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Celebrating Homebrewed Beer

The bubbling universe of home-brewed beer. It’s getting big. We look at “homebrew.”

Jamie Darnton, of Philadelphia, cooling hopped wort to room temperature in a counterflow chiller, as it is syphoned into the primary fermenter.

You can get a beer almost anywhere, but these days there’s no place like home.

Home-brew is big. Some yeast, some barley, some hops, some H2O, and you’re on your way. Home-brew is happening. It’s a little bit locavore and a little bit DIY. Four or five weeks, a barrel in the kitchen, and you’ve got brew.

It’s cheap, it’s recession-proof, and – if you’re good – it’s tasty. Yes, we know – be sober, be moderate, be of age. And be aware – the brewer next door may have the best brew going. Or maybe it’s you.

We’re tapping into home brew.

-Tom Ashbrook


Brad Ring, publisher of Brew Your Own magazine. Check out their discussion of different brewing techniques, and see the recipes they posted for the show.

Rich Heller, president of the Beer Barons of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a group of more than 150 homebrewers and beer lovers who meet monthly to taste and talk about beer and brewing. See their “cheat sheet” of helpful tips on brewing.

Randy Baril, manager of Modern Homebrew Emporium in Cambridge, MA. Check out the recipes they’ve posted.


You can find the White House beer recipe here.

The On Point studio today:

Tom Ashbrook and Randy Baril of Modern Homebrew Emporium (WBUR’s Jesse Costa)

Randy Baril of Modern Homebrew Emporium in the On Point studio (WBUR’s Jesse Costa)

Tom Ashbrook in the On Point studio (WBUR’s Jesse Costa)

Here are some photos of homebrewing contributed by On Point listeners:

Posted by John C.

Posted by Jeremy C.

Posted by David L.

Posted by Tristan W.

Posted by Matt N.

Posted by Blake L.

Posted by Jamie D.

Posted by Matt N.

Posted by Scott R.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • MIke in HIckory, NC

    I thought I would chime in with why I love homebrewing so much…

    Some folks enter the hobby to make beer inexpensively, others to make something that’s not available at their local stores. I brew beer because there’s something incredibly primal about the process. As I toil in my garage over a boiling kettle, I can’t help but feel that I am participating in an ancient, truly human act. There’s something about a brew day that connects me with thousands of years of human history. When I think of the fact that man was brewing beer before he was making bread, I get chills. Perhaps I’m just strange.

  • http://nerax.org/ Pam Phillips

    There’s no telling where brewing your own beer will lead you. I started homebrewing because I couldn’t find the beer I wanted. I finally found what I was looking for in real ale, first in Oxford, and then (next door to my erstwhile apartment in Davis Square!) at NERAX, a festival in celebrating Britain’s traditional way of serving beer. Which leads to my disclaimer: Now I’m one of the festival organizers, and we’re working on presenting NERAX North in November.

    And Mike in Hickory, I don’t think it’s strange at all to be moved by the miracles of yeast, barley, and hops and our ancient history together.

  • John

    Jimmy Carter legalized home brewing.

  • John Watkins

    I started homebrewing when I was 20 years old, now at 23 I still can’t get enough. With programming like The Brewing Network, new brewing techniques and beer information keeps me excited as ever to keep brewing. I think they have been instumental in bringing this hobby to a whole new level.

  • Matt

    I want to know more about David L.’s photo. Tell me about your brewpot! I’m an electric brewer myself, but have not encountered such a crazy looking setup – I want one!

  • Rick Solie

    I’ve heard that the explosion of craft breweries was occasioned or facilitated by the adoption of required bottle deposits (don’t remember how, though). Can anyone comment?

  • http://www.beerwarsmovie.com Amy Sommer

    Anat Baron’s indie film, “Beer Wars”, takes viewers behind the scenes of America’s beer industry and is a good film. Beer has been brewing since Biblical times — Noah packed it on his ark along with all of the species — and is part of an industry regulated by about 37,000 laws!

    http://www.beerwarsmovie.com for more information.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Sierra Nevada Torpedo. The bomb!

