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Homebrewing, anyone?

Posted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:39 pm
by GA Russell
In the mid-90s I was a homebrewer. In fact, I twice won awards, both in '93 as I recall. My India Pale Ale won first place (a blue ribbon) in the Georgia state competition, and my Irish Stout won third place (a red ribbon) in the Southeast Regionals competition.

At that time I lived 20 miles outside Atlanta. Using a countertop water filter, my water was quite good. In '95 I moved another 20 miles further out, and the water wasn't as good for my beers. The beers were still OK, but the thrill was gone. Eventually I gave away my equipment.

Recently I have given serious thought to going back to homebrewing. I suspect that homebrewers and traditional wetshavers have similar personality types, so I thought this group might be interested.

And talk about a stroke of good fortune, this week LivingSocial is having a half-price sale on equipment. $64 gets you $126 worth of equipment including two cases of beer.

In addition to that offer, I expect that you would need to purchase a pot and lid for $60, a book for $10, two cases of beer bottles for $24 total, and another $35 or so for items such as a glass carboy and a large funnel if you want to go first class. In addition to all that, I recommend that you spend $100 on a countertop water filter.

Here is the link for the LivingSocial deal. I think that it is good for Canada as well as the US, but I'm not sure. If so, the US shipping would be $14 and the shipping to Canada would I'm confident be more. ... =102964310

As with all LivingSocial deals, when three referrals make a purchase, the original customer gets his purchase free. If you decide to go for the deal, you are welcome to post your own link on this thread.

The LivingSocial deal expires in six days.


Posted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 8:10 pm
by BullGoose
I too used to home brew in the early 1990's (my father used to do the same in the 1970's). I gave my equipment to my brother many moons ago.

Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:45 am
by Spenser
I've been thinking about doing this for awhile. Gonna look over this site and see if timing right. Would you recommend a book for a beginner.

Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:06 pm
by GA Russell
Spenser, the book that was the bible for homebrewing was Charlie Papazian's The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. That's what I used. It is now in its third edition. ... HP5I50AKAY

However, I see on Amazon that John Palmer's How to Brew is also well thought of, and I plan to order it. ... ohn+palmer

Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:49 pm
by ShadowsDad
I used Papazians book in the 80s, to get started with a recipe then I'd change it to suit my taste. I wish I could find that book, all my recipes are in there. It's here somewhere, but where?

I made killer English Amber, Sheaf Tooth Stout, Wheat, and one brew of Barley Wine ale. Most of the time I had 20 or so cases either in the process of being consumed, waiting to be consumed, or aging. Where did I get the time!?

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:30 am
by Spenser
After reading the reviews (love the reviews from "actual users") ordered - How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time.

Don't know how this is going to fit into my diet, but where there is a will, there is a way. :wink:

Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2013 5:28 pm
by GA Russell
A click on the link in the OP shows that 3,583 of these deals have been purchased, and that there is one day remaining. I suppose that means that the deal expires tomorrow, and that tomorrow they will show the hours and minutes left until it is closed.

I have looked at other sites with similar "Beginner's Kits", and it appears to me that the money savings is not in the equipment but in the beer. This deal offers a batch good for two cases in a choice of three beers; and a $25 gift certificate to buy another two cases' worth of more beer with your next order.

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 6:03 pm
by GA Russell
My order arrived yesterday, which I think is pretty quick considering that they sold 4,023 of these. However, they forgot to include the thermometer.

I called them today about it, and the fellow guessed that I hadn't received a thermometer before I could finish my sentence, so apparently lots of people had already called. They'll get one out to me right away.

I watched the video of using the kit, and there really is a lot of other equipment that would be good to have, so I'm going to save up to buy what's really necessary to make good beer before I spend much effort on this.

My immediate problem is that the kitchen of my new apartment is very small, and it all would be easier if I had more room to work in.

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:51 am
by Spenser
I'm entering the game late. Have got the book but haven't started it yet. Time, time, time.

It will take me awhile to get going but glad to know help is available if/when get stuck. Am on a major diet push right now so not in a big hurry and would like my weight to stablize before getting too serious.

Be nice if you can post often as you work your way through your learning curve again. Thanks for your tips already.


Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:55 am
Sounds like a pretty good deal although it looks to be over. Everyone I know is fully aware I homebrew and have been for 10 years or more. Well on my birthday two months ago, my parents bought me a Mr. Beer Premium kit. If you are a homebrewer, you know this is basically a starter kit. I don't know if I should be offended or not, apparently they didn't do any research or ask questions to know what I already had many carboys, fermenting tubs, stainless steel pots, etc....and ask what I really needed.

Now all said and done, this is a VERY nice kit for a beginner, it's brand new in a box and I will be putting it on Craigslist or ebay in the near future.

But regarding the stainless steel pot, I found quite a few of differing quantities at Tuesday Morning, starting at around 9.00 or so dollars. I bought the largest one I could find which held probably around 4 or 5 gallons for just around 15.00.

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 12:13 pm
by GA Russell
Art, $15 is a great price for a 5 gallon brewpot! I'm planning to spend double for mine, so I'll look to see if there is a Tuesday Morning in this area.

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:07 pm
by GA Russell
Well it turns out that there are three Tuesday mornings in my area. One doesn't answer the phone, and the other two don't have the $15 pot. Oh well.

There is a brand new homebrew supply store that just opened up two weeks ago that is less than three miles from my place; so it is plenty convenient, and the prices seem to be competitive.

