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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: Saccharomyces on November 21, 2021, 11:02:33 am

Title: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Saccharomyces on November 21, 2021, 11:02:33 am
There enough people who have been in the hobby long enough to remember the bad old days that this post should not turn into a monologue.  People who came into the hobby over the last decade or so do not realize the embarrassment of riches brewing at this level has become. 

To start off, what boggles my mind is has how fast American brewing at the amateur level eclipsed that of British homebrewing.  When I started to brew in early 1993, pretty much everything other than hops and some grain came from the British homebrewing market. The Brits were far ahead of us.  The only domestic malt extract at that point in time was Alexander's Pale.  Malt extract, dry or liquid, pretty much meant Munton & Fison or Edme.  It would be a few years before a Briess entered the extract market in earnest.  Kit beers were can and a kilo from Great Britain.   Wyeast was the only liquid yeast propagator at the homebrewing level.  Most of the early craft breweries obtained their initial pitches as quarts of slurry from Siebel or from Alan Pugsley if they had a Peter Austin system.   The Wyeast catalog had less than a dozen cultures at that point.  Dry yeast was a box of chocolates in that one never knew what one was going to get.  All-grain brewing meant DIYing one's brew house (that is how the keggle came into being).  However, we made beer.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: dmtaylor on November 21, 2021, 11:37:24 am
John Bull and a pack of unidentified dry yeast. Great times.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: neuse on November 21, 2021, 12:27:04 pm
In spite of the crude ingredients, I was still very happy with my first batch. It included about 2 lbs of table sugar. But the only beer I had drank before was American macro beer, and the homebrew seemed much better - lots of flavor. It definitely depends on what you're comparing against.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Bob357 on November 21, 2021, 01:14:53 pm
The old can & kilo was a little better than grocery store malt syrup and bread yeast, maybe. The biggest challenge was brewing something you could suck down without gagging. I think the most fun came from guessing when to bottle:) Will we do flat or exploding this time?
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Slowbrew on November 21, 2021, 04:33:06 pm
I remember thinking steeping some grain a cheesecloth bag while the water came up to 170F was considered an "advanced" step.  :)

We made a lot of good beer back then.  My beer today is better but it was a great way to get started.

Paul
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: MDL on November 21, 2021, 04:37:39 pm
Who remembers the original WYeast packaging? I think they called it the “propagator”. I don’t think it had a smack pack but it’s been awhile.

My first beer was brewed with Muntons malt extract, dextrose and coopers dry yeast. This was around 1997.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Wilbur on November 21, 2021, 07:55:36 pm
What's early? Didn't Sierra Nevada start as a homebrew shop back in the 70s? When I started extract+steeping grains was a big thing for beginners but I hardly hear anyone talk about that now.

I'm more interested in the next few years. Morebeer bought homebrew supply.com and I see more consolidation on the way. Seems like it could be ok, good retailers seem to be expanding. I'm wondering if craft malt is going to bring the next big wave of craft. I'm thinking it might not be the next IPA, but maybe the next sour if that makes sense. More malt forward beers that showcase local craft malt. Lots of headlines, not as much sales, but it sticks around at low levels.

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Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: majorvices on November 22, 2021, 03:57:20 am
I didn't start until 1996. I honestly can't remember where I ingredients from now. Must of have been mostly mail order, but I just can't remember. Huntsville (AL) actually did have a homebrew shop that was the secondary store to a health food store. And in '97-'98 we had a pretty good store called "Bama Brew". It went out of business after he got threatened by the ABC (homebrewing was still illegal).

I remember getting Wyeast and making starters. I moved on from dry yeast after the first batch, which was the John Bull extract with yeast under the lid that came from a homebrew shop in PA and was gifted to me from my mother on Christmas '95.

But I also remember being in a late '70's homebrew shop with my dad. He was a wine maker. I distinctly remember dried, yellowed hops just sitting out the air for sale (not sealed).

