Author Topic: Homebrew club?  (Read 7487 times)

igthebold

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 470
  • Age: 40
  • Location: NC Piedmont
Homebrew club?
« on: September 11, 2012, 07:43:02 AM »
I've wanted to get back into brewing beer, but haven't wanted to purchase and own equipment. A friend of mine just expressed interest in setting up a home brew club with 6-7 people.

Has anybody here done something like this? Anything I should be aware of? I like the idea of spreading the cost out and not taking up space in my garage.

Posthumane

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 306
  • Location: Alberta
    • Getting Around Canada
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2012, 08:46:31 AM »
I think this is a great idea. One of the benefits of this kind of arrangement is that you would get to drink a larger variety of beer than you would if you were brewing yourself. Typically a single batch makes 40-60 bottle equivalents, so unless you drink quite regularly you will end up having the same kind of beer for a month or two straight. Also, the beer doesn't last as long as commercial pasteurized beer so you can't make a bunch of different kinds to have throughout the year.

For equipment you will likely only need one of each thing required for the mash process (assuming you do all or partial grain), one brew pot, burner, and so on, but I assume you would want to have multiple carboys so you could have several batches going at once spaced a few weeks apart. Where would the equipment be stored and used? Would it be just an equal buy-in for everyone, followed by regular contributions for materials? Another possibility you could try is to have each person get a carboy to keep at their house, but share all the other equipment amongst each other co-op style.

cambridgecyclist

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 82
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2012, 11:18:28 AM »
Are you asking, on your friends behalf, if anyone has set up a club and if it's worth doing? Or if it's reasonable to join a homebrew club with the goal of saving money, not owning equipment and having all your beer-related projects stored somewhere else while they're fermenting?

igthebold

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 470
  • Age: 40
  • Location: NC Piedmont
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2012, 12:02:58 PM »
Are you asking, on your friends behalf, if anyone has set up a club and if it's worth doing? Or if it's reasonable to join a homebrew club with the goal of saving money, not owning equipment and having all your beer-related projects stored somewhere else while they're fermenting?

Well, I want to join, too, so I'm asking on my own behalf. My primary concern is to avoid misunderstanding and hard feelings among friends. Shared property is not something a lot of us are used to, though it's a useful idea.

Here's what I'm envisioning: Without setting up a formal organization, everyone goes in evenly on equipment. Per-recipe consumables are purchased by whoever is running a particular batch, usually a subset of the whole group. Things like sanitizer, which are less easy to measure, are just bought by the whole group as needed. If you pay for and work on a particular batch, it's yours to split as desired.

Is that reasonable? Do you foresee any gotchas? Things that need to be spelled out for everyone to understand? I'm guessing I'm going to be the only one with any experience going into it.

SilverForge

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 4
  • Age: 47
  • Location: Down East in Virginia
  • Blue-collar Indie-minded Family Growth to Freedom
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2012, 03:21:28 PM »
If you have never brewed- take a class- if you have a club- use it- start one if you want... From my personal experience- Wife and I took a class so we could not ruin our first batches- and the class gave us a discount on kits the day of class- the biggest expense is NOT the kit, the brewing gear, or the class- its BOTTLES... one 5 gal batch is a little more than 48- 12oz bottles... start your friends saving the NON-TWIST capped bottles so you can recycle. Bottles dissapear, break, given as gifts- the little gnome-thieves at my garage constantly crack ONE bottle every 3 months- its a constant turn on re-supply...

Prices: Kit- 35.00 + Gear (Brewmaster 5-gallon kit)- 145.00 + 50 bottles- 42.00 = TOTAL COST 222.00 approx. so your FIRST batch is costing you about 4.60 a bottle... WOW... BUT- Here is the GREAT part- the SECOND batch is KIT COST ONLY... you already have the bottles and gear! The second batch cost is right around .95/bottle! (Based on 48 bottle return of 12oz bottles per kit)

DOWNSIDES: other folks dont think about things like you- so "Group Gear" is a cool concept- but unless you guys are buying stainless- get your own gear. The reason is that if someone scratches/scuffs/gouges the inside of plastic fermenter/gear- or doesnt clean it as effectively as you- YOUR beer will suffer... LEAVE NOTING TO CHANCE...

