I highly suggest picking up a copy of John Palmer's book "How To Brew" and reading it
before you delve into this great hobby.
This is the most best advice in the entire thread - way, way cheaper than 1000 bucks.
Just my own newbie perspective (brewing 18 months): Palmer's book is essential reading, but I find the Basic Brewing DVDs to be extremely helpful in understanding the actual brewing workflow. "Basic Brewing™ Introduction to Extract Home Brewing DVD" DVD is $17.95 online and money quite well spent, in my opinion, as is the all-grain DVD.
Since you're in the Bay Area, you could spend $150-$200 to try out your hobby this way:
* Go to one of the local homebrew stores and buy a basic kit, Palmer's book, and the DVD. Buy one of the store's recipe kits (they will mill the grain for you right there), or if you're at Brewcraft, ask Griz for a recipe and he'll write it out from memory. Read the book. Watch the DVD. Note: Griz' two-page sheet on how to brew is really clear.
* Go to Safeway or Lucky's and get a big ol' container of Oxiclean.
* If you can, sit in on Griz' Monday night class at Brewcraft. It's half hooey but half really good advice (the best being to "Turn off your &$#!@ cell phone before you start doing this"), and besides, Griz is his own local institution.
* Brew a batch of beer. Follow instructions closely. Clean everything immediately. Put the fermenter in the coolest, darkest place where you live. Cool as in temp, not level of hipness.
* Bottle the beer. This is a drag, but if you don't like this, down the road you could start kegging. City Beer Store in SF lets homebrewers take their empties, and I bet other places do too, but if you really have $1000 buying a couple cases of clean new bottles that you only need to sanitize might be a nice treat. Now wait.
* When the beer is ready, no matter how bad it is, ask yourself, did you have fun? Do you want to do this again? No? As Griz says, life is short, and if brewing is an "anal-retentive neurotic nightmare" for you, don't do it any more. Put the kit on Craigslist at half-price and be done with it, and spend your hobby money on something that gives you pleasure. Yes? Try it again, maybe this time with a recipe from the boards. Repeat.
Where you and I live, grasshopper, the only reason to homebrew is because we like to homebrew. At our block party last Sunday I met a neighbor who has been homebrewing 12 years and we started talking process... our better halves edged away from us with a knowing look... soon we were breaking out our worst beers and analyzing them... it's the thrill of the chase, the exactitude of the process, the place it takes us. If that's not there for you, there are many wonderful breweries where we live who will be more than happy to keep you in great beer for the rest of your live-long days.