By Chris Lindsey
If someone is interested in brewing they often have the same set of initial questions…
1. How much beer can you make at one time?
The standard homebrew batch is 5 gallons, or about 20 liters. That’s enough for eight 6-packs and change. Most of the pots, fermentors, and recipes are sized for roughly 5 gallons. Anything larger than that requires special equipment to move the beer because it’s too heavy to lift on your own. You can certainly brew smaller batches; I sometimes make 2.5 gallons if I’m trying out a new recipe. I met a girl once who makes 1 gallon at a time because it’s simple and she doesn’t drink that much.
2. How much does it cost?
This is a two part answer: there’s the initial cost of the equipment, and the recurring cost per batch for ingredients. Both costs depend on what system you use to brew (extract or all-grain). Extract brewing takes less equipment but costs a little more ($5-$10) per batch since the extract is a more expensive than an equivalent amount of grain. The equipment will run from around $100 for a bare-bones setup to $500 and up for a deluxe kit. I have an all-grain system and the ingredients will cost from around $30 for a light simple beer (Cream Ale, Hefeweizen), to upwards of $70 for a big beer (Barleywine, Russian Imperial Stout). I estimate I pay about 2/3 the cost of comparable commercial beer. Hence homebrewing is not dirt-cheap, but as hobbies go it’s relatively light on capital expense. As a takeaway comparison, a gear-head friend of mine said he’s dropped thousands of dollars into his BMW…
3. How long does it take?
This is an advantage of extract brewing – less time. An extract batch would take me about 4 hours to brew, now an all-grain batch takes about 6 hours. Fermentation takes about 1-2 weeks, and the beer needs about 2 weeks in the bottle or keg to adequately carbonate. So it’s about a month from the time you brew to the time the beer is ready to drink. Most new homebrewers (including me) aren’t that patient and can’t wait to drink the beer. I avoid this problem by brewing on a regular basis, about once a month, so I usually have some beer on hand to keep me occupied while I wait for the new batch.
If that’s still too much time to wait, think of it this way: Brewing is a gift from you to your future self. You’ll find that a month passes quicker than you think, and when it does you will be very grateful that your past self put in the time and effort to provide your present self with gallons of fresh beer. That much beer will last a while so your future self is equally stoked. Pat yourself on the back and crack open a bottle.
4. What kind of beers can you make?
Whatever I want . Well, actually I only brew ales. Lagers require refrigeration equipment that I decided takes up too much space for my small apartment. So I can brew Sierra Nevada Pale Ale but not Pilsner Urquell. Lagers tend to be stylistically more demanding (less room for error) than ales, as well as take more time and effort. Within the realm of ales I’m bound only by the availability of ingredients. There are books and online sites with recipes for every well-known commercial beer under the sun and then some.
Part 1: Why I Brew Beer
Part 2: You are here. Awesome!
Part 3: Step-by-Step Guide To Getting Started
Part 4: Extract or All-Grain
Part 5: Five Keys to Consistency
Part 6: Bottling or Kegging
Part 7: My Best Brewing Resources
Part 8: Beer Alternatives
Legal Stuff: Of course, we should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).