UP-Side of owning your own beer-gear: You can also do meads/wines/lambecs- it is NOT cost prohibitive if you look at it as a long term hobby (You will probably move into glass carboys if you start to get serious- a MUCH better option for cleaning... but fragile...) and the best part is YOU are sure of the last guys cleaning and storage!

SUMMARY: My Advice- Take a class- get the discounts- buy all the gear in one sitting- go in with the group to buy the kits (Bulk customer discount)- and start getting others to save bottles! WINE makes a better gift because there is only 1 bottle versus 6 in a beer-gift!

By the way- where in NC? Im from Aberdeen/Southern Pines areas-

Be safe and as always- hope this reaches you safe, well, and in good spirits! -Ag

cambridgecyclist

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 82
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2012, 03:35:10 PM »
I can't speak for a homebrew club specifically, but as an organizer of a bicycle club with a shared workspace and a member of a community workshop, here are some things we struggle with:

- shared storage space is subject to the tragedy of the commons. If there are no guidelines for limiting usage, it gets filled up quickly with stuff that people eventually abandon. Our approach is that the available space is first-come-first-served, your stuff must all be labeled with your name and the date it was left, and it will be chucked if it's been there longer than 6 months. Even this approach is problematic: people ask for exceptions frequently and also simply forget to label their stuff. When brewing, you'll need storage space for all of that beer as it ferments. Carboys will be locked up with batches that require different aging times. That barleywine may take up space for a year. So will that mead, or the hard cider that gets fed honey in dribbles in order to get the perfect balance of sweetness.
- tools go missing all the time. People forget them in odd places because they're focused on the project, not the tool.
- Almost nobody respects community tools and property with the same sense of attachment they have to their own personal property.
- Community equipment will not be cleaned to everyone's standards. It will eventually be cleaned to the standards of the dirtiest community member.
- Rules and policies are useless if they're not enforced. Enforcing rules is a delicate matter and requires lots of social intelligence and tact, and even when done well can result in hurt feelings. The enforcer(s) are not always well-liked as a result -- respected, perhaps, but not liked.
- When the club was based in someone's basement, it was impossible to access tools and in-progress projects without making arrangements with the homeowner. Being gatekeeper is not fun. Even a standard weekly "open basement" time becomes a chore for the gatekeeper. Whoever donates their space to this project is taking on a lot of responsibility and committing a lot of time to the club, so it needs to be worth it for that person.

  And as a homebrewer:

- Don't allow lambic-style beers or brewing with brettanomyces yeast. This yeast and the organisms in lambic have evolved to infect beer by being airborne. Once they are in your brewery, they are virtually impossible to eliminate from the environment, and all beers will eventually become infected with them and have strange flavors as a result.
- Beer brewing consumes a large amount of water during the cooling stage. This will show up on the utility bill.
- Make sure there is a good insurance policy; there is a huge liability issue. Brewing beer can be dangerous. Alcohol, heavy containers of hot liquids, large glass containers, wet surfaces, pressurized gas, burners and tanks of fuel have the potential to combine in new and exciting ways.
- Brew outside or in an open garage, not inside; cleanup is easier and there's less chance of spilling gallons of liquid indoors.

  Here's the thing about beer brewing equipment, though -- it's cheap -- like, really cheap. Within the first two or three batches it will pay for itself. And after that, by exercising your frugal muscles beer can be as low as 25 cents a pint!

tooqk4u22

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2195
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2012, 07:48:40 AM »
WINE makes a better gift because there is only 1 bottle versus 6 in a beer-gift!


Just curious is it possible to put beer in wine bottles or bottles of similar size?

igthebold

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 470
  • Age: 40
  • Location: NC Piedmont
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2012, 07:56:47 AM »
Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

I have brewed before, and my main concern has been scratches in the fermenter. Of course, that's one of the cheaper components, so in theory each of us could buy his own fermentation bucket.

Also, communicating the importance of cleanliness and sanitation will be difficult, I think. It's easy to agree without grasping just how important it is. If I ask people to collect bottles, I'm going to have to assume they may have merely rinsed them, leaving bits of sugar, etc behind. Meaning I'd have to get a proper pressurized bottle washer, which I've always done without by being really careful and thorough.

