Making your own beer doesn't have to be hard.
Have you ever been at a restaurant where you eat something so good that you wonder if you can make it yourself? One day, you put in some research, pick up all of the ingredients, and, after more hours and attempts than you’d like to admit, you successfully manage to pull it off. You practically swell with pride because you made something delicious out of nothing.
That’s how I felt a couple of years ago when I started to make my own beer at home.
After six months of reading home brew books cover to cover I finally got the nerve to pick the equipment needed, along with a cheap hopped malt syrup starter kit. The instructions to make the first batch were fairly simple: Boil water, pour in syrup, boil for an hour, let cool, throw in bucket, pitch yeast, and wait. As easy as its production was, the beer was miles better than the standard mass-produced brews out there—and that was good enough for me.
The pride that came with making five gallons of drinkable beer carried me through more beers, this time using individual ingredients rather than a kit. I made a Hefeweizen, a roasted pumpkin stout, a recreation of Stone Brewery’s Arrogant Bastard that I called “Audacious Bitch,” and an American brown ale with chamomile and lemongrass that I dubbed “Manor House Intrigue” (I was watching a lot of Downton Abbey at the time). I’ve even made my own cider, which was a lot of fun.
A lot of people are intimidated by the prospect of homebrewing, thinking it can be a wallet-consuming endeavour with an incredibly advanced skill set totally out of reach for the average beer drinker. The truth of the matter is that it can be as cheap or as difficult as you want it to be—from fermenting in small one-gallon batches in orange juice jugs, to making sour beers with enough gear to start a small business. Brewing your own beer is, above anything else, fun. It can be a meditative practice, a romantic project, a fun experiment, or even a team building exercise at work. In the end, you have a blast, and you get some awesome beer out of it.
A problem, though, is location. While there are a few well-stocked homebrew shops located in and around the city, they can be hard to get to. Thankfully, renowned homebrew supply shop Toronto Brewing Co. has recently opened up a second location at 1567 Dundas Street West, near Dufferin. Occupying the space of short-lived homebrew shop Noble Hops, the new Toronto Brewing location provides easy access for new and seasoned downtown homebrewers to get their brew on.
Founded in 2011, Toronto Brewing Co. quickly became the most reputable homebrew source in the city, with its founder, Zack Weinberg, originally operating out of his home. In 2013, the business grew considerably with the opening of their flagship retail location at the Sheppard Square Loading Docks. The primary location offers a wide range of malts, hops, yeast, equipment, and resources for any level of brewer.
The second, more centrally located store is hoping to have as much of a selection as their larger location, including starter kits for those interested in brewing—from Brooklyn Brew Shop’s one-gallon kits to the store’s own custom ones.
Weinberg hopes that the downtown location will not just serve as a retail space, but also as a hub for the community and beer-focused events. While they will be hosting monthly bottle shares with local homebrew group GTA Brews (which are always welcoming new members, by the by), plans are also in the works for the shop to host homebrewing classes for people who want a more hands-on and guided learning experience.
Where to start? For suggested reading, I recommend Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing and John Palmer’s How To Brew. Both of these books are easy to follow and offer all you’ll need to know to get homebrewing (the latter is even available as a free online resource).
As for kits, Toronto Brewing offers a wide range of starter kits. But to get your toes wet, I suggest Brooklyn Brew Shop’s one-gallon Brooklyn Sorachi Ace or an Everyday IPA kit. If you like it after that, consider heading into the store to check out some equipment.
Toronto Brewing’s downtown location at 1567 Dundas Street West is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. For more information, go to TorontoBrewing.ca