Homebrewing—and homebrew—has improved its image over the past twenty years. Why? The explosion of better information, ingredients and equipment has made it relatively simple to make an impressive glass of suds, and ingenuity and innovation still have plenty of room to run. Good brewers combine the eclectic disciplines of chef, scientist and artist. Why homebrew? Because it’s fun, creative, challenging and you get good beer to share with your friends. There is no reason not to take the plunge. Browse the goodies in this section and dream about the fancy stuff, splurge on the cool stuff, and definitely get the basics. Don’t look back. Join a homebrew club. Dazzle your friends. Get good, and you might even be The Next Great Brewer.
Homebrewing usually starts off innocently enough, but once you master the rudiments, you’ll want more equipment. Any one of the following products will make a palpable difference in the quality of your beer.
Top-notch homebrewing depends most critically on skill and knowledge, but a few well-designed and über-functional toys can’t hurt either. Next to making the best beer possible, homebrewing is also about tinkering, gadgetry and fun.
Convoluted Counter-flow Wort Chiller
One of the most critical variables in brewing is the lag time between boil knockout and yeast pitching. This unit cools hot wort in minutes, giving your yeast the decisive upper hand in the fermentation vessel. This might be the most important upgrade that a homebrew can make to take the worry out of fermentation. Compact, easy to clean and sturdy enough to last forever. $135. www.midwestsupplies.com
More Beer Brewing Sculpture
If you’re one of those hobbyists who needs to go whole hog and you have money to burn, then take a gander at this brewing sculpture. Of the many designs that exist, this one is the most ergonomic and makes up to 20 gallons at a time. All liquids are transferred via pump, it is fueled by a single propane tank, and the entire unit is designed with safety in mind. You’ll be able to concentrate more on the details of brewing rather than worrying about the mechanics. $2,550. morebeer.com
14.5 Gallon Conical Fermenter
Maximum utility for big batch brewers. Lots of great features, including a flawless inner surface to discourage uninvited bugs, two drains and a multipurpose, clamped lid. Add flavorings or hops, take samples, transfer only wort above the yeast cake, or harvest yeast, all done in a snap. It’s easy to flush and sanitize, and the large diameter lid facilitates scrubbing. $545. www.williamsbrewing.com
Brew Like a Pro—Sabco Universal Kettle
Sabco makes it almost too easy. This brand-new stainless steel kettle not only has an external and internal tri-clamp coupler to make it the most-easily adaptable unit on the market, but it also has a ‘no-thread’, thermometer well besides. The elimination of all coupling threads creates an easy-to-clean, sanitary environment. The use of modern, brewer-preferred tri-clamps makes it cutting-edge smart. It can be used as a mashtun, hot liquor tank, or boiling kettle. Use as a stand-alone device, or build your own brewing sculpture to use them in series. Tap into your own ingenuity to modify it yourself, or comb the site for the whole accessory package: adaptors for thermometers, drains, false bottoms and more are available. This is homebrew utility at its zenith. $500.
High-performance propane burner
Propane burners are a dime a dozen, but this one was made with the homebrewer in mind: 70,000 BTU where it’s needed, precision regulator and height allows easier gravity-flow transfer to the fermenter. $90. morebeer.com
Forty-quart brew pot with valve and thermometer
This versatile brew pot—40 quarts, offset drain, ready for adaptation with the included ball valve—will keep you brewing for years. $249. www.williamsbrewing.com
Flood your wort with oxygen to kick-start your fermentation and help insure that it works to completion. The stone is easy to sanitize and the entire system is a breeze to use. $45. www.midwestsupplies.com
Refractometers allow brewers to take instantaneous specific gravity readings. Hit your target gravity and assess your mash efficiency in a jiffy without compensating for temperature. $45. www.williamsbrewing.com
Refrigerator thermostat control
Turn that spare refrigerator into a lagering unit with this thermostat control. The control goes up to 80 degrees, so fermenting ales in summer is an option also. $55. www.midwestsupplies.com
Schmidling malt mill
A precise crush of malted barley is essential. The preset gap of the Schmidling malt mill provides the perfect crush. Motorize or mount to make milling even simpler. $130. www.midwestsupplies.com
Serve Like a Pro—Cornelius Keg System
If bottling is the bane of your hobby, kegging puts that ordeal in the rearview mirror. Rack to the keg, no priming necessary, and with a little more investment you can even turn your fridge into a kegerator with your own beer on draft. You can still bottle for competitions with a counter-pressure bottle filler or prepare fresh beer to go with a carbonator. Pick up a $30 Sankey coupler, and you’re ready to serve commercial products without one of those silly hand pumps. It’s portable enough to drag the whole works—plus a keg—to a party, where you will be the talk of the event. $165. www.midwestsupplies.com
Auto-adjust bottle capper
Take the fuss out of bottling with this self-adjusting capper. $37 www.williamsbrewing.com
How To Brew by John Palmer
The new darling among the homebrewing bibles, this book by John Palmer deserved its accolades. An all-encompassing digest; your most indispensable brewing partner. $17 www.howtobrew.com
Promash Brewing Software
The most comprehensive brewing software available, and an excellent educational vehicle. $24 www.williamsbrewing.com
Start as an Amateur—Complete Homebrew Kit
To get started in homebrewing, you’ve got to have a basic kit. This one is a simple, one-step fermentation and bottling kit, complete with a basic brewing book and the ingredients for your first beer. All you need is a pot. If you make the decision to go to all-grain, you’ve already got the equipment. Even supplemental equipment won’t diminish the usefulness, sensibility, or exhilaration of your first kit. (You can tailor your beers to your tastes by downloading the free “Hop Data Book” from Hop Union. www.hopunion.com) $80 www.williamsbrewing.com