There were no online forums when I started and I read Papazian, Noonan and the Style Guide series ... and that was the foundation for my learning. There was email news group that came out from the BA or whatever it was called before the forums that was interesting but really hard to follow (I can't remember what it was called now, someone will remember). But the first forum I really got involved with was the "B3" or "Beer, Beer and More Beer!" forum (now defunct). That's where I first came across Denny and even some of the other old AF people still floating around on this forum. I really learned a lot being involved with forums, which is one of the reasons I still like to stay active today.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 22, 2021, 07:35:12 am
I started brewing in '92. There was a second liquid yeast supplier, Dan McConnell's Yeast Culture Kit Company, which sold vials of yeast and equipment to start your own yeast ranch. It was out of Ann Arbor MI, so close to me, but it was sold in homebrewshops. It shut down late 90s IIRC.

Dan had a good collection of strains. That ended up a White Labs, some were then put into production.


Just remembered Blue Ribbon Malt Extract, which was out of the Detroit area. It was an old brand started in prohibition. Don't know if it is still around.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: denny on November 22, 2021, 08:20:50 am
Who remembers the original WYeast packaging? I think they called it the “propagator”. I don’t think it had a smack pack but it’s been awhile.

My first beer was brewed with Muntons malt extract, dextrose and coopers dry yeast. This was around 1997.

Propagators were smack packs.  They just contained less yeast so you had to propagate it.  Activator contain more yeast, so the idea was that you could activate them and pitch without a starter.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Megary on November 22, 2021, 08:32:50 am
I started in the mid-90's after visiting a homebrew shop run by the nicest lady around.  The shop had all the usuals: John Bull, Munton's, dried yeast, starter kits, and a handful of bits and bobs.  But what I remember most about those days was how helpful and friendly that lady was.  No way I was taking up the hobby without her knowledge and her kindness to a newbie.  I loved giving her my money and rooted for her success, but alas, she only made it a couple of years.  As did I, on my first go round.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: narvin on November 22, 2021, 08:36:46 am
I've been brewing for 15 years, so I mostly missed the bad days, as well as the mediocrity of the 90s brewpub movement.  What I did drink then I couldn't tell was bad (or at least, any worse than Rolling Rock).

I do, however, have a book from my grandfather who was a very early Homebrewer.  It's called "Home Brewing Without Failures", by HE Bravery, and it might be one of the worst things I've ever read.  It was published in England in the 50s and republished here sometime in the late 60s, and has recipes with 100% crystal malt, overnight mashes, and other atrocities.  I give him credit though for making beer in the 70s, as well as ordering grape root stock for homemade wine from New York back when it was considered a major winemaking region for the east coast.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: jeffy on November 22, 2021, 08:43:41 am
I started in 1990 with a Dogbolter Bitter kit from England.  After that I tried to read as much as I could and attempt mashing.  Everything was mail order here until the late 90's, except for the hydroponics store that sold old homebrew stuff on the side.  I didn't like going there because it always seemed like they were being surveilled as a "grow" shop.
My older brother tried malting and brewing from scratch in the 70's without much success.  There's a nice article about him and his craft malting business in the latest Zymurgy.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: goose on November 22, 2021, 08:46:59 am
First brew was in '95 with a Mr. Beer kit.  Beer came out horrible because of not knowing the nuances of sanitation, but I was hooked.  Graduated to extract kits a year or so later and made a porter with Munton's extract.  It was either Munton's, Coopers. or John Bull for extract kits.  Did those for a few years before starting all grain.  Yes there were limited suppliers of malted grains in those days, but we made it work.  Equipment was also limited.  Used a 10 gallon Polarware pot with a false bottom as as both the mash tun (in a styrofoam box) and as a boil kettle.  Fermented in a plastic bucket.  It was a primitive setup but I could make pretty good beer.  Even with that setup, I grabbed a gold medal in the first competition (the Ohio State Fair) that I entered.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: majorvices on November 22, 2021, 09:24:21 am



Just remembered Blue Ribbon Malt Extract, which was out of the Detroit area. It was an old brand started in prohibition. Don't know if it is still around.

