‘Relax, Don’t worry, have a homebrew’. So goes the mantra of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), the organization representing more than 27,000 homebrewers around the United States and was founded in 1978 by now Brewers Association president Charlie Papazian.
When starting out, it’s easy to get drawn into brewing your own beer merely for the end product. Sure, it’s less expensive overall than buying beer at the store, but there are other benefits as well. Brewing whether at home, or at a craft brewery, allows for a level of creativity and scietific exploration that many don’t realize. Much like art or cooking, brewing combines a wide variety of ingredients together to create the exact flavors, IBU’s (International Bittering Units), colors, ABV, etc. that you are looking for. Personally, I can spend days working out a recipe before finally settling on what I want. Being able to experiment with variations of the same recipe over several batches is an incredible amount of fun. Do I use Cara Munich malt with Special B, or should I use a little Pilsner? I used one type of Saison yeast the last batch, should I try a blend of yeasts this time? Answering these and other questions are part of the fun. You truly are an artist, mad scientist and magician when you brew.
Homebrewing has been around for quite a while and although quite popular today, it has been apart of human society around the world for thousands of years. In the early history of our contry, some of our founding fathers, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson brewed at home. In fact, during colonial times women often brewed beer at home. Fast forward to 1978 and homebrewing is now legal (yes, at one time it was actually a crime to brew beer!). Many homebrewers began organizing into clubs around the United States. One such group in Boulder, Colorado, whose membership included Charlie Papazian, later became the American Homebrewers Association. In the last 34 years since the AHA’s founding, the number of homebrewers has skyrocketed from a few scattered folks around the country, to a popular hobby and passion for many with around 1 million folks brewing their own beer at least once a year. In fact, the AHA estimates 90% of commercial brewers got their start as homebrewers.
Unlike in decades last, it much easier to get started homebrewing these days. Basic kits and ingrients are readily available and online resources are everywhere giving the novice brewer a place to start. Like many today, when I started homebrewing I had a couple of friends who brewed their own. They were, and still are, a great source of knowledge for me. I’ve been homebrewing about 3 years now and I’m always learning with each batch. In fact, half the fun is learning something new each time.
Other great resources are your local Homebrew supply shops and homebrewing clubs. Both are great for meeting others who share your passion and can be that constant resource thoroughout your years of homebrewing. Most homebrew supply shops will carry everything from basic starter kits to advanced equipment, ingredients for your brew, and can answer questions on how to get started. Many offer classes as well. If you’re in an area devoid of a shop, don’t fret; many shops have online stores where you can order equipment and ingredients. The AHA is also rich in homebrewing resources, as well as a plethora of other homebrewing sites available on the Internet.
I haven’t met one homebrewing club that wasn’t full of the friendliest people around. You can get some of the best advice on technique and equipment designs you’ll ever get. Many clubs often help new members out by holding one on one ‘brew-in’s to get started, as well as continued support. Homebrew clubs are also a great source for beer education as well. Separate from my own research, I’ve learned quite a lot from other homebrewers about things like off flavors in beer and style guidelines. If you later become brave enough to test your metal against others brewers, many clubs arounf the country host homebrewing competitions. These are a great way to also get feedback on your beers.
For those in the San Antonio area, many options await you on your quest to brew your own beer. The San Antonio Ceveceros and Bexar Brewers are two of the larger homebrew clubs, although there are a few other in the greater SAn Antonio area. Both clubs have educationtional aspects of their clubs with regards to brewing, to include brew-in’s on national Teach A Friend To Homebrew Day, and the Bexar Brewers are the hosts of the annual Alamo City Cerveza Fest each April.
Bake, Broil and Brew, San Antonio’s own kitchen incubator concept, offers brewing classes twice a month using a Sabco Brew Magic system. For a nominal fee, students get a personalized lesson in all-grain brewing on a semi-professional system, assist in the brewing process. When the brewis ready, students come back to pick 4 growlers of the beer they helped brew. Yours truly teaches one of the classes each month. Plans are also in the works for a more scaled down brewing class.
For your equipment and supply needs, head over to Homebrew Party Supply and San Antonio Homebrew Supply in San Antonio and Middleton Brewing And Homebrew Supply in nearby Wimberley.
So what are you waiting for? Get on our there and brew the beer you drink!