  • Josh

    On the fringes of brewing…I lived in a remote region of Papua New Guinea from 1988-1990. I shared a bunk house/mechanics shop with a sixty-five year old one-eyed Bavarian saw miller, son of a brewer, and a forty-five year old Austrian mechanic, Catholic Brothers Balthazar and Franz respectively. These guys lived on white bread, cigarettes and beer. We brewed three cases about every week and a half of Coopers out of Australia. We brewed in plastic buckets covered with towels, used SP bottles sterilized with hot water heated on a wood stove, and stored our cases in an old walk-in broken down meat locker. We had sporadic refrigeration due to limited electricity source. We enjoyed almost every bottle. Brother Balthazar insisted that there was no better cure for his malarial outbreaks than a bottle of home brew and a few tablets of quinine.

  • jeffe

    The link for the Home Brew Emporium is broken.

  • jeffe

    I’m getting a warning about the Home Brew Emporium’s web site having a bad certificate. This might be nothing or it could be a bad thing.

  • Jonathan

    Don’t forget hard cider! It’s easier to keep the ingredients local. Just juice some apples, and let the wild yeast ferment it.

    Also, hops are easy to grow. Much more fun and satisfying to create your own ingredients than to buy a kit, in my opinion.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    I’d love to see a picture of Tom with a “lampshade on his head.” Please post when show is over and all beer is drunk (along with Tom).

  • Gee Brewz

    I started brewing 20 years ago with nothing more than a used water carboy, a “brew kettle” liberated from my moms’ canning supplies and a Brown Ale extract kit that I smuggled in from Canada (as kits weren’t readily available here in Western New York at the time). It wasn’t really very good – tasted nothing like the Newcastle Brown Ale that it was supposed to emulate – but it WAS ale of a sort – and I had made it – and that was enough to hook me forever! I now have a full all-grain setup that can produce 10 gallon batches as often as I care to fire it up, along with 4 varieties of hops growing in my yard for my “experimental” batches – and a legion of friends who can’t wait to taste the newest thing to come from the tap on my beer fridge. I’m a confirmed brewaholic – and my honey-licorice porters have taken a fair share of ribbons at some regional tastings! Great show – and brew on!

  • Tom baehr

    Pete and I were early brewers, in the early 1980s. We cooked up the wurt for the first batch in my kitchen, but the smell drove my family out. After that, we’d cook it up in Pete’s apartment, put the big kettle in my station wagon, and drive 5 miles an hour the mile to my place to finish the job and put the carboys in my basement. We made lager, or bottom fermenting brew, using malted barley syrup. It didn’t taste like anything commercial, but it was drinkable.

  • http://ibelieveinbutter.wordpress.com Soli

    I’d be smiling that much if I had all that beer in front of me too!

  • Steven Melamed

    Don’t forget the community aspect of brewing! I try to always brew with friends and split the batch. It’s a great community event.

  • Miriam Hyde

    Not a big beer drinker, but only because of the calories. The commercial light beers are so-so. How do you home brew low-cal beers?

  • Rodney

    How about Sweet Tea brew. I have stumbled upon this one and wonder if it would be considered a beer or a wine. It is truly home-brew and an excellent use of tea that may otherwise go to waste (however, I never have that happen – I’m truely southern.)

  • Dave

    Hey Tom,

    I think a lot of homebrewers go over the top in adding flavors to the beer (like heavy hops and fruit). My favorite beer is British bitter ale, which is available in just about every pub in England. It has a very subtle flavor and very little carbonation. I would be interested to know if this kind of beer can be brewed at home.


  • Beth

    Per the last caller, be sure to use a long-lasting yeast like champagne yeast, so it eats up more of the honey sugars and results in a brew that’s not disgustingly sweet like what you buy in most stores!

  • Ann

    Can you please talk about home-brewing cider at home (alcoholic, not the kiddie stuff) – I really miss English cider.

  • jeffe

    Miriam Hyde, the way to deal with calories is to burn them off. Lite beer is an oxymoron. If you want a good tasting beer you have the calories.

    My favorite beer are the wheat beers from Germany.
    Franziskaner Weissbier is pretty good.

    Do home brewers make wheat beers?

  • carol pope

    make sure people know how dangerous hops are to you pets!!

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Great show Tom, guests and callers. Fun to listen to. Cheers.

