Easy Home-Brewing, in Your Apartment

brooklyn brew shop homebrewOne of the challenges of apartment living is space. That is, not enough of it. Dinner parties and entertaining is often out of the question, never mind experiments in home beer-brewing. But a new outfit called Brooklyn Brew Shop wants to change that, and they claim all you need are a few kitchen staples and one square foot. Really.

Erica Shea, 26, and Stephen Valand, 24, have been selling home-brewing kits for nearly a year. The idea was born from the couple's own interest in making things.

"I really liked hobbies," Erica explains, "not necessarily beer-making. But Stephen really liked beer." She inherited some beer-making equipment from her father, but they couldn't easily find beer-making kits in New York City, where they live.

Also, the ones that were available required more space than was available in Shea's tiny Lower East Side apartment.

The duo researched the space required to brew one gallon of beer and kept the process to a minimum. They wanted it to be fun and not like a science project, Valand says.

Each kit comes with just the essentials: a mix of your choice, gallon jug, chambered airlock, rubber stopper and thermometer. You supply a stockpot, strainer and funnel. That's it.

The beer-making process is just as simple. Steep the grain in hot water, strain, collect liquid, boil the hops (if you're feeling bold, you can always grow your own), then let the concoction ferment for two weeks. The jug can stow in a closet or cabinet.

Voila! You'll be ready to not only savor the delicious beer, but also the satisfaction of brewing it yourself.

"When you make beer yourself you can taste all the individual ingredients that go into it, and I guess it gives you a much greater appreciation for it," Valand says.

It might even save you money. You'll cough up $40 per kit for a Rose Cheeked Blonde or Chestnut Brown Ale, but after the initial purchase, the kit is reusable. And mixes run just $15. The pair estimates that over time a bottle of home brew will cost just over $1.

And in case that's not enough reason to stay home and brew, Valand suggests that their brews are often stronger than commercial ones. For instance, a Belgian Tripel beer is 9.9 % alcohol. Also, home-brewing usually is not a solitary pursuit; the couple says some use home-brewing as an excuse to get together and celebrate their creations.

The Brooklyn Brew Shop doesn't have a storefront. But the kits are available by mail order from their website, as well as at Whole Foods and a few select shops in New York and New Jersey. With up to 11 beer varieties, they've now shipped to all 50 states and Canada, and the two have been able to quit their jobs in publishing and advertising to run the business.

"It's been a learning experience," Shea says earnestly. One they're enjoying.
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