Spenser, twenty years ago I bought all of my supplies from The Home Brewery. I was a very satisfied customer at that time. Of course, things can change over twenty years, but I suggest you ask them for a catalogue.

I also suggest that you look at the website of Midwest Supplies, which has many good FAQs. Ask them for their catalogue as well.

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 11:56 pm
by GA Russell
Looking at retailers' websites, I've noticed a couple of big differences from twenty years ago when I was active in the hobby.

The first is that they have expanded into winemaking and cheesemaking.

The second is that they have succumbed to what apparently was a major demand for beers that are similar to popular beers sold in stores. Everybody is offering light beer kits, and kits with rice syrup to emulate Budweiser. Twenty years ago, the hobbyists frowned upon popular beer sold in stores, but I guess the demand was too great to turn away.

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:14 am
I purchased a ton of stuff at American Brewmaster there in Raleigh when I lived in Holly Springs. I'm right in between two homebrew suppliers right now here in the Richmond area.

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:58 pm
by GA Russell
Art, my research indicated that American Brewmaster is the best in the Triangle area.

However, there was an article in the paper ten days ago about a brand new one called Atlantic Brew Supply which is just down the road from me, so I want to check them out.

As you might expect, everybody does mail order now, so I have included these links for Spenser's (and anyone else's) benefit.

The thing about mail order is that it is just too expensive to ship glass. Regardless of whom you want to get your ingredients from, I think it would be best to get your bottles and carboys locally.

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:12 pm
by GA Russell
Two books arrived from Amazon today: Palmer's How to Brew (mentioned above) and The Home Brewing Journal.

The latter is merely a diary to keep a record of all of your batches. It is a print on demand book, and mine was printed the day I placed my order, the 7th. ... im_sbs_b_1

Today I placed an order for the Tap Master Jr. countertop water filter. It removes fluoride as well as other items. ... 00_s00_i00

By the way, Amazon currently has a special going on. When you buy something, they offer you a free two-month trial of their Amazon Prime service. Originally the benefit of Prime was free two-day shipping. Now I think it is more popular for its free video streaming as a competitor of Netflix's online service.

Amazon Prime costs $80 a year. During this trial, you are free to cancel at any time. If you don't cancel, they will bill you $80 for the next twelve months.

Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:42 pm
by GA Russell
I mentioned the concept of a countertop water filter in my OP and my last post. The DVD which came with my OP LivingSocial order included the view that if you think your water tastes good from the tap, go ahead and use it. I disagree.

I have always felt that a major reason for my winning the two ribbons I did was that I owned a new countertop carbon filter that cost me $150 at the time. I believe that my beer tasted better than everybody else's in large part because my water tasted better.

I have never tried making beer with gallons of distilled water. It might be worth the six bucks to experiment once to see how it would come out.

My view is that it takes about a month to make a batch of beer from start (brewing) to finish (drinking). That month is the greatest price you will pay. If your batch does not seem special, the money saved by using regular tap water will seem a fool's bargain.

Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:35 pm
by GA Russell
I am two chapters into the Palmer book, and in regard to cleaning your equipment, he mentions oven cleaner and bleach! I would never use such dangerous items on foodware. I wouldn't be comfortable drinking the beer cleaned with it.

I never found cleaning my equipment to be an issue, because I washed everything immediately after brewing the batch.

For sanitizing I always used simple B.E.S.T. iodophor. He recommends other products which are perhaps relatively new on the market called StarSan and Final Step. I'll plan to give them a try.

My OP kit came with a powdered sanitizer called LD Carlson Easy Clean, so I'll use that first.

Posted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 7:08 am
by owenm
GA Russell wrote: I have always felt that a major reason for my winning the two ribbons I did was that I owned a new countertop carbon filter that cost me $150 at the time. I believe that my beer tasted better than everybody else's in large part because my water tasted better.

I have never tried making beer with gallons of distilled water. It might be worth the six bucks to experiment once to see how it would come out.
Warning - brewing nerdiness follows:

You're right to say that the mineral content of the water used to make the beer has a large effect on the final outcome but a certain amount of mineral content is necessary to get a good fermentation (some act as co-enzymes for the yeast) and also in the mash if you are doing all-grain brewing. The hoppiness/maltiness of the beer is also affected by mineral levels. There are calculators available that will help you calculate it to the n'th degree based on a report from your water company but a good rule of thumb is that if you have hard water to boil your tap water for 15 minutes to remove permanent hardness and then to add gypsum (calcium sulphate), if you have soft water then just add the gypsum.

If you were to use distilled water you'd need to add at least gypsum, epsom salts and calcium carbonate to get a good brewing liquor.

Bleach (diluted appropriately) is a commonly used cleaning and sanitising agent, loads of people use it. Most powdered cleaners/sterilisers are powdered bleach. You do need to rinse it about 3 times to make sure that there is no residual chlorine present (or use campden tablet solution).

Posted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:38 pm
by GA Russell
Thanks, Owen! That's all good to know!

However, you mention the need to rinse three times. That is my concern. With iodophor, StarSan, Final Step and LD Carlson, there is no need to rinse. The product you use is so diluted it is safe.

If I lived in a town which is famous for its spring water, I would experiment with tap water to see how good and how different the result is. But in most areas of the US, the chlorine and fluoride levels in city drinking water are high, and I believe that one's homebrew will taste better if these chemicals are removed or at least substantially reduced.