Learn how to homebrew

 


Devon and Jeff at RiverhorseSunday morning found us in Lambertville, NJ at River Horse Brewing. We met Christi, the owner’s wife, who was taking care of the gift shop and doing samples when we arrived. We threw in our dollar for 4 samples of their beer on tap (not a bad deal, might I add). We really enjoyed their winter ale, Belgian Frostbite, and picked up two cases at a sweet deal! We then had a self-guided tour around their whole facility. Very cool place.
Riverhorse brewing
We saw the brewhouse, their mill, fermenting tanks… You know, everything you expect… And, also, enough beer to satiate even the greatest craft beer drinkers for a while! It makes me smile… When we got back to the gift shop, Christi offered us some samples of a few more of their fine brews, which were great! I’m real psyched we hit Lambertville! We finished the tour early and, after wandering in the town for a while, discovered Devon’s crazy-ass phone/gps device had a category for brewpubs. Ya’ll know where this is going…

Off to Bethlehem Brewing Company!

Jeff with beer Devon with Beer

ImageWe got here in time for the last tour of the day. They have a full-on bar area, with 10 Brooklyn brews on tap and seating for you and a couple hundred of your closest friends. It was pretty well attended as well… Easy to see that they are, in fact, one of the bigger craft breweries on the scene. We both got a Brooklyn Blanche (part of the on-premise only Brewer’s Reserve Collection), which tasted a lot like their Weisse, so we both enjoyed it!

After this the tour started. This was a little different from Sixpoint… There were easily 75 people on this tour, which made interaction between us and the guide a little harder. We got some great info on the history of brewing in Brooklyn, the brewery, how it started, and how they brew. They have a wonderful facility in Brooklyn where they do they’re draft beer, and then contract out their bottling up near Albany. Once again, we made friends with some of our tour mates (Hi Anna!). We also managed to pick up some great Brooklyn Brewing glassware before taking off for our home base for the night.

Brooklyn Fermenting Tanks
Above: Brooklyn Fermenting tanks
Image

Now see what we did at River Horse Brewing Co.!


 

So we rolled into Sixpoint Craft Brewing a little early for the first tour and ended up wandering around this block near the docks in Brooklyn; quite an interesting area to say the least. Still early we came upon two guys outside the brewery smoking, who let us in early to wait for the tour to start. We saw so many kegs of Sixpoint, my mouth was watering!
Sixpoint Kegs
Jeff at Sixpoint
                While we were waiting, Devon recognized Aaron whom he had met at American Beer Fest (and who is coincidentally on the platform while Devon adds hops to the kettle), and they talked for a while. Then we had the privilege to meet Shane, the founder and owner of Sixpoint. Shane is a very cool laid back guy so if you go be sure to say hi to him. We talked beer for a while, and then he excused himself to go talk to some other early arrivals.

While waiting for more people to show, Shane invited us to the bar… that’s right folks, they have a full bar as part of the Sixpoint compound where they have several taps of the freshest craft beer you can get. We had a Liberty Pale Ale (available only at this bar) on the house… Delicious! We met another Jeff, only this one was their sales rep and the man responsible for any Sixpoint you see in any bar anywhere. He’s pretty cool in our book.

Shane gives the tour
Shane (on the left gives brewery tour)

 

Shane described his start in homebrewing, his love for beer, and some seriously awful (but funny) jokes… He’s got a very dry delivery that catches you off guard. The tour started off in the grain room where everyone is encouraged to taste each grain. You could see some people were not prepared for the taste of chocolate malt. Next we went down to the brewhouse and saw them brewing Sweet Action Cream Ale. Devon got to add flavor hops while Aaron looked on. That was pretty cool, if I do say so myself!
Devon adds hops

We chatted with the guys and some other people on the tour for a while and then went back to the bar for our second beer of the day… this time they gave us a token for a free beer, and we snagged pints of their Cream Ale called Sweet Action…again, delicious (do you see a theme?)! We made more friends with people on the tour and bought some sweet shirts. We said some tearful (ok, no tears, but I was sad to leave!) goodbyes and took off on our voyage to Brooklyn Brewery a couple blocks away.

Move on to read about our time at Brooklyn Brewery


 

Hooker BreweryHey all you DrinkCraftBeer'ers! So Devon and I hit up Thomas Hooker brewery in Hartford, Connecticut today in a hastily planned, but fortunate, stop! After being unable to find somebody to stay with in Brooklyn for our first night, we rerouted to Hartford to stay with a friend of Devon's. Since we were in Hartford, we decided to check out Thomas Hooker. We called around noon, and told them we'd be coming by at 4. Turns out they were bottling Liberator DoubleBock (one of my favorites)! So we roll up to where we think the brewery is. Basically, it's in the back of an unlabelled brick building with "BREWHOUSE" along the top of the front.

