Newbie Brewing - Getting Started

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I got started with home brewing like many others had, with small Mr. Beer kits, and moved on from there. Many think that brewing is expensive and simply not worth the time compared to simply buying from a store. My first 6 batches from Mr. Beer cost me roughly $45; let me see you get 6 cases of decent beer for that much. Originally, I was able to find Mr. Beer kits at a local Kohl's and because of my discounts, I bought it for a very good price. I then found that Sears had all their Mr. Beer items at 70-80% off. Coupled with my military discount (yes I do use it when I can, need to save as much as money possible) I spent $25 on two 2-pack refills and an additional Mr. Beer kit. Simple tweaks to the ingredients, like $2 worth of cascade hops and some honey, made for great beer, but I wanted more.

My First Extract Brewing Book
With all this equipment, I hurriedly brewed for the next few months. Now, 3 months after buying my first set, I have run out of ingredients. I made some great beers and one horrendous one. Yes, you get what you pay for, but good doesn't always have to be expensive. My total investment for everything I own has only been $125. Now, you might say that is a lot of money, but let's see what it has bought me:
1. (2) Mr. Beer Kits $25
2. (2) Mr. Beer Refills $15
3. Complete Homebrew set including (2) cases of bottles $25
4. Powdered Brewery Wash $20
5. Star San 4oz $5
6. Bottling Wand $10
7. Bottle Capper $20

My Current Collection Of Homebrew Bottles
With this collection of equipment, I have enough to ferment a 5 gal batch and split it into my 2 Mr. Beer "Little Brown Kegs", (aka:LBK's), to experiment with if I so desire. I also have a Bottling Bucket if I want to keep my batch whole. The complete Homebrew set, which I got off of CraigsList, included a bottling bucket, a 5 gallon glass carboy, a hydrometer, 2 cases of 12 ounce Budweiser long neck bottles in their old school cardboard cases, a bottle capper, some more cleanser and an airlock. I further supplemented my bottle collection by cruising CraigsList again, where I found a brewer who had moved on to kegging, and simply gave me his bottles. I also put out an ad in my apartment complex to any of the beer drinkers to give me their bottles and that has paid off as well.

My Brewing Gear Purchased From CraigsList
As I said, getting into brewing doesn't have to be expensive. My tips for getting into it for relatively cheaply are as follows:
1. Browse department stores, i.e. Sears, and even Bed Bath and Beyond, a few months after major holidays, mainly Christmas. They will be looking to get rid of the left over stock from the holiday, which will likely be on sale. Those Mr. Beer kits were originally $50-$60 and I got two for $25.
2. Keep an eye on CraigsList. There are always other brewers in the area who may be looking to upgrade their equipment and they often sell the old stuff very cheaply.
3. Lastly with the bottles: people throw them out all the time. If you are using Mr Beer plastic bottles and wanting to upgrade to glass (MUCH BETTER), simply ask friends or neighbors who would throw away the bottles to instead give them to you, preferably cleaned but hell you got them free, you can do that as well.
Using this advice, don't be afraid to get in to home brewing. The cost doesn't have to be astronomical, and you get quality beer for a fraction of the cost of buying it. Use those savings to spoil yourself with some great ingredients and make yourself a special beer. The sky is the limit, enjoy yourself!
Serving with the United States Marine Corps, Kyle has spent the past 12 years stationed throughout the US and overseas. Originally from Georgia, he left the service in 2013 after spending almost 10 years on active duty. Next year Kyle will complete his time in the reserves. A meteorologist while serving in the Marines, he will complete his degree this spring and wants to apply his background in science to homebrewing.// t=_self
Nice write up, it really pays off to browse the "cheapy" shops, they tend to have items that can be repurposed easily enough for brewing.
My hardest bit was bottles, as Finland has barely an bottled beer sales of domestic beer. Luckily "long-drink" and "cider" are sold in small brown bottles at bars, so I Got a few nice plastic crates with 24 bottles at a local bar for about 6 euro's a piece to cover "return money/recycling money"
Thanks for the motivating write up! Always great to read how someone got started and even better when it encourages others to try. You are lucky with the bottles, most breweries in South Africa have changed to twist top bottles as they are easier to open
There is nothing wrong with using coupons or discounts. Good read.
Nice tips!
I was bottling for awhile and luckily knew some owners at a local wine-bar. After asking, they were more than happy to save me any beer bottles, boxes, 6-pack carriers and whatever. Just be sure to supply ample samples in return :)
Ooo Rahh! Marine and thanks for your service! Nice write up.
Good for you buddy. Glad to see it working out. It's an exciting process, that I know. I spent some money getting started, but that's just how it goes...
@divrguy Thanks for that.
I enjoyed writing this, and will be doing my first NON Mr Beer brew within the next couple weeks hopefully. Once i have a little money I have a nice Vanilla Bourbon Dubbel planned out, using locally made Bourbon Whiskey from a Veteran owned and operated distillery. Will write up an article on that when I do it.
Great article and I raise my glass and thank you for your service to our country.
Use glass bottles as much as you can and bottle the rest in 2 liter soda bottles. Cheap and PET.
Then when you have a bunch of glass bottles, sell them on Craigslist for enough $$ to buy a keg set up.
Worked for me!
@Magnus314 Very good thought. I still have ALOT of pet bottles from the Mr. Beer sets that I dont use. Regardless though, I will always bottle some though because i give bottles away to friends and colleagues. can use the keg with a counter pressure filler to bottle them with no sediment though