Thursday, December 22, 2011

Homebrew For The Holidays


I don’t usually fly home to Wisconsin during the holiday season but this year I had two good reasons for the trip. First, my little sister was graduating from the nursing program at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Second, my mom had her first ever Holiday Ale Homebrew ready to taste.

Karen (my mom) was born and raised in Wisconsin but I never remember her enjoying the labels (Miller, Pabst, Blatz) most often associated with her state. She would always buy the stuff from some of the state’s lesser known breweries like Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company (though Leinenkugel’s has now grown to a macrobrewery producing more than 15,000 barrels a year).

Since she’s always been a self-proclaimed beer snob, I wasn’t too surprised last year when she told me she was going to start a batch of homebrew. Her first batches were quite tasty so this year she decided to try a seasonal Holiday Ale.

She picked up a kit of Brewer’s Best from local Homebrew shop The Cellar and got things moving in October. The kits are great for beginners, putting everything you need (ingredients, priming sugar, grain bags, bottle caps and how to information) all in one place. The ingredients in the Holiday Ale are the Fermentables, Specialty Grains, Spice Pack, Hops and Yeast. Fermentables in this kit include 6.6 pounds of light liquid malt extract (LME), one pound of golden dried malt extract (DME) and one pound of corn sugar. There were 12 ounces of caramel, four ounces of chocolate, and four ounces of black patent in the Specialty Grains pack. This recipe claims the final product will be 40-48 IBU and 7.0% - 8.0% ABV.

We saved our tasting day for our family Christmas day and were well rewarded. The dark brown ale had a red hint in the light and I would have estimated its IBU closer to 30-35. It was rich and malty but the hits of orange peel sweetened up what many would assume to be a stout from the look alone. One sip in and I declared Karen’s latest brew a success.

So pop open your own taste of homebrew this holiday season, find a friend who’s taken up the hobby or avoid the mall for last minute shopping and stop by your local homebrew store and put a starter kit under the tree for the beer lover in your life - however you choose to celebrate homebrew can be a Home for the Holidays tradition no matter where you live.

(iphone photos courtesy: AEFlatley & Craig P. Newcomb)

Here are some options on where to buy brewing supplies (many places will ship to your area some even free of charge right now).

The Cellar - Wisconsin
244 S Main Street

Fond du Lac, WI 54935-3459


The Cellar Homebrew - Washington
14320 Greenwood Avenue N.
Seattle, WA 98133

FH Steinbart Co. - Oregon
234 SE 12th
Portland, OR 97214

Brewmaster - California
2315 Verna Ct.
San Leandro, CA 94577

Beer Info - Different Supply Stores Around The US


  1. Here's to homebrew! Great hobby, with delicious results.

  2. Thanks Andrea for that awesome review!! Can't wait to show Dave (Koepke) Cellar Wi. owner. Karen