With recent monumental rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, you might have missed a less significant, but still historical, event that took place. As of July 1, homebrewing—the making of beer at home—is legal in all 50 states: Mississippi and Alabama became the final two states to legalize homebrewing since Prohibition made it illegal in 1919.
Unifying the homebrew community in the United States has long been a goal of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). “Homebrewers are deeply dedicated to their craft, and the AHA is thrilled that homebrewers in all 50 states can now legally take part in that passion,” says AHA Director Gary Glass.
Here in Utah, the Legislature passed House Bill 51 in 2009, which created an exception to the licensing of alcoholic-beverage manufacturer’s requirements. Prior to that, homebrewers were technically supposed to be licensed to brew beer at home.
Why would you bother to make beer at home when there’s so much good stuff on store shelves? Well, as it turns out, there are some pretty convincing reasons to do so, and any of the operators of our local homebrew supply stores will be happy to discuss them with you. Cost, of course is a consideration: You can brew a high-quality, five-gallon batch of beer at home—after an initial equipment purchase—for around $30 to $35. A five-gallon batch of beer produces about 2 1/2 cases of 12-ounce bottles, meaning that you’ve only invested about 60 cents per bottle for very good beer. The initial homebrewing equipment purchase can run as little as $30 for a basic brewing kit, and you can find free, perfectly good used glass bottles for bottling your beer at your local recycling center.
Another good reason to brew your own beer is that you can, with very little experience, begin to control the flavors in your beer and accent those you like. For me, however, the real attraction of brewing beer at home is the “fun factor.” It’s satisfying to make beers that you know are truly unique, since each batch tastes a little different, even when using the same recipe. And the people involved in homebrewing tend to make up a very informative and generous community, eager to share recipes, anecdotes and technique tips—and to taste your beers. Naming your brews is part of the fun, too. In the past, I’ve created my own labels for brews such as James Brown Ale, A Lighter Shade of Pale Ale, Scheffler Stout, I Want My IPA and others.
Making your first batch of homebrew is somewhat easier that making a stew, and a lot easier than neurosurgery. Start by visiting a homebrew supply store like The Beer Nut, Salt City Brew Supply, Art’s Brewing Supplies or Grains, Grapes & Grounds, and pick up the homebrewing bible: Charlie Papazian’s The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing. Read the introductory chapters to get a clear picture of the time and equipment you’ll need, and then return to your local homebrew shop for advice and gear.
You are going to be amazed at how good your first batch of beer tastes. If you follow directions and do everything—even most things—correctly, you’ll produce a beer that tastes better than most of what you can buy in the supermarket, and on a par with some of the beers served at your favorite craft brewery. Before you can say “microbrew,” you’ll be serving your special beer to your guests, accompanied by their “oohs” and “ahhs.”