Brewing beer is a very old and popular pastime. Many sources date beer making to over 10,000 years ago. Here in the United States, Native Americans, as well as our founding fathers, were known to make their own. George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were documented beer makers, for their own drinking pleasure.
In 1919, when prohibition was enacted, not only was buying alcohol made illegal, but homebrewing became illegal as well. Even though Prohibition was later set aside with the passing of the 21st Amendment, the omission of the words “and beer” from the Amendment continued to keep homebrewing a banned pastime. It wasn’t until 1978, when President Jimmy Carter signed another amendment, that the homebrewing of beer became legal again. According to the American Homebrewers Association, there are still two states where homebrewing remains illegal, Alabama and Mississippi. UPDATE: In 2013, both Alabama and Mississippi governors signed bills into law making it legal to brew beer at home. So home brewing is now legal in all 50 states.
Fast forward to today and you’ll find there are over one million homebrewers spread across the United States. You can find homebrew clubs in nearly every city and in many towns across the country. And with the growing popularity of craft beers, the making of quality beer has reached a fever pitch.
How hard is it to make your own beer? Today, approximately 90% of brewery owners got their start by homebrewing. They simply took their passion and curiosity to the next level and are now a part of the growing craft beer movement. Ironically, a great example of this is the Almanac Beer Company, founded in the San Francisco Bay area. They believe in farm-to-barrel brewing, which is about selecting the best locally grown fruits and blending the fruits into beers inspired by the great brewing traditions of the world. Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan of Almanac Beer are dedicated to producing seasonal artisan ales, brewed specifically to complement the local cuisine.
According to Friedman, “We came to the brewing world by way of homebrewing. For years in our respective San Francisco apartments, we’d brew five-gallon stovetop batches, developing a passion for crafting unique and unusual beers unavailable commercially. Using farmers’ markets as the launching pad for many unique homebrews, we knew right away we were on to something.”
Brewing beer is not as difficult as you might think. Beer only has 4 basic ingredients: water, malt, hops, and yeast. There are many recipes available you can follow, or, if you’re a beginner, there are kits that offer you an easy way to get started.
Here are a few tips from Brewers Association President and author of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, Charlie Papazian:
– It’s extremely easy to get started. The hardest thing to overcome is the idea you might have that “I can’t do this because it’s too complicated and I don’t have enough time.” It’s not complicated. If you enjoy having fun, then you can be a homebrewer.
– Homebrewing is growing in popularity every year. Craft beer from craft brewers is a public rallying point for homebrewers who are the foundation of the commercial craft brewing growth and development.
– Here’s the best advice: “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.” If you like the taste of beer, and if you especially enjoy craft beer, you can homebrew. You don’t have to have a sophisticated setup to make excellent beer. Your first batch can be as excellent as those beers you buy and spend money on. First batches are always the best beer you ever made–until the next batch.
Paul Leone is the creator of the American Craft beer blog www.BeerAmerica.tv. This web site and its videos are dedicated to sharing information about the many different American specialty craft beers and breweries there are in our country. Be sure to check out his site and the videos for suggestions on where to taste some of the specialty craft beers.