorite online stores.
Within a few weeks of gathering all the equipment I desired, I had brewed three batches. My first batch was a clone recipe of Newcastle (an English brown ale.) I immediately followed this up with a clone recipe for New Belgium Fat Tire (a malty, bready amber ale.) I had one fermentor that remained empty and decided to make a batch of Apfelwein. This traditional German beverage is super good and simple to make. Now my pipeline of carboys were full and happily bubbling away. I was weeks away from approximately one-hundred and fifty bottles of hand-crafted, homemade libations.
I was hooked, Kruski’s was born, and I was now proud to officially call myself a homebrewer.