So you like beer and you’re thinking about brewing some yourself. Basically, beer brewing follows a four step process – preparation, brewing, fermenting and bottling – before you can partake of your labors. If you’re on the fence about embarking on this hobby, the best thing to do – according to Paul Smith, who is the ‘Grand Wazoo’ of the Foam Rangers Homebrew Club based in southwest Houston – is to find your tribe.
“Find a good homebrew supply shop,” he said. “A lot of them have affiliated homebrew clubs. Each one has its own personality. Get involved in competitions too where you judge and evaluate beers.”
Luckily for people in Northwest Houston, there’s a nearby resource in the Farm Boy Brew Shop, located at 3814 N Shepherd Dr. Owner Landon Weiershausen just opened a second location in Katy.
Surprisingly, Weiershausen says there’s a bit of a dip in the homebrew market because they economy is doing so well.
“People don’t have as much time for hobbies,” he said.
But for those who do have the time and the inclination, Farm Boy’s deluxe kit can be a good start. They also sell a simple recipe kit and ingredients separately. A pot is not part of the package because this is the south and “most people have a gumbo or crab pot.”
Weiershausen actually got his start in homebrewing with a kit he got on the sale rack at Bed, Bath & Beyond.
“I made beer, but I knew there was a better way,” said Weiershausen.
He notes that ten years ago when he got started You Tube was not the teacher that it is now, and that his biggest mistake was that he bought stuff he didn’t need.
“Make sure you like it as a hobby,” he counsels. “Start slow.”
He also says that it’s important to choose the right recipe and a beer that you like to drink – perhaps one that is grain light and not as dependent on temperature.
Beers with a higher alcohol content have more ingredients and are therefore more expensive. Weiershausen calls the extract kits he sells, which are preassembled, his Betty Crocker kits because they are easy and require less steps. Even so, not sanitizing properly can even mess that up.
“Ninety percent of beer making is cleanliness and sanitation,” he said. “Any kind of infection will ruin a batch of beer.”
Once a brewer graduates to all grain brewing, Weiershausen says the safety net gets pulled out from under you.
Grand Wazoo Smith notes that failure to control the temperature during fermentation is one of the biggest mistakes for newer brewers.
“If the temperature is too high or too low, it will throw off the flavors,” said Smith.
Sometimes, you might not get a beer at all.
“Someone once told me that it all wants to be beer,” said Weiershausen. “But we have to control it to get it there.”
Bottling too soon – and other pressure mishaps – were other blunders that readers shared.
“When my husband was first brewing, he bottled too soon and the beer built up too much carbonation in the bottles and they all exploded,” Amy Shaughnessy said. “The bottoms of the bottles blew off. The real problem was that he was storing the bottles in his closet.”
Andrew Laabs went on vacation and returned to a beer soaked towel that the fermenter was sitting on as the beer had been so vigorous it came out the blow off tube.
Robb Bunge has an even more volatile vacation story.
“I left it to ferment in the bathroom while I was away,” said Bunge. “When I came home, hops were covering everything – the ceiling, the walls, the counters. I mean everything. The hops must have plugged the vent, so the pressure built up in the carboy and blew out the stopper and the hops. And so my first batch of ‘Hop Explosion’ IPA was born.”
Of course, part of the fun is sharing stories – and the beer that turns out well.
“Homebrewing has a big social component,” said Smith. “It’s a good time.”