No signage, even on the door. We peek in and finally see someone. They figure we're the kids who called on the "brewery tour of the east coast." We confirm. They invite us in, and one of the greatest brewery experiences of my life ensues. So, first, we met Steve. He's a brewing apprentice and a really cool guy. Soon thereafter we meet Paul Davis, the head brewer. Both are great guys, and we quickly find ourselves with cups of blonde ale in our hands... Fresh from the bright tank (where beer is put to clarify and get yeast out of suspension after it's done fermenting)!!!

Beer Fermenter
Above: Fermenter full of 80 kegs worth of Hooker Blonde
And let me tell you, that is really the way to drink it. This beer was delicious! We sampled the Irish Red Ale and their American Pale Ale while Paul and Steve explained the commercial brewing process, how the brewery is growing, and more. It turns out Paul is a brewing traditionalist... Seems to me he enjoys throwing a little monkey wrench in the works once in a while, though. The Irish Red is one of the best of the style I've ever tried! Some ideas we'd never thought of, but are definitely going to try in our homebrews. Turns out the Irish Red and the IPA will be available in 6-packs soon. Long story short, Thomas Hooker is a great brewery putting out some amazing beer! This stuff is great (especially the Liberator)! We walked away with a buzz, lots of knowledge about commercial brewing, a tip to check out the Willimantic Brewing Company, and 2 bottles of Liberator courtesy of Thomas Hooker. The President, Curt Cameron even came by and we got to say hi to him. All in all, wonderful experience! And look out for stuff by Thomas Hooker... It's great beer made by great guys! I know it's going to be one of my more regular beers now.

 

Alright enough of us talking, here's a few more pictures of the inner workings at Thomas Hooker:

 

Paul Davis
Above: Paul Davis, brewmaster, adds a hop addition to the boil
 
Bottleing Liberator
Above: Paul and Steve prep to bottle Liberator

 

 

Well, as we mentioned, we got a tip to go check out Willimantic Brewing Co. in Willimantic CT. Given the great experience we had at Hooker, we knew we had to check this out. Lets just say it did not dissapoint. This is a great brew pub that isn't afraid to experiment with their beers. India Dark Ales, India Pilsner Lagers and a variety of other hopped up beers are found on their beer menu.

Willimantic taster
Above: 5 beer sampler at Willimantic Brewing Co.
The best deal here is found in their 5 beer sampler. You get a board with 5 4oz samplers of any of the beers for a mere $4.95

 

Go to our Next Stop at Sixpoint Craft Brewing!

 

 

Most people picture the typical beer drinker shotgunning [insert your generic Macro beer of choice here] into the wee hours of the night until he (or she) eventually passes out in a pile of his own vomit. Now I’m all for hitting up a party and drinking more crappy beer than is usually advisable. And dollar draft of almost anything will get me to leave my house in, oh, a second and a half. But I know there’s a time and a place for this type of beer. That time being after I’ve already downed quite a few good beers and can no longer taste anything; the place being… actually, who cares at that point? If you can’t taste, many of your other faculties are probably failing as well so just go with it. Basically, there is a time for drinking crappy beer, and that’s after your sense of taste (and most likely balance, smell, and sight as well) have left you. Devon and I were both college students at some point, however, and we understand that you can’t always be drinking $9 bottles of Avery Brewing Maharaja Imperial IPA or Dogfish Head Burton Baton at $15 per 4-pack. Hell, we’re both in the working world and can’t come close to drinking like that. I wish I could... Devon wishes he could… Most people wish they could (at least most people who like that kind of beer). But, the simple truth is, that stuff is too expensive to be a major pillar of your drinking habit.

 

And that brings us to the point of this article: What can the non-independently-wealthy 20-something drink that won’t break the bank but can still be thoroughly enjoyed? Luckily, I’ve been researching this for years now and feel fairly qualified to answer. There are many great microbreweries that sell 6-packs (and sometimes 12-packs) for only slightly more than the Big-Guys. And the bonus? Most of these wonderful brews pack a few extra points of abv over the cheaper macros. So, in the end, you’ll be feeling just as good for about the same cost. With that said, on to my list of recommendations for beer drinkers on a limited budget (prices are based on the liquor store I happen to frequent, they will change slightly by location, but the basic price point will remain the same):

 

DogFish Head

 

I know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t Jeff just use this brewery as an example of really expensive beer less than a minute ago?” And yeah, I did. But part of the beauty of DFH is that they span a wide range of prices. For only $9, you can pick up a 6-pack of Chicory Stout, India Brown Ale, Shelter Pale Ale, or 60 Minute IPA. I heartily recommend anything that bears the DFH logo, as long as you enjoy the style of beer you are buying. My personal favorite from this list would have to be the 60 Minute, though. Trust me, you put away six of those, and you just paid $9 for a good night!

 

Great Divide

 

I don’t think words could really do this brewery justice. Everything I have ever had by them was spectacular. And at $9.50 for a sixer, why not go for it? Their Denver Pale Ale is renowned across the country, while the Hotshot Extra Special Bitter (ESB) and Saint Bridget’s Porter are respected in their own right. If you find anything by this brewery I have only these instructions for you:

1) Stop

2) Pick up the Great Divide beer

3) Make haste to the cash register

4) Pay

5) Gloat while your friends drink lesser beer

It’s that good!

