Author Topic: Homebrewing  (Read 12102 times)

old_man_m

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Homebrewing
« on: March 07, 2012, 09:43:00 PM »
I've been brewing my own beer for two years now. I brewed extract/mini-mash batches for one year, then switched over to all-grain batches. Last year, I brewed 12 batches/55 gallons.

I won't pretend that homebrewing saves me tons of money--I've spent a few hundred dollars on equipment, then there are ongoing expenses for propane, sanitizer, bottle caps, etc. Then again, whereas I used to spend $30/month on commercial beer, now I might spend $15 on store-bought beer every 3-4 months.

I also employ a few Mustachian techniques--first and foremost, I reuse yeast from batch to batch. At $7/vial of liquid yeast, that's not a bad savings per batch. I try to use the same yeast in at least three batches, if not four or five.

As a side benefit, brewing is a nice way to spend six hours on a Saturday afternoon, and nothing attracts friends like offering free beer!

I know MMM is a homebrewer... anyone else?

sol

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2012, 11:51:54 PM »
I've got a bunch of friends who homebrew, and I've looked into it myself but decided that it doesn't make sense from a frugality perspective. 

If you like brewing beer as a hobby then I'm fully in support, but the numbers don't really work out favorably when compared to buying decent medium grade beer from the grocery store, always fresh and always cold and only minutes away, and that never produces a bad batch.

Plus I still think of beer much like I think of television or ice cream.  A nice luxury sometimes, but not something I would put much time or money towards.

I can see the attraction of maybe trying to make your own novelty beer using only ingredients you grow in your own yard, but I don't pretend it would be cheaper than Sam Adams.

Parizade

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2012, 12:45:51 AM »
I've been thinking about brewing my own beer for awhile now, so I'm happy to see this thread. My good German grandmother brewed her own beer as well as making her own sauerkraut, so I feel like it's in my blood.

I found this article over on eartheasy. For those of you with experience, does this method sound reasonable? It certainly looks inexpensive!

http://eartheasy.com/eat_homebrew.htm

Secret Stache

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2012, 05:52:31 AM »
I don't use bottle caps I will buy the store bought pints of Stella (i think) that have the re-sealable top. Works pretty well, plus you have a beer to drink while you are brewing!

Also, I've just started brewing and my beer always seems to be over carbonated and I end up with a a lot of foam.  Any suggestions? am I over doing it on the yeast?

How long do your home brews usually keep?

tfordon

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2012, 08:39:42 AM »
The over carbonation could be a few things.  This is a pretty good article.

I assume you are adding priming sugar after the fermentation has stopped.  You shouldn't have to add any extra yeast at this point and the initial amount of yeast shouldn't affect the carbonation.  I would think the problem is either too much priming sugar or too little headspace in the bottle.

As far as how long homebrew keeps, it is really a question of the style and oxidation.  The typical commercial lager is usually freshest in 3-6 months.  However, some beer styles improve with age: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/101/store.  I haven't had any issues with spoiling of homebrew, but I tend to drink beers that improve with a little aging.  The other big factor in shelf life is how much oxidation you allow at bottling.  If you are able to limit the exposure, the beer should last for years.

gestalt162

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2012, 09:20:04 AM »
I am indeed also a homebrewer, just finished bottling my 2nd batch. I enjoy cooking, and very much enjoy craft beer, so it was always something I wanted to do, and getting a homebrew starter kit for Christmas really got me going. The first batch (an unintentionally low-gravity extract E/APA) was better than I expected, and was a great learning process. My 2nd batch (a partial mash dunkelweizen) has great potential thus far.

I washed the yeast from my most recent batch, and am planning on doing this from now on, as it's so easy and saves $3-7 per batch.

I don't pretend to believe that I save any money homebrewing, especially considering I now drink far more beer than I used to. I'm looking forward to the day when I will go all-grain (partially for cost savings, partially for flavor and control), but need to save up for a down payment to move out of our cramped duplex first, so the fiance says no new equipment until we get a house. I am OK with this.

As for the overcarbonation problem, probably too much/ unevenly distributed priming sugar. How do you prime your bottles?

Shelf life depends. A typical beer should be drank within 3-6 months. Homebrew should probably be drank quicker, as the processes used in homebrewing lead to much quicker oxidation/staling reactions than those produced commercially (that being said, many brewers have discovered beers sitting around after a year or so and found it tastes phenomenal, so YMMV). Very hoppy beers should be drank quickly, as they lose their fresh hop flavor over time. Strong beers (> 8% ABV) can age longer, a year or 2 or more, and probably should be to give the flavors time to meld.

