Beer Country: Brew Your Own Beer

The 411 on brewing your own beer.

For 36 years, The Beverage People co-owner Nancy Vineyard has seen the home-brewing industry rise and fall repeatedly, first in the mid-1990s and then in the early 2000s.

“It always goes up when the economy goes down,” she said. “People don’t have jobs, but they want to continue to have beer.”

The Santa Rosa retail and mail-order store offers classes in home brewing, as well as kits that provide all the key equipment and ingredients for beginners to get started. a standard kit runs about $100.

“That’s just the hardware,” she said. “But with your own water, and saved beer bottles, that will make a 5-gallon batch of beer with an ingredient kit, which costs between $35 and $55.”

The entry-level kit includes a book by Byron Burch, “Brewing Quality Beers,” which is required reading for anyone just starting out. The key components of the kit are the fermenter (a 6.8-gallon plastic bucket with a lid), a 5-gallon carboy for secondary fermentation, plastic fermentation lock, siphon hose, bottle brush, bottle filler, crown caps, capper, odor-free cleaner and no-rinse sanitizer.

Vineyard suggests starting out with a pale ale or IPA ingredient kit, because most people know how those beers are supposed to taste. Included are the malt ex- tract, hops and yeast.

Home brewers also need a large stockpot for cooking the ingredients (20- to 32-quart), Pyrex measuring cups and cases in which to store the bottles out of the light.

Relatively new on the scene is Beer Belly Brewing Supply in Windsor. Owner Christal Farias, a Healdsburg native, opened the shop in June 2014, after she and her friends found themselves unable to buy last-minute sup- plies on Sunday, their favorite day to brew together. So she opened her own store and began hosting Beer Camp, an evening of beer, food and a talk given by a professional brewer ($35-$45).

The next Beer Camp is May 19 at 6:30 p.m., with Fogbelt Brewing.

• Beer Belly Brewing supply, 371A Windsor River Road, Windsor 707-837-5750,
• The Beverage people, 1845 Piner Road, Suite D, 707-544-5729,

Small Batch, Freshly Hatched

Entrants in the first Sonoma County Home Brewer’s Competition will show off their suds at a May 23 tasting at the Veterans Memorial Building in Petaluma, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s too late to enter the competition, sponsored by the Petaluma Downtown Association, but attend the tasting and be inspired to brew a batch for the 2016 event.

The $25 ticket includes a logo glass and 20 tastings, plus opportunities to learn about home brewing, equipment and ingredients. There will be food trucks and music, too. Attendees vote on their favorite beers and the top 10 are judged by an expert panel. The ultimate winner will brew his or her recipe at 101 North Brewing Co. And Have It Distributed Locally.

• Veterans Memorial Building, 1094 Petaluma Blvd. S., Petaluma, 707-780-2939,