Getting Started


This page lists the basic steps for getting started in beer, wine or cider making. These are guidelines for the true beginner and cover making libations from kits. we offer many books with more detailed information, including designing recipes from scratch.


Beer

The first step to becoming a home brewmaster is to set up your equipment and supplies. We offer equipment kits to make that part simple. The kits come with everything necessary for brewing except ingredients, a 20qt Stainless Steel Pot and bottles. Bottles are completely reusable, as long as they aren’t the twist off variety, so most people save those up from commercial beers that they like. Note: the Basic Kit does not come with sanitizer. If you choose that route, it is highly recommended you purchase some.

After you’ve selected your equipment, the next thing you’ll need is your first set of ingredients. We offer recipe kits that come with all the ingredients you need for a 5 gallon batch.

    Some recommendations for selecting your first kit:

  • Ales are easier to make than lagers since lagers have more difficult temperature control requirements and longer waits.
  • Beers with high alcohol levels (7% or more) benefit from a longer fermentation schedule and extended bottle aging. These require patience to be at their best.
  • Darker, stronger flavored beers tend to be more forgiving. If an off-flavor crops up, it will be hidden under all the normal flavors.
    Each recipe will have its vital statistics listed. Your beer should be close to these numbers, but won’t be exact. Every batch is a little different.

  • OG: Original Gravity. This is a measurement of density which indicates how much sugar is present in the wort before fermentation. Your first hydrometer reading should be close to this number.
  • IBUs: A measurement of how much dissolved iso-alpha acids are present in the beer. These acids come from boiling the hops and create bitterness in a beer. The higher the IBU of a recipe the more bitter the beer will be, but the perceived bitterness of a finished beer will be reduced if there are a lot of residual sugars in the final product.
  • SRM: A measurement of color. The higher this number is, the darker a beer will be. This number does not reflect hue and says little about whether a beer will be red, brown or straw colored.
  • ABV: Alcohol by Volume. This number measures the percentage of alcohol in a finished beer. The higher the number, the faster the beer will make someone drunk. Two hydrometer readings will be required to determine this number.

Once your equipment and ingredients are gathered, you’re ready for brew day! We’d recommend reading the basic brewing instructions completely before beginning your first brew. If you have any questions, feel free to call either store for assistance. Remember to sanitize everything that touches the beer!

After two weeks, the beer should be completely fermented and ready to bottle. We’d recommend having at least one assistant during bottling. An extra pair of hands will make this task much easier. You will need up to 55 bottles to package a 5 gallon batch. Bottles from commercial breweries can be reused, as long as they are the pry off type. Do not package naturally carbonated beer in twist off bottles or growlers, as these containers are not designed to handle the extra pressure required.

After bottling, your beer will take about two weeks to carbonate. If it’s still flat by then, try shaking the bottles and moving them to a warmer location. Most beer will stay good at room temperature for a long time, so you won’t need to store all 50-ish bottles in the fridge at once. Move a few to the fridge at a time and enjoy them at whatever pace you like.


Wine

The first step to making wine at home is to gather your equipment and supplies. We offer equipment kits to make that part easy. The kits come with all the equipment necessary for brewing except bottles. Bottles are reusable, so many people save those up from commercial wines that they like.

After you’ve selected your equipment, the next thing you’ll need is your first set of ingredients. We offer recipe kits that come with all the ingredients for a 6 gallon batch of wine. These kits come pre-boxed and are very easy to use. If you’d prefer to make a wine from scratch, we offer guidelines for making wine from multiple types of produce.

Once the equipment and ingredients are gathered, you’re ready to make wine! We’d recommend reading the basic wine making instructions completely before beginning your first brew. These instructions are included in every kit. If you have any questions, feel free to call either store for assistance. Remember to sanitize everything that touches the wine!

After about four weeks, the wine should be completely fermented and ready to bottle. We’d recommend having at least one assistant during bottling. An extra pair of hands will make this task much easier. You will need up to 30 wine bottles (750 ml) to package a 6 gallon batch. Bottles from commercial wineries can be reused, as long as they are clean. Do not package sparkling wines in standard bottles, as these containers are not designed to handle the extra pressure required. Champagne bottles will be necessary to naturally carbonate.

After bottling, your wine should be ready to drink. Red wines will continue to develop and improve for a long time, while white wines are usually best drunk fresh.


Cider

Cider making’s first step is preparing the equipment and supplies. We offer an equipment kit to simplify that part. The kit comes with all the equipment necessary for making a batch of cider except bottles. A complete listing of the contents can be found here. Bottles are completely reusable, so most people save those up from commercial ciders or beers that they like. Note: the kit does not come with sanitizer. It is highly recommended you purchase some.

After you’ve purchased your equipment, you’ll need your first set of ingredients. We offer recipe kits that come with all the ingredients you need for a 6 gallon batch. These kits come in a pouch that contains liquid juice concentrate. Open these from the top very carefully. You will also need two pounds of corn sugar to provide alcohol content and conditioning tablets if you want the cider to be carbonated.

Once your equipment is gathered and you’ve chosen a recipe kit, you’re ready start! We’d recommend reading the instructions completely before beginning your first cider. If you have any questions, feel free to call either store for assistance. Remember to sanitize everything that touches the cider!

After about a week, the cider should be completely fermented and ready to bottle. We’d recommend having at least one assistant during bottling. An extra pair of hands will make this task much easier. You will need up to 65 bottles to package a 6 gallon batch. Bottles from commercial cideries and breweries can be reused, as long as they are the pry off type. Do not package naturally carbonated cider in twist off bottles or growlers, as these containers are not designed to handle the extra pressure required.

After bottling, your cider should take about two weeks to carbonate. If it’s still flat by then, try shaking the bottles and moving them to a warmer location. Most cider will stay good at room temperature for a while, so you won’t need to store all the bottles in the fridge at once. Move a few to the fridge when you are ready to drink them and enjoy!


Mead

We do not offer any mead making kits at this time, but the process is very similar to producing wine. An excellent book called The Compleat Meadmaker covers everything that you’d need to know to get started.

You can use either the wine making equipment or beer making equipment to ferment honey wine. The winemaking equipment will produce 6 gallon batches and come with corks and a corker. The beer making equipment will produce 5 gallon batches and comes with crown caps and a capper.

The most basic mead recipe is honey, water, nutrients and yeast. Anywhere from 2 to 4 pounds of honey per gallon of mead is common. More honey will mean more alcohol, honey flavor and sweetness. Nutrients are necessary for the health of the yeast as it works. Using nutrients will help ensure a complete fermentation. Any wine yeast will make a fine mead, but the Lalvin 71b-1122 or the White Labs sweet mead strains are highly recommended for mead making.

Remember to make sure everything that touches the mead is sanitized, including the honey. This can be accomplished with Campden Tablets (Sodium Metabisulphite) or by pasteurization with heat. Pasteurization can be done by heating the must up to 165 degrees and letting it stay at that temperature for 20 minutes or so. Boiling honey can cause some of the aromatic qualities to be lost.

Probably the most important thing to remember when making mead is patience. Many meads will take several months to lose the harsh alcohol flavors they develop at first and will continue to get better and better as time goes on. Plan to ferment your mead for several months before bottling and give it several more in the bottle before drinking.

More information about making mead can be found here.