Who doesn’t love beer? The ancient Sumerians sure did.
Brewing is often used by anthropologists as an identifier that a group of nomads have achieved status as a civilization. That’s right, you can’t join the civilization club unless you’ve figured out how to turn grain into alcohol.
We’ve come a long way as a species in the six millenia since our ancestors figured out how to store bread as a liquid. The brewing process has also gone through several changes, and the processes used today blend both art and science to craft the delicious brews we ingest.
Similar brewing processes are used to make beer, wine, cider and mead (honey wine). Through fermentation, yeast converts the sugars in each batch into alcohol. The strain of yeast and ingredients used are what ultimately yield the drink.
Thanks to a repealed ban on home-brewing in 1978, Americans have been allowed to make their own concoctions in the comfort of their own homes. Brewers love Jimmy Carter.
Vintage Cellar in Blacksburg is a haven for beer enthusiasts. Keith Roberts, Vintage Cellar proprietor, used to sell home-brewing equipment until demand started to dwindle.
“We sold about $1,000 of equipment per week for about a dozen years,” he said.
Roberts recommends home-brewing to any beer enthusiast but warns it isn’t for people looking to make inexpensive beer.
“You can’t make it as cheap as the commercial beers, but you can make it as good or better. With home-brewing you make it for yourself, in your kitchen. You can coddle your beer and do what you want with it,” Roberts, who likens home-brewing to home cooking, said. “You can go out to eat or you can make it yourself at home, and it can turn out pretty good.”
Hopeful home-brewers can get their start by purchasing the proper equipment. Eats Natural Foods is Blacksburg’s go-to shop for home-brewing supplies, and general manager Stanley Davis is an expert brewer, ready and willing to dish out advice. Eats carries everything a brewer needs to get started, including fermenters, hydrometers, thermometers and bottles, in addition to all the ingredients.
“The bare basics only cost around $25 to $30,” Davis said, noting some of the more expensive items such as carboys (giant glass containers) and wort chillers are not necessary for beginners.