I for real saw cans of this in the early or mid 2000's. I had always heard about it but never saw it before. It was in a little country store in Alabama. It had the yeast under the lid and instructions on how to brew beer.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: ttash on November 22, 2021, 10:13:00 am
My first batch was May of '92. Pale dme, Hallertau pellets, Edme dry yeast, from a homebrew store in Boise (now defunct).
It turned out pretty well I thought, but that was a long time ago and it was my first batch of homebrew so who knows? I do remember thinking it tasted a lot like beer ...

Cans of Alexander pale lme were easy to come by, as were relatively fresh Cascade and Willamette pellets, and the Wyeast Propagator packs. That's pretty much what I used for the first couple of years until I went all grain.

I could see where it might be overwhelming for someone just starting out today, with the dizzying array of ingredient and equipment choices available. When I started out there were far less ingredient choices and if you needed a piece of equipment that wasn't available you just had to make it yourself.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Visor on November 22, 2021, 10:49:07 am
  I first started brewing in '84 and boy was it ever primitive then. No internet of course, went to the local bookstore [the only one in town] looking for anything I could find to learn how to brew. The store owner recalled seeing a book about brewing in one of his catalogs, turned out there were 2, "Better beer and how to brew it" by someone named M.R. Reese, and Dave Line's "Big book of brewing", which I guess was sort of a bible, at least to some British brewers. I didn't hear about Papazian until years later.
  Finding a source of supplies was the next hurdle cuz there were no brewing magazines available here and of course no brew shops, I somehow found a place in MA called The Village store, from whom I was able to mail order equipment and supplies. And by mail order I mean you mail them your order with your check, once they receive the order & the check clears their bank they mail the stuff to you, with a turnaround time of 2 to 3 weeks. Muntun & Fison and John Bull LME, yeast was Muntuns , Red Star or some generic stuff in plain white packages labeled "beer yeast", and unbranded DME.
  At the time I was still drinking Adolph's Rky Mtn bladder wash and thought that was what I wanted to replicate, I'm sure most of you can guess how well that turned out with crappy yeast and no temperature control. We did make a couple batches of stout that were okay, and one amber lager that fermented in a cold back room during winter that was awesome enough to keep me interested. Most of the rest of the dozen or so batches we made before moving to a much smaller house forced us to give up on brewing were yeasty junk that tasted like the lousy homebrew they were. The boil kettle was an 8 gallon porcelain water bath canner, FVs were ~7G buckets with lids that were supposed to be airtight but of course weren't. The last few batches I did all or mostly grain, the mill was a Corona hand crank, and for the life of me I can't remember how I did the mash & lauter.
   Fast forward to 2016 when life circumstances finally allowed me to resume brewing and it was like being reborn into a magical new homebrewing universe, un-freaking believable all the ways the "hobby" has improved, and the improvement in the beer I make now is commensurate. Sometimes, some aspects of "progress" really are progress.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: BrewBama on November 22, 2021, 01:02:30 pm
My first brew was in ‘92. An extract kit from William’s that I boiled on the stove in an enameled steel canning pot and fermented in plastic buckets in the storage shed in Georgia (no temp control) bottled in Grolsh-style ‘flippies’. Brewed beer like that for a while then I took several years break while stationed in Europe and picked back up in ‘13 when AL made homebrewing legal.



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Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: denny on November 22, 2021, 01:20:15 pm
Geez, I'm a newbie compared to you guys
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Saccharomyces on November 22, 2021, 01:27:19 pm
Who remembers the original WYeast packaging? I think they called it the “propagator”. I don’t think it had a smack pack but it’s been awhile.

