omeThis Saturday, November 3, is Learn to Homebrew Day. The makeshift holiday—established by the American Homebrewers Association in 1999—encourages the adoption of the hobby via demonstrations, tastings, and other educational events. In light of this occasion, we chatted with Jamie Williams, owner of the Denver-based CO-Brew home brewing supply store and brewery, about what it takes to jump into the sudsy hobby.
5280: What exactly is home brewing?
JW: Home brewing is a lot of things. It enables people to make beer that they can’t buy commercially. It allows people to use fresher ingredients and create beers that are much better than what you can buy on the store shelves. Home brewing is also a community; most home brewers are part of clubs or brew in groups, which can be a lot of fun. Home brewing focuses a lot on the locavore [eating food that is locally produced] movement, too.
Why did people decide to start making their own beer at home?
Twenty years ago, the craft beer movement hadn’t happened. So, people did it [home brewing] so they could have the beer they wanted, which they couldn’t buy commercially. Now that’s not the case, but people still do it because they like making things they can’t buy. More often than not, people that home brew are doing it because it’s fun.
How does one begin the sudsy journey of home brewing?
Most people start with a basic kit. There are a lot of kits available online or at commercial retailers. You basically just need to buy an equipment kit and ingredients and then go from there.
That sounds like it could be expensive. What’s the typical cost of home brewing?
To get started home-brewing, ingredients and equipment for one gallon can run $80 to $100, depending on the kind of beer you decide to make. For five gallons, you’re in the range of $100 to $225. In the long run though, you’re really saving money. One gallon gets you about ten bottles, and five gallons gets you about two cases of beer.
What is the hardest thing about making your own beer?
The hardest part is the cleanup, honestly. Everyone always says that a home-brewer is a glorified janitor. The brewing itself only takes three to five hours, which leaves a lot of time to hang out, which is why it’s so fun to do it groups. But it can get messy, so cleaning up is often not fun.
…And the best thing?
Brewing your own beer can be very rewarding. People are often surprised by how good their beer is, because like anything, beer is always better fresh.
Does your store, CO-Brew, offer any classes or lessons on home-brewing?
Yes! When people come into our store, they can grab a beer and sample our equipment. People can also brew with us in our space, or they can get into it themselves by buying equipment and ingredients. We also offer classes seven days a week.
Is it easy to mess up your beer?
Most people don’t mess up as much as you would think. If you read the instructions and take your time, your beer should be fine. Beer is very forgiving. Usually most mistakes are really no big deal. There are things that are critical, like sanitization and temperature, but other than that it’s really not hard. The biggest challenge for a lot of people is to staying sober while brewing so you don’t forget a step. As long as you follow most of the instructions, your beer will turn out well.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give someone who is thinking about starting to home brew?
Don’t be afraid. A lot of people think they can’t do it. If you can make tea, you can make beer.