MudHut

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2012, 09:28:42 AM »
I've been homebrewing since college...about 15 years now. I no longer brew much for health reasons--I seem to be sensitive to gluten.  I love been and still miss it.  The gluten-free beer I've tried is terrible. On the plus side I've lost 20 lbs. from not drinking.

Homebrewing was a lot of fun for me because for the satisfaction of making beer that was as good or better (at least in my opion) than what I could buy.  Its a mix of science and art.  My day job does not give me this satisfaction...there is no tangible end result.  Some day maybe I will retire (early) from my job and be a brewer....which pays terrible, but who cares if you are financially independent.

Anyway there are a lot of good places to get information on the web about brewing.  If you are interested in bringing up the quality of your beer, I reccomend taking a look at http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/

They have several "radio" shows and interview profressional brewers that give away a lot of information.

I never saved any money homebrewing, but I learned a craft that I enjoy.  There are some ways to save money--buying used equipment from someone getting out of the hobby, making your own  equipment such as a yeast stirer, saving or re-pitching yeast, maybe trading beer for other things you need.  Its a wonderful thing to master a skill, I'm not saying I'm a master, but the process of moving towards it brings satifisfaction, and I've learned a little about various subjects along the way like chemestry and welding.

kolorado

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2012, 12:07:29 PM »
My FIL and brother have been homebrewers for years. They do save money on it, crafting completely from scratch beers for about $.70 a bottle. Brother makes mostly Belgians and stouts, FIL mostly makes ales and lagers. Considering that they both used to buy craft beer at $1.50-3 each bottle, they definitely save. My brother worked out a system with friends who will buy him equipment and ingredients in exchange for some of the finished beer. He can get much of the beer he drinks for "free" this way.
My hubby finally started brewing last year. My FIL highly recommended starting with a Mr. Beer kit. He started with that also and moved up to a "serious" set of equipment after. We were absolutely shocked how good some of the recipes are. We brew at home for about $.95 a bottle. Hubby was able to kick his $30 a month Guinness habit in favor of $15 in homebrews. Mr. Beer gets an undeserved bad rap I think. The contraption looks so goofy but the beer is really good, simple to make(anyone who can make a boxed cake mix can do it!) and very frugal. Some specialty stuff my hubby has made me in Mr Beer: Chocolate Bock, Raspberry Wheat, Coffee Stout, Green Apple Ale. He also makes plenty of the "plainer" recipes on the site including American and English Pub ales and Irish stouts. We haven't disliked a batch yet. ;)

wilk916

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2012, 12:44:04 PM »
I'm also a homebrewer.  My buddy and I split equipment about a few years back and also split the fruits of our labor (beer... of course).  I'd recommend this to someone looking to get into the hobby since you need a fair amount of equipment to brew (expensive), and each batch makes a fair amount of beer (not so healthy).

The commercial brewers know what they are doing, no doubt, but I haven't made a beer yet that I don't like.  And there is something about drinking a beer you've made yourself that is really satisfying.  I'd recommend it to anyone interested in food/cooking and, of course, beer.

Regarding thebrewingnetwork.com, there is a great podcast produced by this group called Brew Strong.  I'd recommend it to anyone getting into the hobby.  Great discussion/tips/information to help anyone understand the what and why of brewing.  One of the co-hosts is John Palmer who wrote this great book (http://www.amazon.com/How-Brew-Everything-Right-First/dp/0937381888/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1331235566&sr=8-3) -- another recommendation for home brewers.  You might be able to find this in a library, but probably want to own a copy (I keep mine with the kit).

Happy brewing!

BenDarDunDat

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2012, 02:33:09 PM »
I don't use bottle caps I will buy the store bought pints of Stella (i think) that have the re-sealable top. Works pretty well, plus you have a beer to drink while you are brewing!

Also, I've just started brewing and my beer always seems to be over carbonated and I end up with a a lot of foam.  Any suggestions? am I over doing it on the yeast?

How long do your home brews usually keep?

Probably too much priming sugar, but you should also take a gravity reading first to make sure fermentation has finished.  New brewers tend to rush their first few batches.  I think I was bottling in a week.  Now I wait a month or more, unless I'm brewing an IPA. 

