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Gift Guide for Homebrewers

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“What is the best gift to get for a homebrewer?”

Well, the answer really depends on a lot of factors. Are they just getting into the craft or do they frequently show up to parties with kegs full of their latest creation? Homebrewing, like lots of other hobbies, can require tons of time, money and equipment and as people get deeper into it the investment only gets larger. However, as we have learned, it is a super rewarding pastime and there is nothing quite like pouring a pint that you spent hours creating. So here are some helpful pieces of homebrewing equipment that we have used in the past, currently use or have our eye on for the future.

Gifts for the Novice Homebrewer

For the person extremely into craft beer and ready to make the leap to brewing their own

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Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Kit is one that we have mentioned several times and always with good reason. It’s fairly easy to produce beer right on your stovetop using it and is a great introduction to all grain brewing. Had we leapt right into trying to put together a whole five gallon brewing system (and actually making beer on it) we likely would have been way more frustrated with the hobby. That’s not to say that using this kit is foolproof, as we still had a few issues along the way, but we were able to correct them and come up with a finished product we were proud of. We have never tried the Jalapeño Saison kit, but if we try another stovetop brew this is the one we will reach for.

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Whichever intro kit you go with, there a few essential accessories that every beginning homebrewer needs. First is a large stock pot, probably bigger than any you have in your kitchen, to be able to mash in your grain and boil the resulting wort. You will also need somewhere to house your finished beer, which is where the bottles and capper come in. If you’re really proud of your creation and want to get fancy with it, we have used chalkboard spray paint on bottles and then created our own labels with paint markers. Hey, that would make a cute gift!

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Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer is the Holy Grail of homebrewing books. It features 80 recipes, all to BJCP style, and gives the option of brewing with either extract or all grain. Probably 98% of homebrewers we know (us included) own this book and consult it before most if not all brew days. Though it’s sometimes easier and quicker to just Google “How to Brew a Brown Ale”, there is no guarantee you will stumble upon a tried and true recipe and may wind up with a batch of beer that doesn’t come out quite right. Brewing Classic Styles takes the guesswork out of that.


Making the Jump to Homebrewing 5 Gallon Batches

For people who have conquered stove top brewing and are ready to take it up a notch

 

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As you may have guessed, once you want to start brewing 5 or 10 gallon batches of beer you can no longer do so in the comfort of your kitchen. This is where an outdoor burner comes into play. We currently use the King Kooker, which is actually designed to heat a lobster pot. You may also have heard of people buying turkey fryers for their homebrew system. In reality, either option works since all you are looking for is a burner that will heat an extremely large pot of liquid. And you can feel good that you are saving a few turkeys or lobsters and making beer instead. {Note: you will need your own propane tank to hook the burner up to.}

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Once your beer is brewed, it will need somewhere to ferment. This is where a plastic fermenter comes into play. This one is 6.5 gallons, which is ideal for a 5 gallon batch of beer. Depending on what type of beer you are trying to produce, you can put the fermenter in a temperature appropriate space and check it every few days. {Note: you will also need an airlock to place in the lid to prevent a beer explosion.}

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A keg (or two). Once the beer is fermented and ready to be packaged, many homebrewers make the leap from bottling their beer to kegging it. In our opinion, kegging is much easier (though a bit less portable) and it allows you to better control the carbonation of your beer. Also your brew will stay fresh in a keg, so if you tap it and don’t finish all five gallons you can simply store it in a cool place until next time you have a hankering for your homebrew. You will also need a CO2 tank to tap your keg or hook it up to our next gift idea.

Add on a CO2 Tank

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Once you have a keg or two you will probably also want a jockey box. A jockey box is basically just a portable tap system that you can easily hook your keg up to. Ice is placed inside the jockey box, so the beer travels from the keg, throughout the coil in the box and by the time it comes out of the tap it is perfectly chilled and carbonated.

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Ater getting familiar with Brewing Classic Styles, you may want to start experimenting a bit. That’s where Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher comes in. Not strictly a recipe book, Radical Brewing explores techniques but also offers anecdotes about brewing history. We think beer legend Michael Jackson said it best in his foreword of the book:

“The world desperately needs more Moshers. If only we had more Moshers, the Tasmanian tiger might return from extinction. Mike Tyson at his peak would be able to step into the ring with Muhammad Ali. We would be able to see and hear the great performers who pre-dated the recording of sound. I might even now be sipping a pre-Prohibition beer and checking whether Buddy Bolden could be heard across Lake Ponchartrain. Or I might be sampling Harwood’s Porter in a London pub, or an India Pale Ale aboard a clipper heading for Calcutta.”


Gifts for the Experienced Homebrewer

Some practical, some a little lavish but all things any homebrewer would love to own

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A kegerator. It’s basically a fridge meets beer tap, which you can’t go wrong with. Just hook a keg of homebrew (or your favorite commercial brew) up and it stays chilled and ready to pour on demand. Can you really put a price on cold draught beer that you don’t have to leave your house for?

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Offbeat ingredients. Most experienced brewers already have some equipment they use for their more traditional beers and others that are reserved for experimentation. So why not gift them a more unique yeast, like Brettanomyces Bruxellensis which is used to produce Belgian style beers and lambics. Or mosaic hops which have very complex flavors of tropical fruit and pine and can be used to impart flavor, aroma and bitterness.


Gifts Every Homebrewer Can Use

From novice to aspiring pro, these gifts are perfect for every homebrewer

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Sanitizer is probably the most important ingredient in any brewing recipe and we have always had great results with Star San Sanitizer. Whether you are brewing in a stock pot on your stove or on a commercial brewery system, it is crucial that every piece of equipment used is properly sanitized. The brewing process is an extremely delicate one and even the slightest mistake can lead to an infection in your beer. Though not as serious as it sounds (no one will get sick from drinking infected beer) it can lead to off flavors or even worse, having the infection stay on your equipment. This can spoil future batches and no one wants to spend hours brewing a beer and months cultivating it just to have to pour it down the drain.

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A refractometer allows you to measure the level of sugar in the wort before fermentation to obtain your OG (original gravity). This number allows you to estimate what your final gravity and eventual ABV will wind up being. The refractometer is a tool to let you know how your beer will finish ABV wise, and if it is not heading in the direction you want you can make adjustments. Also, it’s definitely helpful to know that a beer you were aiming to have finish at 4% ABV really wound up around 9%.

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A Fast Rack Bottle Dryer makes drying out sanitized bottles way easier than trying to balance them upside down on your countertop. Plus if you are getting bored waiting for your beer to ferment, you can always try the Fast Rack Speed Challenge.

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