Tuesday 7 February 2012

Condo Brewing 101: Reducing Your Brewing Footprint

If you're reading this post, then brewing your own beer probably seems like a pretty good idea. You get creative control over what you make (and ultimately, what you drink), and after some initial investment in brewing gear, it's quite economical. But the cost of that gear can be prohibitive, and for those who (like us) reside in apartments and condos, finding space to keep that gear can prove to be an equal or larger challenge. So, in the interest of encouraging others to take up the gauntlet of home brewing (which I imagine to be bedazzled with hop-shaped rhinestones), we've put together a couple of suggestions for how to get started making your own beer, both cheaply and with the smallest possible footprint in your domicile.

1. Freeload - Also referred to as 'pulling an Earl.' In this approach, you find someone who already owns most or all of the necessary equipment, and is storing it at their place. Minimal cost, and your place remains (relatively) clutter-free! The downside, of course, is that when your beer is ready, it's all at their place. This can encourage social interaction and friendly revelry, but be warned: gluttonous and/or vindictive friends may be inclined to drink it all in your absence. Choose wisely.

2. Downsize - Most home brew recipes are designed to produce 5 gallon batches (about 19 L). Consider, however, the following equality:

Smaller batches = smaller, less expensive equipment 

Brilliant! This is the approach espoused by the folks at the Brooklyn BrewShop, who went from selling smaller, 1 gallon kits at the flea market to becoming a leading online distributor of home brewing kits. The necessary components for brewing 1 gallon batches at home are detailed on their website, along with detailed instructions for different styles. I looked into picking up one of these kits, but the cost to ship to Canada was ridiculous, and I'd rather support my local brewing supply store, where you can find all of these components at a fraction of the cost. For a little more information, though, and a good, plain-language primer for more technical resources like John Palmer's How to Brew (which Drew talked about previously), I would certainly recommend their book

A great resource for getting started brewing smaller batches. 

Whether you choose to freeload (it worked for me!), start with small batches, or dive right into 5 gallon batches, the key thing is just to try it out and see if it's for you. Don't let cost or space constraints hold you back!

(If you already know that home brewing isn't for you, that's cool, too. For you I propose a third approach - the ultimate freeloader - in which you find friends that have already made their own beer, and you just show up and drink it. A little less-rewarding from a do-it-yourself standpoint, but the end result is similar.) 

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