To the best of my knowledge, Wyeast has always offered the smack pack.  That was their competitive edge.  However, the early smack packs had a tiny amount of yeast compared to an Activator pack.  When White Labs showed up in '95, their claim to fame was that they were direct pitch.  I guess direct pitch is relative. :)
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: MDL on November 22, 2021, 01:32:39 pm
I too had an 8 gallon enameled canning pot for my first all grain setup.

“Zapap” latter tun from Papazian. Basically a five gallon bucket, with a bunch of holes drilled in the bottom, set inside the bottling bucket.


Corona grain mill which could easily turn your grain to flour if you weren’t careful.


I remember buying a set of “Listermann” counterflow chiller fittings and making my first counterflow chiller with copper and a garden hose.


Anyone remember listermann whirly gig sparge arm?
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: MDL on November 22, 2021, 01:37:58 pm
Who remembers the original WYeast packaging? I think they called it the “propagator”. I don’t think it had a smack pack but it’s been awhile.

To the best of my knowledge, Wyeast has always offered the smack pack.  That was their competitive edge.  However, the early smack packs had a tiny amount of yeast compared to an Activator pack.  When White Labs showed up in '95, their claim to fame was that they were direct pitch.  I guess direct pitch is relative. :)

Right. It’s the “propagator” pack I was thinking of. Something like 15 billion cells per pack.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: chumley on November 22, 2021, 03:04:46 pm
My wife bought me a homebrewing set up in 1990 for my birthday. Basically a couple of plastic fermenters and a kit. Kit made a lager, a can of liquid malt extract, a couple of pounds of dry malt extract, a couple ounces of Hallertauer hops, and "Red Star Lager Yeast". It actually came out pretty good.

I live in Montana, and the first place where I bought supplies was a mail order business near Bozeman. Pre-internet days. The internet certainly led to an explosion in available brewing knowledge. I recall finding the Homebrew Digest in the late 1990s, followed by Brews and Views shortly thereafter. Those were great times.

Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: jeffy on November 22, 2021, 03:33:45 pm
I too had an 8 gallon enameled canning pot for my first all grain setup.

“Zapap” latter tun from Papazian. Basically a five gallon bucket, with a bunch of holes drilled in the bottom, set inside the bottling bucket.


Corona grain mill which could easily turn your grain to flour if you weren’t careful.


I remember buying a set of “Listermann” counterflow chiller fittings and making my first counterflow chiller with copper and a garden hose.


Anyone remember listermann whirly gig sparge arm?
Yes, I think I still have it.  I may still have the Phil's Phalse Bottom for a mash bucket as well.  It was one step up from the Zapap.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: ttash on November 22, 2021, 04:25:02 pm
I too had an 8 gallon enameled canning pot for my first all grain setup.

“Zapap” latter tun from Papazian. Basically a five gallon bucket, with a bunch of holes drilled in the bottom, set inside the bottling bucket.


Corona grain mill which could easily turn your grain to flour if you weren’t careful.


I remember buying a set of “Listermann” counterflow chiller fittings and making my first counterflow chiller with copper and a garden hose.


Anyone remember listermann whirly gig sparge arm?
Yes, I think I still have it.  I may still have the Phil's Phalse Bottom for a mash bucket as well.  It was one step up from the Zapap.

I still have the sparge arm and the Phil's Phalse Bottom as well. They're on display in my Homebrew Junk museum. 🍺
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Saccharomyces on November 22, 2021, 04:39:26 pm
I still have the sparge arm and the Phil's Phalse Bottom as well. They're on display in my Homebrew Junk museum. 🍺

I used both in the early days. To be honest, I prefer the polycarbonate Phil's Phalse botton over a perforated stainless false bottom.  The sparge arm was little more of an engineering gimmick.  Continuous sparging at this level is trivial.  We do not need to sprinkle our lauter tuns.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Visor on November 22, 2021, 05:35:04 pm
What's early? Didn't Sierra Nevada start as a homebrew shop back in the 70s? When I started extract+steeping grains was a big thing for beginners but I hardly hear anyone talk about that now.