I think the biggest issue, though, is what cambridgecyclist raised: lack of care for other people's property. The space issue will be resolved by the fact that the person hosting will not allow abuse of his space, but the equipment is another matter.

I have to remember the benefits, though. By pooling resources we can get things like immersion chillers without feeling like we're breaking the bank. Maybe we'll do a compromise by pooling resources on the more expensive parts.

Maybe I should write a journal along with the brewing log to catalog experiences doing it as a club.

SilverForge - I'm in Alamance County. Not too close to you, not too far. :)

Just curious is it possible to put beer in wine bottles or bottles of similar size?

Yes, for bottles of similar size. Sometimes you'll see barleywines in bail-top bottles. The main issue is positive pressure on the inside. Still wine isn't trying to push the cork out. Champagne and beer would, so they're bottled differently. The other implication is bottle strength. Beer doesn't (usually) get as fizzy as champagne, but it's still an issue.

Posthumane

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 306
  • Location: Alberta
    • Getting Around Canada
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2012, 08:03:35 AM »
Just curious is it possible to put beer in wine bottles or bottles of similar size?
Some champagne bottles have a lip around the top allowing you to use a beer bottle cap to seal them, whereas most wine bottles do not. Can't use a cork because of the pressure. There are also larger beer bottles that you can get (I've seen up to 1L in various liquor stores). I've used a glass bbq sauce bottle with a grolsch style resealable pop top. Another option you can use in a pinch if you run out of glass bottles at bottling time is the 2 L plastic pop bottles. You have to be quite careful about cleaning them since plastic can be scratched, but they seal very well and definitely hold the pressure. The beer won't last as long in them since they are slightly porous, but a couple months should be fine.

tooqk4u22

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2195
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2012, 08:08:37 AM »
Got it.  It seems a good bottle alternative would be to buy a case of Grolsch beer (has the cork stop top), drink, and reuse for bottling.  Any reason this wouldn't work?  Besides getting a round of beer upfront you would save on caps.


igthebold

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 470
  • Age: 40
  • Location: NC Piedmont
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2012, 08:10:57 AM »
Got it.  It seems a good bottle alternative would be to buy a case of Grolsch beer (has the cork stop top), drink, and reuse for bottling.  Any reason this wouldn't work?  Besides getting a round of beer upfront you would save on caps.

You just have to be really careful to get the priming right. That's the stage where you add more sugar for bottling so the yeast can generate more CO2. If you add just a little too much, you have exploding glass bottles, which is *bad*. Those bottles tend to be pretty strong. Just be careful. :)

grantmeaname

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4732
  • Age: 26
  • Location: NYC
  • Cast me away from yesterday's things
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2012, 08:32:25 AM »
Got it.  It seems a good bottle alternative would be to buy a case of Grolsch beer (has the cork stop top), drink, and reuse for bottling.  Any reason this wouldn't work?  Besides getting a round of beer upfront you would save on caps.

Caps are like the least of your worries. At our local homebrew shop we get 200 for like $5.

(If you want to use champagne bottles you need bigger caps. I think they're 24 instead of 22 mm, or something like that.)

wickemt

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 17
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2012, 09:08:19 AM »
Mustachian homebrewing necessitates a transition to mead. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mead

Ingredients: Honey + water + yeast + adjuncts + time = delicious booze.

Easily scalable - each pound of honey equals 1% alcohol by volume in a 5 gallon batch.

Cost effective - buying honey 5 pounds at a time at Costco gets your cost per pint down to $0.70. Buying honey in 60 pound bulk tubs through wholesalers gets your cost per pint down to a whopping $0.25! At that price you can happily drink your fill every night. Pick up some used soda kegs on craigslist, and forget about washing bottles!


tooqk4u22

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2195
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2012, 09:28:03 AM »
Got it.  It seems a good bottle alternative would be to buy a case of Grolsch beer (has the cork stop top), drink, and reuse for bottling.  Any reason this wouldn't work?  Besides getting a round of beer upfront you would save on caps.

Caps are like the least of your worries. At our local homebrew shop we get 200 for like $5.

