There is nothing more satisfying than enjoying a cold beer after a job well done—that is, unless you brewed the beer yourself. If you’ve never thought about home brewing, consider this: Most home brewers make five-gallon batches, roughly equivalent to two 24-packs of 12-ounce bottles. It’s easy and cost-effective and culminates in a whole lot of beer. “Home brewing is fun, plus the result is a great-tasting beer that can be shared with friends,” says Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association. “Expect an elevation in your social status.” Cheers to your new hobby.
Beginner kits start at around $80 for a basic setup. Contents generally include five-gallon fermentation buckets, air locks and spigots, sanitizer, bottle brush, bottle capper and a bag of bottle caps. Some kits also include ingredients for your first batch: brewer’s yeast, hops and toasted grains.
It is essential to sterilize your equipment. The good news: “There are no known pathogens that can live in beer, so as long as you don’t overindulge, you won’t get sick,” says Glass. Start with a porter or a stout. “Those are the easiest to make. Brew a few batches before taking on funkier beers like lambics.”
Brewing is a straightforward process. You soak the ingredients in heated water, then strain the liquid and pour it into a fermentation container. Let it sit for about two weeks. Once you’ve bottled, you’ll have to wait until bubbles build up again, which can be another few weeks.
After you’ve successfully brewed a few simple batches, it’s time to get creative. “You can use pretty much any ingredient you can imagine,” Glass says. Fruits, nuts and spices are all fair game. How crazy can you get? “I once sampled a brew made with Thai curry. It was amazing.”