I love craft beer. And like most of my passions, there comes a point when I want to know what makes it tick, or in this case ferment.
So late last year I sought out one of Knoxville’s two homebrew supply stores to find out if I could really brew beer as good as that I bought off the shelf.
The answer: Not yet, but I’m getting there. But it’s certainly better than anything from Budweiser, Michelob, or Coors.
Where to find homebrew supplies in Knoxville
Knoxville’s two homebrew supply stores are well located for residents living near downtown or out west. Both offer all the equipment and ingredients you’ll need to get started in addition to brewing more complex beers.
Allen Biermakens is the older of the two, having been around some 35 years, and is located off Chapman Highway just south of Downtown in Vestal.
But folks in West Knoxville will be more convinent to Ferment Station, located just off Kingston Pike near the Cedar Bluff intersection. This store is decidedly more upscale then Allen Biermakens, though this isn’t saying a lot for a homebrew supply.
Both stores offer a similar assortment of wine and beer making equipment, books, kits and ingredients at a price competitive to anything I’ve found on the Internet. And it’s hard to beat first-hand troubleshooting when that IPA you just tasted doesn’t quite stand up right.
What you’ll need to get started homebrewing
Like most things in life, you have two choices here: read the instructions, or dive in blind. If you’re of the former, pick up a copy of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian. (Even if you’re of the latter you should still get this book; it’s that good.)
The more adventurous types can get started right away with a the purchase of both an equipment and malt-extract kit. I went this route, and found everything quite easy to use.
Thinking back, I found the ingredient kits a little too easy. You’ll have more fun buying the malt extract, hops and yeast individually to make a recipe, many of which are in the book I mentioned.
The process of homebrewing
Brewing can be a simple process or a very complex one. But here’s the gist for a newbie (making five gallons):
- Clean your equipment (sanitation is very important)
- Boil water
- Add malt extract and hops
- Add more hops *
- Add even more hops *
- Sparge, or pour/strain, your wort (the boiled liquid from previous steps) into your carboy/bucket filled with the appropriate amount of water
- Let cool to a degree called for by your yeast
- Pitch, or add, your yeast
- Add your airlock or blow-off hose to your fermenter
- Let sit until the fermentation process ends
- Rack, or transfer, your fermented beer into a priming container with a little corn sugar
- Let rest for two to three weeks
* Depends wildly on the recipe you use. I love hops!
Brewing your own beer is cheaper than buying craft beer after the initial equipment purchase. But if you’re a Coors Light kinda drinker, you’ll probably scoff at $30 to $50 for ingredients to make a five gallon batch.
Brewing beer takes time and patience. But when finished, you’ll understand more about the process involved in one of the world’s oldest and favorite beverages. And you’ll have a wonderful product to call your own.
Share your homebrew story
I’m on my third batch of beer currently, having gone after two IPAs and a German Pils (still in the fermenting stage). Each batch has been noticeably better than the last, and none awful.
Have you brewed your own beer or wine? Post your experience in the comments!
Also, think about joining the Tennessee Valley Homebrewers. These folks don’t mess around with their beer — the samples I’ve had rival anything you can buy off the shelf. And it’s a great community to boot.
Knoxville brewing links
- Copper Cellar brewmaster says Brewers’ Jam among best beer festivals nationwide
- Home brewer uses chemistry skills to secure medal
- Home beer brewer blends a pinch of vocation and a dash of passion
- Knoxville breweries
Photo by billread