  • DY

    “Im Tom Ashbrook ,hiccup, and you thilistening to the rladeo.”

    Kidding. LOVE THIS SHOW!

  • John

    Jeffe, try Weihenstephaner. Their best beer is Vitus. The heffeweiss and dunkel heffewiess are also good. Avoid the lager.

  • John in SC

    RE: “King Tut’s beer” -

    I love Don Marquis’ “Archie & Mehitabel,” Archie being the cockroach (a reincarnated writer) who “wrote” stuff on Marquis’ typewriter in the dead of night.

    One column featured a conversation with King Tut, who was discovered not long before “Archie & Mehitabel” appeared in newspapers – in the middle of Prohibition. Archie asks Tut what he misses most, and Tut answers “A beer.”

    Don’t know if this item is from that column but it gives you an idea of attitudes about Prohibition at the time:

    prohibition makes you
    want to cry
    into your beer and
    denies you the beer
    to cry into


    BTW – I got the definite impression Tom really enjoyed doing this program – especially toward the end after ? samples. Right on, bro! Na zdorovie, prosit, l’chaim, salud, kampai, and drink up! As the Germans say, “In Heaven there is no beer, And so we must drink it all here!”


  • Gee Brewz

    @Carol Pope: Don’t know where you’re getting your information from, but live hops (humulus lupulus) aren’t considered poisonous or hazardous to pets at all. There is some blather on the web about some study that linked hops to “malignant hypothermia” in dogs – but it seems that the dogs in question were eating “boiled hops residue” – not the cones or leaves of the plants. They’re perfectly safe to grow for kids and pets… and common sense would tell most people that they shouldn’t let their pooch chow down on the hops or flavorings they strain from their wort.

  • John Healey

    With any culinary knowledge at all,brewing beer is a cinch.Use sanitized instruments,reach proper temperatures and cool properly. Now just experiment with recipes and styles as you would any food! It is so simple and so rewarding. With so many “foodies” out there,I would imagine homebrewing will continue to take off.Hopefully more brew supply stores will open as a result. “SLAINTE!!”

  • John in SC

    Aha! I found it:

    archy interviews a pharaoh
    By Don Marquis, in “archy and mehitabel,” 1927

    what country is this
    asks the poor prune

    my reverend juicelessness
    this is a beerless country
    says i

    well well said the royal
    my political opponents back home
    always maintained
    that i would wind up in hell
    and it seems they had the right dope

  • John M. Anderson

    One of the big advantages of homebrewing is exploring beer flavors you can never buy. I’ve been doing it since June and it was a blast all summer making “offcenter” brews. Strawberries, kiwi, and blueberries are all fare game. Got started with the DVD- http://www.beginninghomebrew.com and love the book ‘Extreme Brewing’ by the Dogfishhead founder.

  • Hot Fermentation = hangover

    What’s in that 75 degree fermenting carboy besides a headache?

  • eric

    Homebrewing is the way to go if you want to taste great beer. I just brewed a great rootbeer and had some floats with family members. Support your local brewery!

  • Chris

    My friends and I love to get together, bbq and home brew some IPA. The only problem is that the beer is so popular it only last a week or two when my family and friends get to it.

  • jeffe

    John I’ve had that, it is good. It’s hard to find in Boston, at least in the area I live in.

    I am tempted to try home brewing, it is a large amount of cash up front but I guess you make it back by not buying as much and the satisfaction of making it.

  • John

    Bauer on Newbury St has it.

  • http://www.beginninghomebrew.com John M. Anderson

    Found a discount code for that DVD mentioned earlier for 30% off- MXC3WBT8 Not much help if you already brew but maybe useful to get your friends started or if new.

  • Harvey Allen

    What a pleasure to listen to the program today, which I get on Vermont Public Radio. Not only does home brewing sound doable and rewarding, but I could not help observing how cheerful and pleasant everyone was, the program participants and the call-in audience. Maybe if we could get everyone to brew beer at home, world peace is within our grasp. Oops, forgot that certain religionists eschew alcohol. Any recipes for alcohol-free beer?

  • Alex

    Absolutely! It can be a little trickier than all barley beer because wheat doesn’t have a husk (so the grain bed can get too dense) and doesn’t have as much of the enzymes that convert the starches to sugars, but it’s totally doable.