 

Boulder Beer Co.

 

BBC’s Hazed and Infused was one of the beers I was lucky enough to find early on in my good beer career. It came with a free glass, which was a bonus. But it doesn’t anymore, and I still buy it. At $9 for a 6-pack, both the Hazed & Infused and the Mojo IPA are wonderfully hoppy beers that will more than satisfy your cravings for taste and drink at the same time!

 

Flying Dog

 

$9 for a 6-pack. Do you remember my instructions from the Great Divide section? That goes for anything by Flying Dog as well. Seriously, go buy some right now! I’ll wait… It was Devon’s 2nd ever “Beer of the Week,” even.

 

Harpoon

 

Oh Harpoon, how I love you… $8 for a 6-pack or $12 for a dozen. Yeah, you read it correct. And the best part? They have mix packs that rotate every season. So for a buck a beer, you can get 3 each of Harpoon’s 4 top beers for that season. I recommend the Summer Seasonal, it’s refreshing like whoa! But pretty much everything by them is outstanding (I refuse, however, to endorse the Winter Seasonal - if you buy it I take no responsibility for your choice). They also have their 100-Barrel Series, which is usually an excellent offering at a fair, but slightly higher, price. Make sure to check the style, though, sometimes it’s a little out there.

 

Avery

 

Perhaps my favorite brewery at this moment, their big beers will nearly raise you up to a state of nirvana… The only thing bringing you down being the price tag. For much less of a hit to your wallet, though, you can pick up some of their more normal beer. $8 will get you a six pack of IPA, White Rascal Belgian White Ale, 14’er ESB, or a host of others. But, if you are ever in a spot to splurge, get a bomber of Maharaja 2IPA... Trust me.

 

I realized I’m starting to run long here… Ask anybody who knows me and they’ll tell you I can talk about beer for hours, and normally will if not stopped. So, in the interest of time and getting you as much good advice as I can, I will quicken the pace.

 

You should be able to grab a sixer by Middle Ages, Victory, Brooklyn Brewery, Sparhawk, Stone Coast, or Smuttynose for $8-$9, and sometimes even less. I haven’t had much by Brooklyn, but have heard a lot of good things. For Stone Coast I would recommend the 420 IPA or the Knuckle Bock. Other than those caveats, if you see one of these brewers’ name on something, consider it officially “Approved by Jeff!” The same goes for Anchor, especially the Steam beer, but (FYI) a six-pack will run you up to $9.50 sometimes.

 

Magic Hat you can snag 6 for $8 or 12 for $14. I recommended the St. Gootz as my 2nd ever “Beer of the Week,” and I stand by most of what they put out (I refuse to align myself with the “#9,” though - caveat emptor on that one folks).  These are some pretty tasty beers, at good prices, and they have some wicked artwork if you ever want to start lining bottles up on your walls. All in all, not a bad deal. They also put out mix packs, which are a great way to get a decent cross section of their offerings along with their Mystery Batch Brew, which changes every time they release a new mix-pack. Most of these, however, contain the aforementioned “#9.” Don’t worry, though, chicks dig that stuff!

 

Last but not least, a brewery I feel is often overlooked and underrated, is Buzzard’s Bay. A 6-pack will cost you $7… A 12 pack will set you back a mere $11!!! Plus, they do 12-pack samplers with limited edition seasonal brews. Does it get better than that?!? By far the most affordable choice on here, a Buzzard’s Bay beer will stand up to almost anything in its style on this list.

 

So there you have it, my official list of affordable-yet-delicious beers. With the diversity many of these breweries have in their line-ups, these recommendations should keep you enjoying new beers for quite a while. Whether you’re looking for a beer to drink regularly, or just a trip away from the Keystone Light, I’m fairly confident anyone can find something to like in this article that will leave their wallet far from empty.

 

Finally, as a quick aside, a good strategy for trying lots of different brews, without killing your wallet, is to get together with some friends and have each person bring a different 6-pack. This way, you can try one or two of beers from each brewery, without incurring the cost of buying a whole pack. Or 2 people can split a 12 pack so, for example, 6 people would split 3 12-packs. Anything along this theme is a good idea if you want to branch out and try some new things!

 

(The day I wrote this article, I heard that some people on the site are already doing this. If anybody wants to post a thread or contribute a short piece about how this works out, Devon and I would be happy to post the article presuming it’s well written.)

 

The idea for this story came from a thread on our forum. Thanks go to NRegan for posting the question:

As a college student, the purchasing of $15 4 packs just is not economically going to work out for the life of a student. However a trip away from the keystones the coors and the bud light is always appreciated. So anyone have some suggestions as to some tasty beers that won't put a huge dent in the wallet. Preferably things other than Sam Adams because I am trying to branch out a little bit from the Sam. Its tasty but there is more to beer the the Sam.