Should I pick up home brewing?

Is home brewing for you? That’s a question many start asking after having a really good pint one day, and wondered if they could ever make such an amazing drink themselves.

There are many joys to be had from home brewing, just like you would with any hobby, and how in-depth you want to go into it is entirely up to you.

Technically, anyone can start brewing beer right away, thanks to the easy availability of brewing kits (such as this affordable kit that’s less than $100) out there in the market. These kits are reusable, and depending on the brand, come with everything you’ll need to make beer right at home. Your local home brewing shop (here are Singapore’s home brewing shops) will certainly carry some, and many e-commerce sites sell them too.

Example of a brewing kit

Still, anyone should know what they’re getting into before they begin home brewing. Unlike many other hobbies out there, there’s a certain legal concern attached to it as well. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. To find out if home brewing is for you, ask yourselves these questions below.

Why are you picking up home brewing?

It may seem like an obvious question, but it’s the most important one. There are many reasons to pick up home brewing, and by far, an appreciation and passion for beer is likely going to be the most rewarding reason to do so. We’re not talking about a drive or addiction to drinking beer here, but rather, a deeper desire to know about the beverage, how it is made, what even constitutes as beer, and what separates a good brew from a bad one.

It’s a hobby that you can pick up easily enough (with some reading or through YouTube video tutorials), but has such depth and nuance that you can go on learning about it forever. There are so many styles of beers, ingredients to play with and techniques to make them that the options are limitless. The satisfaction you can get from home brewing will indeed last you a lifetime, and it’s a hobby that certainly rewards delayed gratification.

However, if your intention to home brew is to purely produce lots of beer at home for drinking on the cheap, you might find that it isn’t that rewarding. There is a science behind brewing and if you’re not first willing to understand the processes, your interest will quickly wane. Even the cheapest brewing kit out there is still an investment, and you might just be better off buying cheap commercial beer in bulk. And if your intention is to get wasted on lots and lots of homemade beer, refer to the aforementioned sentence again.

Bottling home brew

Is it even legal to home brew where you live?

This is the simplest question to answer for any aspiring home brewer. Simply check with your local authorities (we wrote about Singapore’s regulations here) to find out if producing beer or other fermented beverages with alcohol content at your place of residence is even legal.

Some countries might find it legal to brew beer at home, but only up to a certain level of alcohol by volume (ABV). Others might say it’s legal to brew up to only a certain volume of beer per month, and only for personal consumption, not to sell them. After all, making beer and selling beer are two separate things.

It should be pointed out that brewing and distilling are different things too. Many places don’t allow distilling (to make spirits) of any kind to take place in a home, but find it okay to allow brewing. So check first before you unintentionally (or intentionally) break any laws.

Do you enjoy craft beer?

This is one of those litmus test questions you can ask yourself to see if home brewing is for you. If you’ve never distinguished between everyday supermarket beer labels and artisanal brews before, you certainly won’t enjoy making your own beer. There are many definitions of craft beer out there, but for our purposes, it means to say beers that are non-commercial, and made from smaller or lesser-known breweries.

This is not to say all commercial beers are bad (there are many good ones out there, actually), but an appreciation for what craft beer stands for is crucial to enjoying the creativity that abounds when brewing beer. It’s that pioneering spirit and willingness to venture into new methods never tried before. Feel like using wine yeast instead of beer yeast to make your pale ale? Why not.

Are you comfortable with fermentation?

Fermenting is an inescapable part of making beer, and you’re going to be facilitating it when home brewing, so get comfortable with the idea of having living, breathing things work its magic.

This means having to create an environment to indirectly aid in the production of alcohol. Yeast, the microorganism responsible for turning your wort (a sugary water containing all your flavor extracts) into a beverage with alcohol, does its work best only when certain conditions are met.

You have to be willing to adjust things like room temperatures, light penetration, flow of carbon dioxide produced during the process, and more, in order to produce a good batch of beer. Folks who are into natural fermentation and making your own kombucha at home should be totally fine.

Are you willing to sanitize?

Yes, even sanitation is a big part of home brewing. Because a special type of brewing yeast is what makes your alcohol for you, and different yeasts produces different results, you’ll want none of the wild yeast and other microbes floating around the air to affect your brew. At least not usually.

Brewers typically fully sanitize their entire toolkit and equipment needed before any thing else even starts. And they don’t sanitize using common household detergent or soap either, but with specialized food-grade (such as Star San) or colorless, odorless sanitizers. Some types of household bleach works, but you need to double check before you start using them. Safety always comes first.

Delicious beer is the reward

Are you willing to wait?

Brewing takes time. From the start of your brewing day to the time you can finally pour out a pint to drink usually entails a period of around two months (perhaps more), depending on your environment and the beer you’re making. But hey, delayed gratification is the best kind out there, and it sure is satisfying when your lips finally touch that cold one.

Are you wavering just from reading this article?

As with many new things to get into, it might seem daunting at first. But really, many home brewers will tell you that it isn’t that hard to get into home brewing. Your first batch might go foul, but hey, that’s already the worst that can happen (except a bottle explosion, but don’t worry about that yet). Many home brewers toss out their first batch due to a whole host of possible reasons, so you won’t be the first.

Practice makes perfect, and if you never start you’ll never know. Plus with the many starter home brewing kits (and resources) out there these days, it has never been easier.

It’s honestly a hobby with plenty of latitude. Once you pick up the basics, apply it to making wines, makgeolli or even your own style of mead or cider. It’s just fun and rewarding to produce alcoholic beverages in your own home, knowing that the fruits of your labor will arrive in the form of a delicious, homemade drink.

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