  • Adel Antado

    I love homebrew and brewed until I gained 20 lbs. It must be a young person’s sport.

  • Shayna

    Oh my I only wish I had been listening this afternoon instead of this evening! As I sip on a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I live in Revere Mass, but I went to college in Philadelphia in the 90′s where I got a particular taste for more complex beers, our parties had great local beers in addition to (gasp) budlight. While my friends were sipping on wine coolers I was drinking Guinness searching for Yeungling, a Pennsylvania beer (at the time craft brews were not available as widely as they are now)

    Please update your page with a list so we can find all the delicious beers you teased us with :) My apartment is far too small to brew my own beer :( Do these brew clubs have taste parties? Do you have to brew yourself to participate?

  • Eric Prud’hommeaux

    In engineering school, we learned about statistics, William Gosset, and how the statistics for manufacturing Guinness revolutionized (covertly) statistics.

  • Charlis

    I am soo glad to hear that home brewing is making the rounds again. That’ll make it easier for people into it to find the necessary stuff for making it. When I was making it 34 years ago it was a real struggle to find some of it, but it was worth the struggle every time I popped a top.


    Charlis in Coos Bay

  • Jon

    “What’s in that 75 degree fermenting carboy besides a headache?
    Posted by Hot Fermentation = hangover, on October 1st, 2010 at 12:53 PM”

    White Labs WLP001 has an optimimum temperature range of 68 to 73, so if it is 001 then 75 isn’t too far out of optimum…

  • Jon

    I’m driving along last night, switching channels on the radio as the station I’m listening to fades out when I hear, “our guests tonight have been Brad Ring, publisher of Brew Your Own magazine…”.

    Thank God for the internet archive

  • MC

    Great topic, thanks Tom! I got into home brewing because my wife was interested in it and she bought me a starter kit one year as anniversary gift. It has become a hobby we really enjoy (together) and have yet to produce a bad batch. We read, research and discuss what beer we want to try next and really enjoy the process of brewing. Also connecting with other home brewers and becoming part of the community has been great.

  • http://www.microbebrewerssupply.com Allyson Wendt

    We had no fewer than 5 people wander into our homebrew supply shop in Brattleboro yesterday telling us this program was on—looking forward to listening online!

    Microbe Brewers’ Supply
    Brattleboro, VT

  • Mark

    This was the greatest 45 minutes of radio that I’ve ever heard.

  • Hudson

    Home Brewing has been on the top of my mind but on the back of my To-Do list. This radio show segment has just moved it to the front of my list.

  • Buddy

    Just wanted to applaud Tom and the producers of On Point for mixing things up with a great topic like homebrewing. Another reason why this is my favorite radio program.

  • Kevin

    To the folks who asked if you can brew wheat beer and bitters – absolutely! I’ve made both of these styles with good results. One of the great things about this hobby is you can make any kind of beer you like.

    This is especially great if you have encountered a favorite beer during your travels overseas. Beers don’t always ship that well, so even if you can find it here in the US, it doesn’t always taste the same. If you make it yourself, you can be sure that it’s fresh!

  • http://www.brewersbarn.com Pete Sayers

    Great to see the large following, and that it is growing, i have been brewing my own for over 20 years, and for the last 19 have owned and operated the worlds southern most Home Brew retail outlet with great success, we in New Zealand are fortunate to also be able to brew and distill our own spirits, and as i am now a diabetic, ( and am not really allowed to drink beer, but i do) i mostly tend towards a nice Gin and Tonic. Keep the movement alive,long live REAL BEER

  • http://Politicsandbeer.com Politicsandbeer

    As a longtime listener and fan of WBUR’s intelligent political debate, this was an awesome show on an odd topic. I’ve DIYed at Barleycorns in Natick about 6 or times and I’m about to embark on some home brewing.
    After the show I dropped in to the Modern Homebrew Emporium and the guys there were great. Tons of info and a good vibe in the shop.
    There’s another shop in Woburn that I popped into for a look too. Tons of supplies as they’re primarily a mail order shop. Friendly assistants but not as forthcoming with voluntary/helpful info.
    I plan to bounce between the two depending on their prices, stocks and the amount of info I need from the Brew-istahs.

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