Brew Your Own

It's a natural progression: you like beer, then you like good beer, and then, inevitably, you want to try making your own beer. As it turns out, Charlotte is a great place to be a homebrewer

Alternative Beverage (ebrew.com), which has a "superstore" in Belmont and a branch in South End, is one of the country's top homebrew retailers. CEO Jess Faucette started selling beer-making equipment in 1977, and he's built a customer base that spans the nation. Visit either location, and the helpful staff will have you brewing in no time. In addition to brewing kits, the store sells more than fifty prepackaged beer recipes, many designed to mimic popular beers such as Sierra Nevada or Sam Adams.

But you can't call yourself a brewmaster unless you add a little of this and a little of that. Once you're ready to start experimenting, Faucette's staff will point you to specialty hops and malts to match your tastes. And once you do call yourself a brewmaster, you might consider joining the Carolina Brewmasters. The local club (carolinabrewmasters.com) gathers regularly to talk shop and swap samples.

Before you start boiling your wort, though, allow us to clear up two common misconceptions. One, you can't save money by making your own beer. It's a hobby, and as with any hobby, you can spend as much or as little as you like on the trappings. A basic kit costs at least $100, and recipes run between $25 and $35. A recipe makes five gallons — or two cases — of homebrew. So it's feasible that, over time, you could come out ahead if you typically buy expensive craft beer. But if you think you can make your own light beer and save a little coin in the process, think again.

Two, forget about making your own Budweiser. The typical American style of beer is so light and delicate that it's very difficult to replicate at home. Any flaw would be screamingly obvious. Best to stick to the heavier stuff. — R. T.

How to Make Beer

At its core, beermaking is a simple process. Here’s a quick illustrated guide:

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