(If you want to use champagne bottles you need bigger caps. I think they're 24 instead of 22 mm, or something like that.)

No surprise but I have no knowledge of this area yet.   

Everybody is saying how cheap it is for homebrewing. What is the typical cost per pint to do this when factoring in all equipment, materials, ingredients (you know fixed and variable costs) over the long term. It seems that ingredient kits are about $40, or $0.70/bottle.  $200 in startup costs - some of that is used forever some maybe not (sanitizer, bottle breakage, equipment that wears out) - is this part $0.05, $0.15, 0.25 per bottle or more or less.

I can buy a decent beer for about $1.25/bottle. 

I guess what I am trying to understand is whether or not homebrewing is really cost effective or people do it because it is fun/enjoyable/craftsmanship (no different than working on stuff in the garage) and is more cost neutral in reality (probably negative if factoring in labor). 


AJ

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 906
  • Age: 35
  • Location: Oregon
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2012, 10:08:37 AM »
Mustachian homebrewing necessitates a transition to mead. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mead

Ingredients: Honey + water + yeast + adjuncts + time = delicious booze.

Easily scalable - each pound of honey equals 1% alcohol by volume in a 5 gallon batch.

Cost effective - buying honey 5 pounds at a time at Costco gets your cost per pint down to $0.70. Buying honey in 60 pound bulk tubs through wholesalers gets your cost per pint down to a whopping $0.25! At that price you can happily drink your fill every night. Pick up some used soda kegs on craigslist, and forget about washing bottles!

Even better, grow your own honey :) My friend took a beekeeping class as an elective in college and has had a near unlimited supply of honey ever since. She started brewing mead just to go through it all. Its a fun little side hobby for her. I would like to try it someday.

Posthumane

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 306
  • Location: Alberta
    • Getting Around Canada
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2012, 10:25:21 AM »


No surprise but I have no knowledge of this area yet.   

Everybody is saying how cheap it is for homebrewing. What is the typical cost per pint to do this when factoring in all equipment, materials, ingredients (you know fixed and variable costs) over the long term. It seems that ingredient kits are about $40, or $0.70/bottle.  $200 in startup costs - some of that is used forever some maybe not (sanitizer, bottle breakage, equipment that wears out) - is this part $0.05, $0.15, 0.25 per bottle or more or less.

I can buy a decent beer for about $1.25/bottle. 

I guess what I am trying to understand is whether or not homebrewing is really cost effective or people do it because it is fun/enjoyable/craftsmanship (no different than working on stuff in the garage) and is more cost neutral in reality (probably negative if factoring in labor).

A $10 bag of sanitizer lasts me several batches, or over 200 bottles, so less than $.05 per bottle. I would say considerably less if you buy it in quantities over 1lb. Caps, IIRC were about $5 for 200. I would say the biggest advantage of the Grolsch bottles (which is what I've been switching to) is not the cost savings but the convenience. The bottling/capping process for me was the most tedious and time consuming part of the process and having the pop-top type bottles saves a lot of effort an patience. They are also 450mL as opposed to 330mL for typical beer bottles so you only have to fill 2/3 the number of bottles. Bottle breakage hasn't been a huge issue for me, but acquiring enough initially to be able to make a second batch while my first hadn't been fully drank yet took time. You can buy bottles from your local bottle depot for a little more than you get when you return them (I believe they charged me $0.25 per bottle, whereas they only pay $0.10 when you return, so reuse them as much as possible).

If you can get good beer for $1.25 per bottle then you won't be saving much. Where I live a good beer is at least $2 per bottle at retail price. I would say every hobby is cost negative if you factor in labour, but factoring labour cost into hobby/diy projects requires some false assumptions.

cambridgecyclist

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 82
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2012, 11:42:49 AM »
When I bought used kegs, they were $12 each plus shipping (alas that deal is long gone), plus $5 for a new set of seals. I've never paid any money for a CO2 tank -- I've found them free from restaurants that were going out of business, from friends in exchange for a six pack or two, even found them on the curb in college towns the day after the students move out. The regulator, hoses and fittings cost about $100 all together, and haven't needed replacement in over a decade. So four kegs plus everything else cost under $200 but also required some patience and searching for bargains. It sure beats delabeling bottles, washing them, buying caps and capping.