I'm more interested in the next few years. Morebeer bought homebrew supply.com and I see more consolidation on the way. Seems like it could be ok, good retailers seem to be expanding. I'm wondering if craft malt is going to bring the next big wave of craft. I'm thinking it might not be the next IPA, but maybe the next sour if that makes sense. More malt forward beers that showcase local craft malt. Lots of headlines, not as much sales, but it sticks around at low levels.
 
    That would explain why I was unable to access the Homebrew Supply website the other day. Is MB going to be the next "Big Guy" swallowing up all it's competition or was this just a smart move to better serve the geographic center of the country?
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Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Wilbur on November 22, 2021, 07:06:34 pm
What's early? Didn't Sierra Nevada start as a homebrew shop back in the 70s? When I started extract+steeping grains was a big thing for beginners but I hardly hear anyone talk about that now.

I'm more interested in the next few years. Morebeer bought homebrew supply.com and I see more consolidation on the way. Seems like it could be ok, good retailers seem to be expanding. I'm wondering if craft malt is going to bring the next big wave of craft. I'm thinking it might not be the next IPA, but maybe the next sour if that makes sense. More malt forward beers that showcase local craft malt. Lots of headlines, not as much sales, but it sticks around at low levels.
 
    That would explain why I was unable to access the Homebrew Supply website the other day. Is MB going to be the next "Big Guy" swallowing up all it's competition or was this just a smart move to better serve the geographic center of the country?
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They had a podcast about it and sent out an email. Something about homebrew supply moving towards other aspects of beer business, the homebrew side was a small part of the business.

Went on a club trip a few years ago and stopped at the Blue Cat brew pub, which was supposed to be the oldest brew pub in Illinois. Tasted like they still brewed using brown bricks of hops and dusty extract.

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Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 22, 2021, 08:58:06 pm
I too had an 8 gallon enameled canning pot for my first all grain setup.

“Zapap” latter tun from Papazian. Basically a five gallon bucket, with a bunch of holes drilled in the bottom, set inside the bottling bucket.


Corona grain mill which could easily turn your grain to flour if you weren’t careful.


I remember buying a set of “Listermann” counterflow chiller fittings and making my first counterflow chiller with copper and a garden hose.


Anyone remember listermann whirly gig sparge arm?
Yes, I think I still have it.  I may still have the Phil's Phalse Bottom for a mash bucket as well.  It was one step up from the Zapap.

I still have the sparge arm and the Phil's Phalse Bottom as well. They're on display in my Homebrew Junk museum. 🍺

