Update on 9 Nov:
I havenow searched the web more thoroughly and gotten advice from several kind brewers on this forum and on Homebrewtalk.com. Thanks especially to phillamb168 for the private message. Maybe what I've found will help another homebrewer someday.
Here is the new reality I'll be learning to live with as I brew in Spain:
- There are several homebrew shops in Europe that operate online in a manner similar to US shops. The big difference seems to be in their shipping policies. The trend here is to charge for large bulk weights at a fixed price, for intance 30 Euros to ship up to 25 kilos. This can be good if you want 50 lbs of supplies at a time, but it is expensive for me since I am a partial mash/extract brewer and don't have a lot of time to brew. Since I only order one or two 5-gallon batches at a time, these shipping policies will be pretty painful.
- Another difference is that ingredients seem to be much more expensive than in the US. It blows my mind, but for some reason malt can be grown and processed in Belgium, or hops in Germany, and then shipped across the Atlantic to the US and still be offered at cheaper prices than the same ingredients that never left Europe.
- US hombrew suppliers who are willing to ship to APO/FPO boxes will only do so at USPS Priority Mail rates, which can be pretty steep.
- Midwest Homebrew (www.midwestsupplies.com
) has a good policy of making every effort to fit an APO box order into a USPS flat-rate box, which significantly reduces the postage. Then they'll refund the difference in postage from the Priority Mail rate they charged at checkout.
- Amazon.com is useful for many things when you're overseas, because their free shipping for "Prime" members is still valid for APO/FPO boxes. Unfortunately, there is very little homebrew equipment or ingredients on their site that are eligible for "Prime" rates. One useful item I found was Cooper's malt extract, which can be gotten from the maltster via Amazon Prime in 3.3 lb cans with free shippping. Reviews say the cans shipped this way are very young/fresh. I'm trying it now and I'll see for myself. I usually prefer to use style-appropriate extract for my brews, such as Pilsner extract for Belgian golden ales, but I'm willing to accept Cooper's pale malt extract as a substitute if it's fresh and cheap.
Thanks for the help, everyone and good luck brewing, wherever you are!