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Basements with Big White Buckets and the Allure of Homebrewing

beerHave you ever wandered into a friend’s basement and seen the following items: big white buckets, a long clear hose, a brush that looks like it’s meant for the toilet and stacks of empty beer bottles? If so, there’s a good chance that your friend is one of the growing number of homebrewers, people who brew beer or make wine in the comfort of their own homes.

Why homebrew? The number of craft beers available at your local grocery store has been growing for years. What does your friend get out of buying a large amount of equipment to store and willingly waiting weeks for his beer to be ‘ready for consumption?’ Why make beer when there are already so many options available? Your friend might have his own reasons, but homebrewers often cite similar reasons for undergoing the long process of brewing.

It’s the community of sharing

beer barrelMuch like DIY moonshine, homebrewed beer cannot be sold without a business license and/or liquor license in most states. Rather than wait the months it takes to get permission to sell homebrew, many homebrewers simply exchange bottles with friends. Wouldn’t it be fun to hand a beer to a friend and say ‘hey I made this?” Homebrewers certainly think so. It’s common to homebrew beers and swap them among friends, developing a beer-sharing community.

It’s tinkering

Some of the more science-minded types may love tinkering with beer recipes. There are endless possible combinations of the main ingredients: malt, barley, yeast and hops. Homebrewers can also get creative by adding orange peel flavors to wit beers or coffee extract to stouts. For some, the search for the perfect beer is the holy grail. They are willing to give up part of their basement and slave over hot wort (the liquid extracted from the grain ingredients) in order to further their quest.

It’s aligned with my sensibilities

bottles and capsA few homebrewers are part of the “drink local” movement. They want to use local ingredients (as much as possible) rather than buy beer shipped from halfway across the world. Homebrewers can also make the argument that they are being environmentally responsible. Many of them keep the same 50-100 bottles, filling them with new homebrews, drinking them and then repeating the process.

So if you ask your friend about the strange brush in his basement, he’ll probably be happy to explain that it’s used for cleaning out bottles. Homebrewers are often passionate about their craft. While many homebrewers have their own reasons for starting, once they are established as homebrewer, they find themselves to be part of a special community, a community where you can hand a beer to a friend and say “hey, I made this. What do you think?”