Tons of brewers in houston. Houston has two of the top homebrewing clubs in the nation, The Foam Rangers and the Bay Area Mashtronauts. I'm a member/officer of BAM and very active on their forums: http://mashtronauts.pbworks.com
After reading a lot of these posts I have the impression that homebrewing is going the way of golf and fishing. Guys are by nature, gadget or "stuff" oriented. Just as women are gatherers and subject to the depredations of the Home Shopping Network, us guys are always looking for the next self sharpening spear or one with a bit longer shaft in order to kill the cave bear more easily. The truth of the matter it is pretty easy to make good beer without $1500 in equipment. Do I have a lot of equipment I don't need? Absolutely. I have a pH meter, an optical saccharometer, two stainless converted keg brewpots and a stainless mashtun. But I also use an old home made copper tube immersion chiller I hook to the garden hose. I don't have a plate counter flow chiller or a recirculation pump or a $1200 three tier brew stand. Sometimes I think we are as bad as the women and certainly as bad a golfers when it comes to our suseptibility to getting the next high dollar gadget. Might it me "gadget envy" at work? lol.
In any event, you can do all grain brewing without a huge investment. The biggest thing is a large pot. I started out with one, a 15 gallon brewpot/ mash tun. I heated my water in two 5 gallon pots on the stove and did my mashing outside. I had to gather my runnings into food grade buckets after the mash and sparge, empty the grain then return the wort to the pot to boil. I then got the two converted kegs from N. Brewing Supply and now use one as my hot liquor tank and the other as my brew pot. I got a lot of equipment at a ridiculously low price on Craigs list in several lots from brewers who had gotten married, ending their brewing days (thisis a known hazard guys, so beware!). I got a mashtun, pot, bottles, hydrometers racking and siphon tubes, supplies, caps, capper and a lot of other stuff, for $200. Thats right. $200. I had a lot of the stuff already, but there were some things I didn't.
My point is there are sources of cheap equipment. When a store is the only game in town they usually over charge. Years ago I got several 6.5 gallon carboys at the brew shop in San Antonio for $20 and change, while our venerable shop here in town was charging $22 for the 5 gallon variety. Shop around on line. Even with the shipping you can sometimes find good deals.
Do the math. Will that $200 counterflow plate chiller REALLY do anything to make your beer taste better? Probably not. In fact, it is more of pain to clean than my home made $30 copper coil immersion chiller that I only have to hose off. It chills my wort just fine in about 15 min using probably about $2 in water if that.
I know we are all suseptible to the urge to upgrade, but even doing all grain, there is a break point at the home brew level where we aren't buying stuff to improve our beer, only to build our egos. lol.
It is better to look to the basics like water, mashing, fermentation temperatures and the like when trying to improve our beer. A new fancy $300 blichman brew pot is not going to make any better beer if you basics are flawed, no more than a $400 titanium custom driver will make your golf better if your swing is lousy. Putting crappy wort in that blichman is like putting lowtest ethanol laced gas in your new Porshe.
In the final analysis, it is the basics, not the equipment that matters. Make your own mashtun out of two 5 gal plastic buckets if you don't want to spring $50 for a cooler and another $20 on copper tubing for the manifold. I still use an old comforter to insulate my mashtun. It works fine. Nessesity is the mother of invention. desire is the father of improvisation. Yeah, we aren't Yankees but there is a lot of Southern ingenuity too.
wow man, i've been brewing for 10+ years and all I can say is wow... VERY well said. The only thing I can add is to expound on a point you touched on. Getting back to basics is really the best thing you can do for your brewing skill. Gadgets that save you time are great, but you can have all the toys in the world and you'll likely still make crap quality if you don't have a firm grasp on the basics of brewing. I've actually met folks who have invested $1k+ in gear and never read Palmer's stuff.
Homebrewer here living up in the Tomball area. Experienced brewer with plenty of competition experience.
Haven't haven't brewed nearly as much in the past 10 years as I did the 5 or so before that. Twelve years ago as soon as one fermenter was empty within a week I had something new back in it. But for the past 10 years I find that I only brew about 5 times a year.
It seems now I brew mostly meads and ciders with the occasional beer but I am still setup to do all-grain batches if i want.
Hey, i'd love to see your recipe for that Texas Tea.
I'd have to look it up to be 100% certain on the quantities, but it's just pale malt, wheat malt and a bit of crystal 60. Added a pound of Texas wildflower honey at flameout. I used 1/4 oz Magnum hops at 60 min.
It's a little sweet for my taste, but all my beer novice friends seem to like it a lot.
This is a follow up on a previous post. Yesterday, Sunday, 16th the Cane Island (aka Katy) Alers held a monthly meeting that was hosted at the No Label Brewery in old Katy. Despite the inclement weather there was a super turn out. I estimate the club had about 6-7 brewers making mead, while the rest of us lurkers just stood around and sampled the wide variety of home brewed beer and mead brought in by members and friends. I can't speak for every one, but I had a great time and called it quits at hour four.
Thanks to the club officers for organizing and the No Label brewery for hosting. Both the CIA and No Label are on facebook if you care to keep track of activities of the club and free sampling events held at the Brewery.