Like most, I’ve been spending much more time at home these days. So, I decided to use that extra time and finally try my hand at brewing my own beer.
Not only did the process give me a much deeper appreciation for what is in my glass, but a better understanding of brewing as well.
Whether you’re a total novice like myself, or have experience but lack the equipment or ingredients, these home brewing kits from Brooklyn Brew Shop, Northern Brewer and Mr. Beer include everything you need to start brewing.
Brooklyn Brew Shop Brut IPA Beer Making Kit
Inside the kit: Grain, hops, yeast, amylase enzymes, racking cane, tubing clamp, fermentation jug, sanitizer, airlock, tubing and screw cap topper
How much it produces: One gallon
The entire brewing process for the Brut IPA recipe takes around four hours, and you’ll need to monitor the brew’s temperature throughout. So, select a day when you have plenty of time and few distractions. The brew will also need to ferment in the jug for two weeks and then spend another two weeks in the bottles.
You can find the directions for your recipe as well as video tutorials online. The URL is listed on the box. The instructions include descriptions of helpful beer-making jargon like “mashing out,” “pitch the yeast,” and more to help you sound more official.
It’s helpful to get all the brew day equipment soaking in the no-rinse sanitizer and then read through the directions since there are many steps.
Once all your equipment is properly sanitized, you’ll go through the mash, the sparge, the boil and then finally cool your brew before funneling it into the gallon fermenter, to sit in a dark place at room temperature for two weeks. I kept mine stored in a kitchen cupboard.
I had four self-closing swing top bottles sitting around, so I washed those and used them.
Make sure you also have some honey on hand (which the directions call for). Boil it in water and add it to your brew—the extra sugar helps wake up the yeast to make sure the finished product is carbonated and has fizz.
Bottling with the siphon can be a challenge, but Brooklyn Brew Shop’s instructional videos will help. Instead of jumping right into it, I do wish I’d practiced with a few bottles and water (which the directions suggest).
If you choose to practice, make sure you sanitize all your equipment again before bottling your brew.
One of the best aspects of this kit is it was totally doable for a novice, like myself. But the process gave me a much greater understanding and appreciation for brewing.
Something else I enjoyed is that the gallon fermenter is clear, which allows you to see the yeast actively working. Just be sure not to expose it to too much light.
Recommended items the kit doesn’t include are a six-quart pot, a fine-mesh strainer and a funnel. And they are listed under “recommended equipment” in the instructions. However, in my experience, these items are absolutely necessary. The instructions also say that a “second pot is handy.” If you can, have at least two or three other pots accessible, as this particular recipe involves a lot of transferring of ingredients.
If Brut IPAs aren’t for you, be sure to check out Brooklyn Brew Shop’s other starter kits like Mikkeller Breakfast stout, Black is Beautiful stout and more. They also offer a hard cider kit, sparkling rosé and other winemaking kits.$48 Brooklyn Brew Shop
Northern Brewer Home Brew Starter Kit
Inside the kit: 5-gallon stainless steel brew kettle, siphonless 6.5-gallon fermenter with new gasketed lid, bubbler airlock, bottling bucket with spigot assembly, testing equipment, test jar, lab thermometer, spring tip bottle filler, 21-inch stainless spoon, tubing, no-rinse cleanser, bottle brush, Northern Brewer bottle capper, 60 caps, printed instructions and an ingredient kit for either their Chinook IPA, hefeweizen, or Block Party Amber Ale (the amber ale kit does not include a stainless steel brew kettle on Amazon)
How much it produces: Five gallons
One of the kit’s best aspects is the many ways you can access Northern Brewer for help. You can either email them, chat online, call or even text a brewer. I had a sanitation question and sent a text on a Sunday. A brewer got back to me with a detailed response within two hours, which allowed me to start the brewing process more confidently.
When you set out to brew, make sure you choose a day where you have plenty of time, as the process takes around three hours. But with Northern Brewer’s kit, you don’t need to constantly monitor the temperature, which makes the undertaking a little simpler. Also keep in mind, the beer will need to spend two weeks in the fermentor and two weeks in the bottles before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Northern Brewer’s starter pack is incredibly brewer-friendly. For the amber ale kit, you start by steeping grains in water. From there, you boil the contents, cool them, decontaminate your fermenting bucket, and pour the wort into the fermentation bucket before finally adding the yeast. When you’re done, store it in a dark place.
Once you have your wort in the fermenter, take a reading with the kit’s hydrometer to measure the brew’s specific gravity, or density of the liquid. Follow the provided instructions to use this number to calculate the beer’s alcohol by volume (abv). I enjoyed learning how to do that on top of the brewing process itself.
As on brew day, make sure you have a few hours to devote to bottling, as you’ll need to sanitize all 48 bottles plus equipment before beginning to fill.
While bottling is time-consuming, the process is rather simple.
Like the Brooklyn brewing kit, you’ll need to make a sugar priming solution, which will provide carbonation. This takes around 20 minutes, and everything needed is included in the kit, with the exception of a small pot.
Once your priming solution is done, add it to your bottling bucket. From there, use the spigot on your fermentation bucket to drain your beer into the bottling bucket. The spigot on the fermentation bucket is conveniently placed just above the sediment layer that forms (called trub), so you don’t need to worry about any unwanted particles getting into your brew.
When you’re ready to bottle, attach one end of the tubing to the spigot on the bottling bucket and the other to the bottle filler. Then insert the bottle filler into your bottle, push down, and the beer will flow through, filling your bottle from the bottom to the top.
While the process can accomplished solo, it’s also helpful to have a friend help cap the bottles while you fill them. If you’re looking for a kit that’s extremely user-friendly but also hands-on then, you’ll want to check out Northern Brewer’s.
I accidentally dumped out my no-rinse sanitizer before finishing the bottling process. Thankfully, I had a few more sanitizer packets on-hand, but it may helpful to keep some extras yourself just in case.
A sanitized measuring cup can be extremely handy for measuring out the water and other ingredients. This kit also doesn’t include bottles, so you’ll need to supply your own. If you haven’t been saving your empties, you order new bottles along with your kit at Northern Brewer.
If you are not sure if you want to dive into making five gallons on your first brew, Northern Brewer also offers one-gallon starter kits.$90–$110 Northern Brewer
Mr. Beer Golden Ale Complete Beer Making Kit
Kit Includes: Two-gallon keg, spigot, 11 25-ounce bottles, brewing extract, yeast, no-rinse cleaner and a bag of carbonation drops
How much it produces: Two gallons
If you’re looking to get into homebrewing but don’t want to devote hours to the process, Mr. Beer offers the perfect kit. The website claims it only takes about 30 minutes to brew, which exactly reflected my experience.
Once you get everything sanitized, bring four cups of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, remove the pot from heat and stir in the can of hopped malt extract to make the wort.
Add some cool water to your keg (which looks like a barrel), pour in the wort and stir. Finally, add the yeast and allow the keg to sit for 10–14 days.
The process is simple and straight forward. After the bottles are sanitized, add the included carbonation drops (the amount varies based on your recipe), fill each bottle through the keg’s spigot, screw caps on tightly and then store in a cool, dark place for two weeks.
The Golden Ale recipe requires a fair amount of cool, filtered water. I recommend storing enough bottles in your refrigerator beforehand (just make sure they are sanitized) or fully sanitizing your Brita filter to have at the ready. I didn’t have enough water prepared ahead of time on brew day, and it slowed the process down a bit.$50 Mr. Beer