Author Topic: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement  (Read 895 times)

Offline Saccharomyces

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Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« 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.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2021, 01:23:15 pm by Saccharomyces »

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2021, 11:37:24 am »
John Bull and a pack of unidentified dry yeast. Great times.
Dave

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Offline neuse

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #2 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.

Offline Bob357

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #3 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?
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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #4 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
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Offline MDL

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #5 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.

Offline Wilbur

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #6 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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Offline majorvices

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #7 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.

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #8 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.
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Offline denny

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #9 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.
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Offline Megary

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #10 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.

Offline narvin

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #11 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.

Offline jeffy

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #12 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.
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Offline goose

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #13 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.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Let's discuss the early days of the home brewing movement
« Reply #14 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.