5 Best Homebrewing Gifts for the Holidays
Little more than a decade ago, home beer brewing was a niche that required a whole lot of research and an equal amount of money. The American Homebrewers Association had a little less than 8,500 members, down by nearly 10,000 from a decade before -- after the microbrew boom of the 1990s went bust. This year, the association added its 30,000th member, saw homebrew spending increase by almost 20% and saw four out of every brewery supply shops in the U.S. sell more beginners' kits than the year before.
That growth has made it a whole lot easier to get started. While starter brewing sets from Cooper's or Mr. Beer sell for $40 or less, a professional-grade beginners kit that will come in handy even when a brewer gets to be an old pro costs only between $80 and $110.
As wizened homebrewers can tell you, supplies don't have to be expensive, either. The five-gallon pot you use to boil pasta sauce or steam mussels will work just fine. That recycling bin full of holiday beer empties? Rookies may want to keep them around for the first case.
Gary Glass, director of the association, recommends starting with a plastic bucket fermenter, an air lock and stopper, thermometer, racking cane for siphoning, tubing, bottling bucket, bottle filler, bottle capper, sanitizer, bottles and a bottle cleaning brush.
You don't have to knock yourself out sweating the basics, either. The association offers Zymurgy: An Introduction To Homebrewing as a free online guide to help new brewers tackle the process a step at a time. Meanwhile, free online books such as John Palmer's How To Brew offer additional insight for refining those first batches of porter and IPA.
We decided to do a little holiday shopping and came up with five recommendations for the folks on your list either looking to start their homebrew journey or who've just started their first few batches and wonder where to go from here: