By Matt Simpson
The Beer Sommelier

You know who you are – you’re the most creative person your friends and family know. You probably take on all kinds of imaginative endeavors; candle making, canning, photography and of course, cooking.

I’m sure you’re also a beer lover. You love everything about it, including the vast and varied styles, flavor and aroma profiles. You’ve tasted tons of different beers and maybe even have a craft beer magazine subscription. I’ll bet that you’ve even told yourself (or most likely a buddy, after a few pints at the pub), “Ya’ know – I could do this. Maybe even better!” Well, maybe you can, my friend, maybe you can. And frankly, you’ll never know, until you take that dive and brew your first beer.

However, take solace in that you really don’t need any of the above qualifications to get together a little brewing system and make some beer right on your stovetop, for you and your friends to really enjoy. If only for the creative outlet, I know you’ll love the process – taking the raw ingredients of malt, water hops and yeast, and crafting something for which you’d normally pay someone else. And pay them quite well, these days!

If you’re a novice and just beginning to try your hand at the brewing process, I’ll tell you this – it’s not very hard to do. But it may be extremely difficult to do well. Rest assured, though, with a little research and my tips below, you should be able to accomplish both goals your first time out. So what really is the best way to get started?

First, make friends with your local homebrew store owner and employees. Not only are they some of the most knowledgeable people you’ll meet, when it comes to making homebrewed beer from scratch, but they’re also highly incentivized to make sure you make great batches of tasty brew. Why? Because they know that if you do it once, you’ll be back again and again, trying different recipes and happily spending money in their stores.

One of the great ones in Metro Atlanta is Brewmasters Warehouse, in Marietta (www.brewmasterswarehouse.com). The owner, Ed Meyer, not only truly understands the entire brewing process, his store has everything you could possibly need to get started. And they’re extremely friendly and helpful, to boot.
Another fine store is Wine Craft, in Sandy Springs (www.winecraftatl.com), where you’ll find as large a selection of wine making supplies, as for beer brewing. The husband and wife couple, Peggy and Rick Adams, are two of the nicest and most accommodating folks you’ll ever meet. They’re especially ginger with beginners.

And finally, Hop City (www.hopcity.com), arguably the best beer store in GA, also has a good deal of homebrewing supplies – and is closely proximate to Atlanta’s city proper. Kraig Torres, the owner, really knows his stuff.

Now, I simply don’t have sufficient space here to discuss the full practice of brewing beer, along with all the necessary equipment. For that, you’ll need to contact me about my “Beer 101” course! But needless to say, beer is simply made steeping and boiling barley grain, while adding spicy hops, to make the sugar tea, known as wort. That sugar-laden liquid is then cooled, so that yeast may be added, which will ferment it, creating alcohol and CO2 as byproducts. After a few weeks of fermentation, you’ve got beer. Add some more sugar, bottle it up, wait another couple of weeks and voila…impress your friends with your tasty creation.

In short, and in a basic way, all you’ll need to get your new hobby off the ground, is a 5-7 gallon pot (and lid), a long wooden or plastic spoon, plastic (or glass) fermenting vessel, some peripheral supplies (thermometer, airlock, tubing, grain/hop sacks, auto siphon, bottles, caps, etc.) and ingredients to make the beer. After that, it’s simply a matter of working with your homebrew store partner to create a recipe and then brewing your beer. They’ll certainly fill in any blanks I’ve left here.

Just remember:

  • Don’t be afraid – dive right in!
  • Even bad beer can’t hurt you!
  • In the words of the Godfather of Homebrewing, Charlie Papazian; “Relax, don’t worry and have a homebrew!”

For more information about beer, visit http://www.thebeerexpert.com

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.