Now that you’ve decided to take the leap and buy a beer making kit, here are a few tips on how to find the best home brewing setup for your lifestyle and your pocketbook. Like many other hobbies, home brewing can be as complicated and expensive as you want it to be. Picking the right place to start can make brewing more fun from the very beginning.
First, some caveats. Home brewing is not for people living in the fast lane who want a quick return on their investment. Making beer takes two qualities above all: patience and attention to detail. If you’re one of those people who won’t bother to read directions because you think you can wing it and things will turn out all right, please, choose another hobby. You will not be a happy brewer. You’ve been warned.
Your first concern is undoubtedly cost. Are you more concerned with the total cost of home brewing, or your savings from brewing your own, or are you willing to pay a little extra for a really tasty bottle of home brew? Small home brewing kits with the minimum amount of equipment and supplies to produce one batch of beer of, say, 24 twelve-ounce bottles are available for around $30. Super deluxe premium kits with every piece of equipment and supplies you need to produce several batches, each a different kind of beer, can run around $200.
All things being equal, the more complete your kit, the more it will cost. However, an all-in-one kit that produces a small batch of brew in 14 days or less will cost about the same as a larger full setup that makes a couple of cases in 28 days or more. As with most things in life, you’ll pay for the convenience of being able to drink your beer sooner rather than later. There are all kinds of home brewing kit prices in between these extremes; your choice depends on how large your wallet is and how much and what kind of beer you want to brew.
Your next consideration is the size of your setup. If you have room for a fermenter, a keg, an extra refrigerator and a couple cases of beer, the sky is the limit. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that sits on the floor of your hall closet or on a shelf in your only refrigerator, you’ll want one of the smallest home brewing kits available.
Deciding on the amount of beer you want to home brew is your next size question. If you’re just trying out this home brewing idea and have no inkling of whether you’ve found hobby heaven or not, or you think you’d like to try making several different kinds of beers one after the other, a kit that produces small batches probably makes the most sense. After all, a home brewing setup is easy to expand. However, if you’re known for throwing barbecue parties every weekend for a group of home brew aficionados, one of the larger kits is a good bet.
Now, we’re back to patience. If you’re a technophobe who won’t have anything to do with setting up something that vaguely resembles Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, you’re probably better off with a simple all-in-one home brew kit (although, remember, you’ll pay more for the privilege). But, if you don’t mind putting together a kitchen full of pots, tubes and bottles for an afternoon now and then, a more elaborate setup is more dramatic to watch and more fun to play with.
No matter which home brewing kit you choose, you’re embarking on a hobby that provides a lifetime of rewards. Perhaps the best part of beer making is the appreciation you receive from others who share the fruits of your labor with you. We’ll all drink to that!