When I was in high school my dad and my little brother used to brew their own beer and the most fantastic root beer. They had all the fancy equipment, bottles, capper, bucket kegs, tubing, the works. Every so often they'd visit the brewing supply shop, come home and would take over the kitchen while my poor mother, in her valiant attempt to save her kitchen, hovered with a dish cloth to wipe up the spills and mess. It was messy.
I was more of a spectator in this endeavor because this was their thing, and to be honest, I really wasn't that interested. Occasionally I got to hold something or help them pack the boxes of freshly bottled beer or root beer out to the root cellar, but that was pretty much the extent of my involvement in the process.
Fast forward to the future about twenty five years and I discovered Mom and Dad had started brewing their own beer again. What initially hooked me was the fact that the whole process they use now is much more streamlined, making it a much easier and far less elaborate process. My dad showed me his set up and I got so excited. I totally wanted to start doing this and so I did.
I was thrilled with a lot of things about making my own beer. First and foremost, if you happen to like beer, and I do, it really tastes good and it is totally natural and preservative free - I really like that.
It's not expensive, in fact it is about half the cost of purchasing beer at the grocery store. I bought my starter kit which included the keg, some plastic 1 liter bottles (over time I swapped out the plastic bottles for glass flip tops) and a brew kit, on a Christmas clearance at ShopKo pretty cheap. I also bought a bunch of refill kits also on clearance. Now I buy my supplies direct from here. They often have killer sales and free shipping offers. Over Memorial Day weekend they offered their refill kits for 30% OFF with free shipping on orders over $75. I stocked up and now I'm brewing beer for the next year or so for only $11.75 a batch.
It doesn't take a lot of time, which is great because I don't always have a lot of time. In the time it takes to make soup I can make beer. I start by sterilizing the keg and let it sit while I put my brew together on the stove using my regular pots and pans. Then I dump out and rinse the keg before adding the brew, warm water and yeast. For the next two weeks my keg sits on top of my refrigerator and gets busy.
At the end of two weeks I fill up my kitchen sink with hot water and the sterilizing powder that comes with the refill kit and let them soak for ten minutes. I rinse them out and set them on the counter. I prime each 16 oz. bottle with a tsp. of regular sugar straight from my pantry and then fill the bottles. The keg has a spigot on the front. Once the bottles are filled I put them back in their box and tuck them into our hall closet which has the move even temperature of any place in our house, probably because the hot water heater is in there. After a week it is carbonated and ready to enjoy.
And there is minimal waste. This part I really like because I don't have to pack gobs of beer bottles to the recycling center anymore which seems kind of wasteful. Even though they are being recycled just looking at that mountain of glass waiting to be processed just made me think I can do better.
Everything is recyclable except for two plastic pouches. I wash the bottles out with my regular dishes and I have a special bottle brush I ordered that works perfectly with those bottles. So the bottles get reused, no extra processing there, the trash that goes in to the recycle bin form the refill kit is relatively little and the actual trash to the landfill is minimal.