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Novice Homebrewer: The First Homebrew Shop

Mr. Steve's

A couple of years ago, I took a homebrewing class (1-day) to learn about brewing, but nothing immediately came of it. However, this class was sponsored by Mr. Steve’s Homebrew and Wine Supplies. Due to my exposure to Mr. Steve’s as a sponsor, I was influenced to patronize their business for my first homebrew. There are two locations of Mr. Steve’s, one in York and one in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. However, on March 1, Mr. Steve’s is opening a third location in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, which will eliminate my 30-minute drive to either location.

I arrived at the York location of Mr. Steve’s on a brisk and windy January day full of excitement. Upon entering the store, I knew I had chosen the right location to begin my brewing adventures. While I already had my start kit with the basic equipment that I needed to brew, there were a few more items I thought I may need, and I obviously needed the ingredients. I had written down the ingredients needed from Calagione’s A-Z Brown Ale recipe, so I felt pretty prepared.

After perusing the store and collecting most of my ingredients, I ran into an issue: I could not find any Northern Brewer hops. I approached one of the guys in the store, and I was informed that I was not alone in seeking out these hops. In fact, there is a great shortage in these hops due to, as the store clerk said, “Anheuser-Busch.” I asked him if there would be a suitable replacement for the Northern Brewer hops, and he suggested another variety. I found the staff to be overly friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and extra helpful.

Another clerk I spoke with gave me a few tips and helpful suggestions. I inquired as to the use of a bottle washer and bottle tree, and the clerk said while it is not a necessary piece of equipment, it is one that really makes your life easier. So I obliged and picked up a bottle tree and bottle washer attachment, and felt really good about my purchases.

I left spending almost $200, but the peace of mind that I left with made it completely worth it. I felt comfortable with the staff and their ability to ask my noob questions without making me feel incompetent. Keep in mind that the money I spent was not simply on ingredients, but some optional equipment that would make the brewing process easier. I didn’t buy everything that was suggested because if there is one thing that I learned in the brewing class that has stuck with me for all these years is that you shouldn’t buy everything at once, but every time you buy ingredients, but another piece of equipment that will make your life easier. That way you won’t break the bank up front, and you will appreciate the small improvements each time you brew.

If you are a new homebrewer, I also suggest you check out Mr. Steve’s website, as it is extremely informative and provides instructions and other tips for brewing. For instance, there is a post about the use of an aluminum brew kettle versus splurging for a stainless steel pot. I initially went with aluminum as part of my turkey fryer kit, and after reading the post about the brew kettle, I feel better about my purchase.

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Written by Jeff Kupko

Jeff is a traffic engineer that loves his beer, and especially loves trying new beer. As a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Yuengling was a staple and the beginnings of liking something better than fizzy yellow water. This has evolved into an entire hobby, with Jeff keeping a blog of all of the beers he tries. Vacations most certainly involve at least one brewery or bottle shop visit to gather a region’s coveted fruits. Now, Jeff has ventured into homebrewing, and there is probably no saving him from being engulfed entirely by beer. While Imperial Stouts and IPAs rank highest in Jeff’s eyes, sours are sneaking up on those styles, and Jeff loves to try all different styles. Find Jeff Kupko on Google Plus

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