Here's a priming calculator. 

zoltani

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2012, 12:24:22 PM »
I don't pretend it would be cheaper than Sam Adams.

Yeah, but then you have to drink sam adams...

I brew, and I think it saves money over buying high quality beer, but I also enjoy it as a hobby.  It's only as expensive as you want to make it.  A couple of 5 gallon buckets, tubing, capper, and bottle caps aren't that expensive.  It is like any gear related hobby, you can go as wild as you want with regard to spending on gear.


K

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Cider and Mead are easy
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2012, 10:29:00 AM »
I'm brewing Hard Cider and Mead right now. I started by using a disposable plastic water jug and a balloon with a hole pricked in it as an airlock, but I have found that just a few dollars worth of equipment makes the fermenting process cleaner and more reliable. Here's a simplified story of how I started my small 1 gallon alternating batch brewing operation:

I bought two rubber stoppers, two fermenting airlocks, and a few dry brewing yeasts from the local brewer's supply store, and two 1 gallon glass jugs of quality apple juice from the grocery store. Added sugar and yeast to one and drank the other (surprisingly refreshing). After primary fermentation was done, I siphoned into the empty jug for secondary fermentation/postponed bottling. Added honey, water, yeast, and some fruit to the empty jug and I'm brewing mead! Eventually, I bottle the cider and rack the mead into the empty jug and start a new batch of cider (glass jug packaging is optional from this point forward).

There are ways to improve and expand the process.. for instance, I'm still buying apple juice in glass jugs (extra jugs = more brewing capacity = more experimentation!), and I also found a 96 ounce glass jug of apple juice, which is perfect for racking my mead because I use oranges and raisins as my yeast nutrient and can't rack off an entire gallon. This also lets the mead sit longer before bottling without interfering with next batch of cider.

I'm still early in the process and building up more supplies for measuring, cleaning, bottling, etc.. but eventually, I may end up brewing 5 gallon batches and racking into the 1 gallon glass jugs.



 

spacecoyote

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2012, 10:54:28 AM »
I got interested in homebrewing about 2 years ago from my wife's great-uncle who makes wine. I've tried my hand at brewing wine and hard cider, but no beer. Maybe some day.

With cider, I've pretty much taken the same approach as K, but I get unpasteurized cider from a local apple orchard when it's in season instead of juice. I haven't made wine from grapes yet, just various seasonal fruits (peach, nectarine, strawberry, etc) that I can find cheaply from local orchards/farms. Any other winemakers out there who have recommendations on types of grapes to try?

I've never bottled anything that I made, which may seem weird but I've never found the need. I just leave it in the carboy, rack every so often and check the airlocks to keep things from stagnating. If I want to give some away to a friend or have a bottle in the fridge (my carboys are in the basement) I will fill a bottle and cap it with a tasting cork. Saves me the expense of a corker and corks which just get used and thrown away (or recycled for another purpose, hopefully) and it works for me - I haven't had a batch spoil yet or anything. Am I missing out on any spectacular aging effect by not bottling and storing my wine?

gestalt162

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2012, 11:34:05 AM »
I haven't made wine from grapes yet, just various seasonal fruits (peach, nectarine, strawberry, etc) that I can find cheaply from local orchards/farms.

Sounds cool, how do you press the fruit?

Am I missing out on any spectacular aging effect by not bottling and storing my wine?

Probably not. You are running a slight risk of infection and certainly a risk of oxidation by racking your wine around that much and leaving lots of headspace in the aging vessels. The oxidation would be perceived as stale or sherry-like flavors in your wine, and would become more prevalent over time.  Bottling would severely reduce the possibility of oxidation. If you haven't had problems yet, I'd say you're good.

spacecoyote

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2012, 11:36:01 AM »
I haven't made wine from grapes yet, just various seasonal fruits (peach, nectarine, strawberry, etc) that I can find cheaply from local orchards/farms.

Sounds cool, how do you press the fruit?

I don't have a press, so I just mash up the fruit in a food processor and add some water then let it sit for a few days in a food-grade plastic bucket to create the must (or juice). Once that is ready, typically a few days, I strain it using some clean cheesecloth or a strainer bag and that's how I get my juice for the wine. It kind of combines the must-making and primary fermentation into one step.

zoltani

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2012, 11:36:05 AM »
Just tasted the Kolsch I brewed. Crisp, clean, and tasty, the perfect summertime beer.  While it has only been in the bottle for about 2.5 weeks it is carbed up nicely and doesn't taste too green. 