I have a similar museum.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: 4dogbrewer on November 23, 2021, 05:25:52 am
Started homebrewing in 1979. We bought a house ( $38,000.00 ), and it took everything we had to pay the mortgage. Saw a can of malt extract in a grocery store and bought it. Canada Brew. Corn sugar plus city water and a 5 gallon glass carboy. Yeast was like 5 grams under the cap. I drank it though, kind of forgot how it tasted. I do remember in the summer the temp must of been close to 80 F. Bought Charlie's book in the early 80's and started partial mash brewing on the stove. Loved it. Built his Zapzap with a couple of buckets and was well on my way to brewing all grain. I still couldn't find a big enough pot to boil a 5 gallon batch, so using corn sugar was still in my recipes. Did kits until the late 90's until I bought a 13 gallon keg to use as a boiler. Still have it, it is my sparge tank now converted to electric. Those were the days. I was always on the look out for brewing equipment as Canada had pretty well nothing to offer in homebrew equipment so we had to make our own stuff. Ordering equipment from the US was way cheaper than it is now though. I still have my Zapzap bucket along with a mash jacket I ordered from the US. I also still have all of my brewing books I bought back in the day. One thing though, I gathered all of my old Brew Your Own magazines in a box, I think there were around 100 and put them on our local marketplace on facebbook. For free!!! Not one taker, I guess the new brewers know it all.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Slowbrew on November 23, 2021, 05:38:21 am
Started homebrewing in 1979. We bought a house ( $38,000.00 ), and it took everything we had to pay the mortgage. Saw a can of malt extract in a grocery store and bought it. Canada Brew. Corn sugar plus city water and a 5 gallon glass carboy. Yeast was like 5 grams under the cap. I drank it though, kind of forgot how it tasted. I do remember in the summer the temp must of been close to 80 F. Bought Charlie's book in the early 80's and started partial mash brewing on the stove. Loved it. Built his Zapzap with a couple of buckets and was well on my way to brewing all grain. I still couldn't find a big enough pot to boil a 5 gallon batch, so using corn sugar was still in my recipes. Did kits until the late 90's until I bought a 13 gallon keg to use as a boiler. Still have it, it is my sparge tank now converted to electric. Those were the days. I was always on the look out for brewing equipment as Canada had pretty well nothing to offer in homebrew equipment so we had to make our own stuff. Ordering equipment from the US was way cheaper than it is now though. I still have my Zapzap bucket along with a mash jacket I ordered from the US. I also still have all of my brewing books I bought back in the day. One thing though, I gathered all of my old Brew Your Own magazines in a box, I think there were around 100 and put them on our local marketplace on facebbook. For free!!! Not one taker, I guess the new brewers know it all.

I hoard magazines.  I have all the BYO/Zymurgy/Wood Mag/American Woodworker/Handyman Club of America I've ever received.  I even found a box of The Iowan the other day.  It was a beautiful coffee table type of magazine.  I think I have a problem.  :)

The woodworking mags publish the same set of articles every 3-4 years for the most part.  Subscribe for 4 years and you have every plan they've got.

My son is now raiding my old brewing gear to get started making cider and mead.  A new generation of us is beginning.

Paul
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: ynotbrusum on November 23, 2021, 10:17:52 am
I have magazines going way back, too.  I just put them in plastic cases and never pull them out.  I guess I am thinking that when I retire, I will re-live the earlier days or something.  I think I may start to give away the old and excess equipment, if there are guys in my homebrew club that might want the stuff or perhaps my son (he brews about twice a year with a buddy of his).  Time to de-clutter according to my wife.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: grizwold on November 24, 2021, 06:06:00 pm
 "email news group that came out from the BA or whatever it was called before the forums that was interesting but really hard to follow (I can't remember what it was called now, someone will remember)"

was it alt.rec.hombrewing?
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: dmtaylor on November 24, 2021, 09:32:30 pm
"email news group that came out from the BA or whatever it was called before the forums that was interesting but really hard to follow (I can't remember what it was called now, someone will remember)"

was it alt.rec.hombrewing?

alt.beer.homebrewing was one, and rec.crafts.brewing was another.  I frequented both for a few years.
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Slowbrew on November 25, 2021, 05:40:25 am
"email news group that came out from the BA or whatever it was called before the forums that was interesting but really hard to follow (I can't remember what it was called now, someone will remember)"

was it alt.rec.hombrewing?

alt.beer.homebrewing was one, and rec.crafts.brewing was another.  I frequented both for a few years.

I spent quite a bit time in those news groups too.  They were great resources but a real pain to use compared to today's tech.

Paul
Title: Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
Post by: Don on November 29, 2021, 03:51:57 pm
I first started brewing around '82 or so. Extract of course. We steeped a few grains and we thought that was pretty advanced. No temp control... actually, an old unfinished, concrete floored bathroom that we deemed stayed pretty stable temp-wise was it. Our beer was never that great, always tasted.... off. Had that "homebrew" taste to it. In 2016 I decided I wanted to brew again, but fix all the issues we had.
So much more info out there as compared to the '80s... being the Bay Area we had a couple of different places we could get supplies from back then.