Home brewing is easy and it is a great product of your efforts in only about a month. And that product tastes great. The other benefit is that you can share the fruits of your labors with your friends. It’s not like having a hobby like jogging, which is solitary, or tennis, in which you’re trying to beat the other guy. The point of beer is to drink it with your buddies.
While home brewing does not require a great deal of skill or fancy equipment, there’s no question that it’s easier if you have the right equipment, well-tested recipes, and fresh ingredients. Going through the effort to brew a batch of beer, but ruining it by using old yeast or putting the beer into dirty bottles just doesn’t make sense. Do it right, or don’t do it at all. And that’s why buying your supplies and getting your information from a reliable source is so important.
There are many good resources online for home brewers. They start with information with beginners, and they move up in complexity to the most advanced home brewers who operate on a fairly large scale. But the problem with going online is that you can’t see what you are getting, and you can’t compare things except through words and images. You aren’t able to touch or smell anything. For example, you can’t pick up two different types of bottle caps and decide that the ones that are a little cheaper feel very flimsy; or you can’t smell two different types of hops and decide you like one better than the other.
So, my preference is to buy my supplies in person, unless I’m sure in advance what I want to buy. In the Washington, DC, area where I live, one homebrew supply store stands out above the rest: Maryland Homebrew. The company’s operations are in a row of warehouses near Columbia, Maryland. The shelves are stacked to 8 feet with beer (and wine) ingredients and supplies. More importantly, the staff is knowledgeable and patient. Even if you’re a first-timer, they are not snobs. They love to talk about your options, and they understand that you’re not trying to spend a lot of money.
I’ve purchased equipment and ingredients from Maryland Homebrew for at least five years, and they’ve never let me down. They also publish recipes online, and I’ve found those recipes to be completely reliable. In fact, if you don’t want to go to the store, or you live too far away, just pick a recipe and send an email or call the store and ask them to give you everything you need for the recipe. It will arrive a couple of days later, and you can start brewing.