There's about 4 six packs left of a dunkelweizen i brewed up, been in the bottle almost 7 weeks now. 

I have an india brown ale in secondary dry hopping that will get bottled within the next 5-7 days.

Next up is an IPA.  I will dry hop and throw in some oak chips that have soaked in whiskey, should be interesting. 

gestalt162

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2012, 12:05:12 PM »
Just tasted the Kolsch I brewed. Crisp, clean, and tasty, the perfect summertime beer.  While it has only been in the bottle for about 2.5 weeks it is carbed up nicely and doesn't taste too green. 

There's about 4 six packs left of a dunkelweizen i brewed up, been in the bottle almost 7 weeks now. 

I have an india brown ale in secondary dry hopping that will get bottled within the next 5-7 days.

Next up is an IPA.  I will dry hop and throw in some oak chips that have soaked in whiskey, should be interesting. 

Man, that's a great lineup. I will be brewing the classic 'Centennial Blonde' recipe in about a week. Should be a great lawnmower/gardening beer.

I brewed a dunkelweizen in February myself- delicious, and I have a few refinements in mind for the next time I brew one, which will hopefully not be too far away- they're one of my favorite styles. Mind sharing your recipe?

zoltani

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2012, 12:13:18 PM »
Sure, the dunkel was from midwest, deep dark wheat kit, lol

The only thing I need to work out is head retention, I just can't seem to get a good head on my beers, it is decent, just not great.  Maybe it is because I am only doing a partial boil and adding all the malt extract at the beginning?  I will try only adding half the malt extract next time, adding the second half when there is only about 10 min left in the boil.

wilk916

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #18 on: April 13, 2012, 12:59:03 PM »
Sure, the dunkel was from midwest, deep dark wheat kit, lol

The only thing I need to work out is head retention, I just can't seem to get a good head on my beers, it is decent, just not great.  Maybe it is because I am only doing a partial boil and adding all the malt extract at the beginning?  I will try only adding half the malt extract next time, adding the second half when there is only about 10 min left in the boil.

As I understand it, good head retention comes from some essential proteins extracted during the mash and from alpha-acids in the hops.  Make sure you are keeping ideal temps during the mash (probably more important for partial extract brews) to get good protein extraction.  Also, water pH plays a role.  Make sure the water you are using is not too acidic (low pH) which can result in poor mashing.  Certain hops have higher alpha-acid content too, so make sure the recipe is right.  Here is a more detailed article about head retention:

http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2011/03/homebrewing-troubleshooting-head-retention-and-carbonation.html

Good luck.

masont

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2012, 09:15:06 PM »
Just tasted the Kolsch I brewed. Crisp, clean, and tasty, the perfect summertime beer.  While it has only been in the bottle for about 2.5 weeks it is carbed up nicely and doesn't taste too green. 

There's about 4 six packs left of a dunkelweizen i brewed up, been in the bottle almost 7 weeks now. 

I have an india brown ale in secondary dry hopping that will get bottled within the next 5-7 days.

Next up is an IPA.  I will dry hop and throw in some oak chips that have soaked in whiskey, should be interesting.
That's lovely.

I'm drinking a homebrewed pale ale as we speak that was my first go around at it.  I was pretty happy, it turned out well.  I'm not looking forward to running out, might brew another batch Thursday.  I've got a wheat beer in primary I brewed last Thursday right near that I'm going to throw into secondary with pureed raspberry for about three weeks - the wife loves both wheat beers and raspberries, so I'm hoping she'll enjoy that one. 

I've just been doing extract, but I think I'm going to have to move on to all grain pretty soon.  Extract feels like cheating, and it's a lot more expensive. 

gestalt162

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2012, 05:46:06 AM »
That sounds delicious. Good luck with the raspberry wheat.

You want to move into all grain- have you heard of Brew In A Bag? It's a great way to go all grain on the cheap, as it doesn't require much more equipment beyond what you already have. I used a slightly-modified version of the technique for my last batch and the results look promising. I will definitely be using it in full for my next batch.

