October 30, 2012

Buying Brew Kits Beer, Homebrewing Kits

My HomeBrew Kit | The Brew Stand

Brew Kits Beer!

You might wonder why I used the term, “brew kits beer” instead of using something like “homebrew kits” or just “brew kits.”  It turns out, that every year during the holidays, many people who have never been exposed to home brewing, get or give a brew kit or a home brewing kit for the holidays. Not everyone knows what homebrewing kits are, or that they even exist and often just search for terms, “brew kits beer.”

I’ve seen many blog posts about people who have gotten into home brewing because someone got them a brew kit for beer either for Christmas or their birthday.  That first brew kit got them into something that grew into a hobby or maybe a lifestyle, that ultimately lead them to start up a craft brewery.  I’ve been bitten by that same bug, too!

Brewing © by barockschloss

When I got my first brew kit in 1994, I was still in college and had dreams of one day owning a microbrewery.  I must admit, sometimes I still think it would be an awesome idea.

But enough about me. We’re here to talk about brew kits and beer.  Let me break it down for you.  You might be shopping for someone or maybe you are looking for yourself.

Here’s some handy links for you to jump around with:

Different types of Brew Kits

In my opinion, there are two major category of brew kits.  There are the “Mr.  Beer” type of brew kits, and there are the more elaborate “homebrew kits” that include the basic tools and ingredients.  Often, you might see or use the term brew kits when referring to the actual kit, which is just the ingredients to make a type of beer.  I’ll explain in more detail below.

Mr Beer type brew kits

The Mr Beer Beer System is more or less a simple, fool-proof set up. It’s the equivalent of a “snap tite model” from when you were a kid.

Mr Beer Brew Kit | The Brew Stand

The Mr. Beer Fermentor

The brew kit comes with the fermentor above, ingredients, and maybe some bottles.  If were to buy the more expensive kits, you get schwag like t-shirts and baseball caps, and stuff like that.  Meh.

These things are fool proof; they work.  But like I said, they are like the snap-tight models you used to play with before your folks let you use plastic model cement. If you like it, you’ll outgrow it quickly!

Honestly, I don’t think anyone buys these brew kits for themselves.  I think people buy them as gift because they don’t know any better. Certainly, these gift givers are well meaning and only want to provide their loved ones a really cool gift, but most the time, people out grow these brew kits really fast and move on to the advannced “homebrewing kits”

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True HomeBrewing Kits

Most homebrew shops, either local, (often referred to as your “LHBS” or “Local Home Brew Shop), or online sell them and will often have them on sale around the holidays.  I’ve even seen Living Social and Groupon deals for a kit recently.

These kits have much more to them then the Mr. Beer brew kits.  These brew kits, at a minimum will give you the following:

  • 5 Gallon Fermentation Bucket
  • Bottling Bucket
  • Some type of cleaner / sterilizer
  • Tubing
  • Hydrometer
  •  Airlocks
  • Bottle filler
  • Bottle capper
  • Recipes, maybe a book or DVD
  • maybe more!

You’ll be on your own get a brew kettle and bottles.   This is a lot of stuff and could be intimidating to the newbie.  Most of the retailers will include a basic beer kit that has all the ingredients to get you started with a simple brew. Otherwise you’ll have to get that separately.  You can also buy bottles, but it’s a cinch these days to find them.  You can ask your friend to save them for you, (don’t use the screw-top bottles!)

My HomeBrew Kit | Brew Kit Beer | The Brew Stand

Here’s a picture of my kit. I’ve had it for more twenty years!

I’m not going to get into this post about the actual brewing process or the differences between lagers and ales, since that’s all over the web.

Most people buy something like this and progress to kegging, lagering, etc. This is the gateway!

Finally, one last thing with regards to brew kits and beer… let’s talk about the beer kit!

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Brew Kits

If you are just starting out, or just enjoy the convenience of a brew kit, this is a great way to go.  Typically, home brewing is broken into these main different types (sorted by simple to complex:

  • Extract Brewing
  • Partial Mash
  • All Grain Brewing

For the majority of us, extract brewing is the simpler way to go.  If you go with partial mash or all grain brewing, it gets more complex and the time and equipment requirements goes up.

A brew kit for beer will have the following:

  • Malt and/or Grain
  • Malt extract (syrup) or Dried Malt Extract
  • Hops
  • Yeast
  • Corn Sugar (for bottling)
  • Bottle caps

Some shops let you swap things out.  Maybe you want a different yeast or you won’t use the bottle caps if you are kegging.  Brew kits typically cost between $25 and $50, depending on what you want to make.

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Final Thoughts

This is a great hobby and a lot of fun.  The best part for me is to share my beer with my friends. Over the years I’ve learned some things.  Let me impart these on you:

  • It gets easier as you brew.  The more you do it, the easier it gets. Don’t sweat it.
  • There are plenty of online forums, blogs, and communities that have plenty of people who would love to help you.
  • You can find great deals online, but if you visit a LHBS, you can get advice and guidance from the people that work there.
  • Take care of your stuff. It will last you a long time if you take care of it.

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