Note: You'll notice that this is a little different than what I usually write. That's because I originally wrote it for Brewd Magazine, a new website and homebrew resource that launched a few weeks ago. If you're a current homebrewer, or interested in starting up, check it out! There's a wealth of informational articles and recipes there, with much more to come. This is a new thing for me, so any feedback is also appreciated. Would you like to see more informational articles like this here, or are you happy with just reading my brew day adventures and ramblings? Let me know in the comments, and enjoy the article!
I’ve been brewing for a few years now, and a question I get asked pretty often by non-brewers is, “Where do you get all your supplies?” That answer used to be, “At my local homebrew supply store (LHBS).”
As of earlier this year though, the only LHBS within reasonable driving distance closed down, forcing me to get creative. Sure, I could just order stuff online, and I do just that for ingredients. For most of my equipment though, I prefer to shop in a physical store. This way I can inspect it, tinker with it, and feel the quality before I buy it. Especially if I’m going to be dropping a decent amount of cash on it.
I’m sure there are many others in my current situation, which inspired me to put together a list of places, other than a LHBS, where homebrew equipment can be found.
1. Yard Sales & Second Hand Stores
These places are a major jackpot for equipment if you’re willing to put in the time to look for it. Many people start homebrewing only to give it up, or are gifted kits that never get used. Good equipment is being sold on the cheap for no other reason than to get it out of the garage. Their loss is your gain! Sure, it may be dusty or cruddy and in need of a really good clean. However, cleaning is essential for all new equipment, regardless of where it’s bought.
If cruising around town looking for yard sales or browsing the local Salvation Army store isn’t your idea of a fun weekend, go online. Craigslist turns up a whole lot of results for homebrew supplies. Not to mention one of the many Facebook Yard Sale groups bound to have what you’re looking for.
2. Sporting Goods StoresWhen I decided to start using the Brew-In-A-Bag method, I went to the outdoor cooking section of my local sporting goods store and I did not regret it one bit!
Advertised as a setup for a crawfish/seafood boiler, this now became my wort kettle and propane burner. I needed a mash paddle, so I grabbed the giant metal paddle hanging on the shelf next to the pot. Round replacement grill grates or rectangular fish baskets are perfect for resting the grain bag over the pot while it’s draining. When I was ready to step it up and buy a mash tun, you guessed it! I went to the sporting goods store, bought a cooler and converted it into a mash tun.
3. Hardware StoresIf you’re a DIY type of person, the hardware store is probably already your favorite place to go. While you’re there, why not buy parts to build some of your equipment? A quick internet search will turn up plans to construct hop spiders, carboy/bottle washers, brew stands, wort chillers, and much more. You may also be able to find your tubing here. Just make sure whatever you use for your build is food safe and easy to clean and sanitize.
4. Grocery & General Retail StoresThese stores are good places to find the little odds and ends that might make your brew day easier. The kitchen gadget aisle is the perfect place to start. Digital scales for measuring hop additions, turkey basters for drawing samples, cheesecloth for hop additions and mason jars for storing harvested yeast. Not to mention the many odds and ends such as measuring cups, mesh strainers, thermometers and funnels. Pots and lids will also come in handy for brewing small batches or preparing your priming sugar and yeast starters.
Next up, the cleaning supply aisle. Bottle and small hose brushes, magic eraser sponges for removing those pesky labels from recycled bottles and Oxi-Clean for soaking your equipment.
Finally, go down to the storage aisle and grab some containers to keep everything you just bought organized.
This is not a comprehensive list, but I hope it’s enough to give you a jumping off point. Go shopping with brewing on your mind, and you’ll be surprised at what you can find. Granted, some of this stuff isn’t as nice as those beautiful Blichmann or SS Brewtech setups. It’s usually much cheaper, though, and the beer comes out just as good. Isn’t that what really matters?