Check it out at www.biabrewer.info.

grantmeaname

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2012, 07:04:35 AM »
Homebrewtalk forums also has a fantastic explanation of a brew-in-a-bag method. That's what got us started on all-grain brewing.
If you want to do real all-grain, you'll need a mash stage and a sparge stage, so you'll need two pots: the 5-gallon pot I assume you currently use for extract brewing, and a bigger pot, like 8 gallons, for the sparge.

masont

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2012, 10:53:34 PM »
I used to think that, when amateur homebrewers said they preferred their beer to the beer they could buy in the store that they were at minimum a little biased. 

I get it now.  I've got about 20 left of my first batch and I'm going to need to do another batch soon because I *really* like it and I don't want to run out. 

gestalt162

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #23 on: May 15, 2012, 06:36:23 AM »
I wouldn't say I've gotten to the point yet where I like my beer better than commercial brew, but I have made good beer, and am getting better with each batch.

I think part of it is the freshness. It's hard, if not impossible to buy beer at the store that is as fresh as that you make yourself. One time I was at a local brewery taking a tour. They had an oatmeal stout on draft that I have had in the past and wasn't a big fan of. They drew me in with "We just kegged it this morning." I took a sample and it was fantastic, so fresh with flavor, and world better than what I would get on draft somewhere else.

Rich M

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #24 on: May 27, 2012, 11:40:31 PM »
I homebrewed monthly from 1996 to the mid 2000s.  Can't say I saved money for sure, but the experience of the process is hard to price.

Then I got busy at work.  My fave supply store closed and I went dormant.

I just started  thinking of getting out my gear and doing some more runs last week.


ErikZ

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #25 on: May 30, 2012, 11:03:28 AM »
I think if you're looking to save money, homebrewing wine or distilling is your best bet.

After your inital investment, wine kits get you wine at 2-3$ a bottle.

And distilling your own hard alchohol is cheaper simply because you don't have to pay taxes on it. If i had the room I'd do that. It looks more like fun chemistry!

grantmeaname

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #26 on: May 30, 2012, 11:08:40 AM »
The problems with distilling are that 1) good liquor is much harder to make than good beer, and 2) the federal government will prosecute you with a vengeance.

I do want to get into winemaking, though. I'm thinking of getting one of those $50-60 must kits that are good for 6 gallons. I wonder what style I want to have 60 gallons of, though.

ErikZ

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #27 on: May 30, 2012, 01:54:27 PM »
The problems with distilling are that 1) good liquor is much harder to make than good beer, and 2) the federal government will prosecute you with a vengeance.

I do want to get into winemaking, though. I'm thinking of getting one of those $50-60 must kits that are good for 6 gallons. I wonder what style I want to have 60 gallons of, though.

They'll only prosecute you if you're selling it. It's legal to make your own. In fact there's a business in Longmont that sells them http://www.milehidistilling.com 

I find I'm not that picky about my liquor. If it doesnt give me a hangover, I'm good.

I've seen winemaking kits for 2.5 gallons, so that gives you more flexability for experimenting.


grantmeaname

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #28 on: May 30, 2012, 02:12:03 PM »
Quote from: The US Government
You cannot produce spirits for beverage purposes without paying taxes and without prior approval of paperwork to operate a distilled spirits plant.  [See 26 U.S.C. 5601 & 5602 for some of the criminal penalties.]  There are numerous requirements that must be met that make it impractical to produce spirits for personal or beverage use.  Some of these requirements are paying excise tax, filing an extensive application, filing a bond, providing adequate equipment to measure spirits, providing suitable tanks and pipelines, providing a separate building (other than a dwelling) and maintaining detailed records, and filing reports.  All of these requirements are listed in 27 CFR Part 19.

Spirits may be produced for non-beverage purposes for fuel use only without payment of tax, but you also must file an application, receive TTB's approval, and follow requirements, such as construction, use, records and reports.
From the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. I think it's like how head shops can sell bongs as long as they are called "tobacco water pipes" and the salespeople pretend not to know what they're for.

ErikZ

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Re: Homebrewing
« Reply #29 on: May 31, 2012, 07:09:44 AM »
Ahhh, my memory had gotten the brewing rules and distilling rules mixed up. You're right.

However, I think an important point can be made here. Brewing wine or beer at home was also illegal, until so many people were doing it they pushed their Congressmen in 1979 to change the law.

It seems that if you want the law changed, you have to break the law first.

I spent the night looking at distilling sites and YouTube videos. Things have changed a LOT in the past 5 years.