Math time... 5 gallons of beer works out to about 50 bottles assuming some loss during racking.

Sanitizer and iodophor costs are minimal. Oxiclean Versatile Free is just as good as B-Brite or PBW and is much less expensive - about $8.50 for 3 pounds -- enough for about 100 carboy washes (it doesn't take much). At two carboy washes per 50 beers, that's around .3 cents per beer. Iodophor in solution can be reused until the color disappears; one 4 ounce bottle ($5) can last for over 30 5 gallon batches of beer, so that's about .3 cents per beer. And carboys don't need cleaning if another batch is pitched right on top of the existing yeast cake -- this technique can be used for about 3 batches, from lighter beer -> darker beer -- so the cleaning costs can be reduced down to a little over .1 cents per beer.

Ingredients are water, barley, hops and yeast. Water is included in rent (where I live at least) and is no extra charge. 50# of US 2-row base malt is $60 here and will make 5 batches of beer between 4 and 6% ABV, so that's 12 cents/beer for barley. The base malt can be roasted to create other malts with different color and flavor characteristics, and roasting it costs nothing if it's a sunny day and the solar oven gets a workout. High quality domestic pellet hops in bulk are about $20/pound from hopsdirect.com, including shipping costs, and a really hoppy beer uses about 4 ounces per batch, so that's $5/batch or 10 cents/beer. Yeast can be re-used batch-to-batch, cleaned, stored and recultured. It's about $3 for a packet, and this can be cultured indefinitely, so it goes on the one-time cost pile.*

Last cost is fuel. I use propane (not the cheapest fuel source) and consume about 1/4 tank for each 10 gallon batch. That tank costs somewhere around $20 to fill so that's $2.50 per 5 gallons, or 5 cents/beer for fuel.

So a rough estimate for recurring costs is cleaner/sanitizer (1) + malt (12) + hops (10) + fuel (5) for a total of ~28 cents per bottle of beer. That can be reduced by using less hops, growing hops and/or changing the heat source while brewing.

Equipment can cost a little or a lot; generally it's a one-time cost though. Great beer can be made with marginal equipment; it's all about technique.

*edited cause I forgot about the yeast
« Last Edit: September 12, 2012, 12:11:26 PM by cambridgecyclist »

etamme

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 6
  • Location: NYC -> Ft.Collins, CO (in 1.5 weeks!)
Re: Homebrew club?
« Reply #17 on: September 17, 2012, 02:19:35 PM »
Quote
Here's what I'm envisioning: Without setting up a formal organization, everyone goes in evenly on equipment. Per-recipe consumables are purchased by whoever is running a particular batch, usually a subset of the whole group. Things like sanitizer, which are less easy to measure, are just bought by the whole group as needed. If you pay for and work on a particular batch, it's yours to split as desired.

As a current brewer, this would not interest me. 

1. I am not putting a dime into anything that has no formal organization or structure. 

2. It sounds like a communal brewery, which ... sounds like a bad idea.  Brewing is about process and control.  Giving a bunch of random people access to equipment etc, and brewing environments just seems like the worst way to create quality beer.

3. One of the points of home brewing is brewing what you want ... so "going in" on some one elses beer just to get .. what 1-2 gallons? sounds not interesting.  I'd rather save my pennies and do it myself.

I dunno what your financial situation is, or how in depth you want to get in brewing, but you can get all the equipment you need for pretty cheap, even if you want to do all grain brewing.  It is easy to feel like you "need" to get fancier equipment... i guess like some people want fancier golf clubs or some thing, but you can go super basic and brew with not much more than a couple of buckets from home depot, a thermometer, a brewing book and a big 6-8 gallon pot.  I expect you could get setup for under $100 to do all grain brewing assuming you have an aluminium kettle (pot).

Dont get me wrong, i am all for meeting with people to brew together, just not interested in communal ownership of stuff and or a large group of people involved in the process.  Id get your own equpment, and find a homebrew club - they are all over the place, and online (homebrewtalk.com and #homebrewtalk.com on freenode)