Brew It Yourself

From the biggest breweries to backyard brewmasters, Michiganders enjoy taking a DIY approach to their beer.

Whether it’s Larry Bell in his garage using a 15-gallon soup pot to brew the first batches of beer for what would eventually become Bell’s Brewery, or Bret and Tim Kuhnhenn selling homebrewing supplies out of the family hardware store, some of Michigan’s most award-winning brewers got their start right at home.

Many breweries still take pride in their homebrewing roots, such as Dark Horse Brewing Company running a brewing supply and skateboarding merchandise shop across the parking lot from their brewery in Marshall.

With the recent rise in popularity of craft beer, there has also been a rise in popularity for homebrewing. Taking your love for beer and using it to help craft something you can call your own is near and dear to many craft beer drinkers.

Many of America’s greatest homebrewers will find their way to Grand Rapids from June 12-14 for the annual American Homebrewers Association Conference.

Attendees will have an opportunity to not only mingle with fellow brewers, but will also partake in a variety of learning experiences. There will be tastings, panels, and seminars featuring professionals from all corners of the beer scene, including brewmasters from industry giants such as Founders and Stone, grain providers, hop growers, and representatives from hombrew clubs from across the country.

Although education is the primary focus of the conference, plenty of activities are planned, including tours of the area’s breweries and wineries along with social gatherings and meetups. Brewers of every skill level are sure to gain new skills or knowledge.

If you’d like to get into the homebrewing hobby you don’t need to attend a conference to learn the basics. As long as you have some basic cooking skills and are willing to learn some new terminology, you should be able to brew your own batch. There are some variations in the process based on the different types of beers, but they all follow the same basic formula. You start by combining grains, or an extract made from grains, and water to make a sweet liquid known as “wort.” You bring your wort to a boil, and add then add your hops. There are over one hundred varieties of hops, each with a different smell, flavor and purpose in brewing. After the hops are boiled for about an hour, the wort is cooled, yeast is added, and it is left to ferment in a closed container for at least a week. In this time, the yeast will convert the sugars to alcohol, and create your beer!

There are also some homebrewing related activities happening in May, since May 4 is National Homebrew Day. Local homebrewing supply shops are hosting events that weekend to help new brewers enter the fold and help current brewers connect with each other over their shared love of beer. Here are some area events:

May 3 – Cap N Cork Homebrew Supply – Macomb
Local homebrewers and mead makers will gather at Cap N Cork for a parking lot brewing session, along with many question and answer sessions from local homebrew notables. Storeowner Andy will be teaching the brew-in-a-bag method, while participants are expected to brew 80+ gallons of beer on-site. More information is available on the store’s website and Facebook page.

May 3 – Adventures in Homebrewing – Ann Arbor and Taylor
AIH will be hosting their 15th annual Mash Bash from 10 AM – 5PM at both of their locations. Not only will attendees be brewing on site, but snacks from local vendors will be available as well. More information is available on AIH’s Facebook page.

May 3 – Brewing World – Warren
Members of the Kuhnhenn Guild of Brewers will be meeting in the parking lot between the store and the brewery to hold a group brew. The store will also feature special deals on homebrewing supplies, no guild membership required. More information will be available on Brewing World’s Facebook page.

May 3 – Wine Barrel Plus – Livonia
Wine Barrel Plus will be featuring a group brewing session, along with special discounts on supplies for brew participants. There will also be tastings at the event, along with some question and answer sessions from fellow homebrewers. Contact the store to reserve your spot.

May 3 – Main Street Brew Shop – Howell
Main Street Brew Shop will be hosting an event from 10 AM – 4 PM by the local Brewer’s Guild, featuring a group brewing session in the parking lot, along with informative, education sessions from the guild’s members.

Space is limited for some of these events, so contact the shop ahead of time. If you’re outside of the metro Detroit area, check out Brew Your Own magazine’s supply directory to locate the supply shop nearest you, or begin reading the free online version of John Palmer’s How To Brew.

(Homebrew shops, please contact if you’d like your event listed here.)