Homebrew Kits

Beer lovers in 1980 had these homebrew kits to choose from if they wanted to try brewing it themselves.

| July/August 1980

To all too many folks, the word "homebrew" calls up memories of some vile concoction that Dad (or maybe Grandad) used to whip up and store in a chilly basement corner. But, for a growing number of enthusiasts, home beermaking has become a means of producing delicious suds—the taste of which is a far cry from the old prohibition brews"—that can be made without the numerous chemicals (and, in "gourmet" recipes, even without the large quantities of sugar) common to many of the commercial elixirs ... and of preparing that beer for a fraction of the cost of "storebought"! 

The credit for the tremendous improvements in the quality of the average batch of homebrew during recent years goes both to the increasing availability of superior ingredients (which are, for the most part, imported) and to the spread of knowledge about more sophisticated brewing techniques. Newsletters, local home-beermaking shops, and mail order businesses have helped to get the word out ... and lately, a number of homebrewing kits—which include all the equipment and supplies a neophyte needs in order to get started-have appeared on the market.

The beermaking kits impressed MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff as being potentially practical ways for newcomers to get started in brewing, so we ordered seven different setups and cooked a batch with each one. Without delving too deeply into exact procedures, we'd like to relate what we found out about the mail order mini-breweries. 

Brewing Equipment

The primary piece of brewing paraphernalia is a fermenting vat. Traditionally, brewers have used an open container for the first few days of very active bubbling, and then switched to a sealed secondary fermentor—a tub or bottle equipped with an air lock to allow escape of carbon dioxide without letting outside air in—for the following slower, less violent period of fermentation. However, the substitution of a single airtight vessel for the entire fermentation cycle has recently become popular, because the method reduces labor and lessens the chance of contamination. 

On the other hand, advocates of the old standby approach feel that the opportunity to siphon the brew away from the cloud inn sediments which inevitably fall to the bottom of both fermentors, is well worth the extra effort. In addition, they point out that a well-managed double-stage beer will, in fact, have little possibility of contamination.

The kits offered by Bierhaus, The Brick Store, and Wine and Brew Hobby are set up for the newer single-stage system, and—though we did find more sediment in the bottles after brewing—the simplified procedure didn't seem to affect either the taste or the clarity of the beers.

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