Every year about this time, I see tons of family members asking for the best gifts for homebrewers in their family. It’s a daunting task. For an outsider, it can seem like an assorted bunch of buckets, glass and tubing. Fear not! I’ll recommend the best gifts that each homebrewer is sure to love. While some of these I know from my own experience, for others I did my best to research the reviews and find the best product in each category. Here’s the top 15 gifts for homebrewers.
I’ll break it down by New, Intermediate and Expert to make it easier to find the right gear. The links below will take you to Amazon.com.
New to Homebrewing
1. How to Brew by John Palmer
If homebrewing had a school, this would be on the required reading list. This has been the go-to book for new homebrewers for a long time. It explains all the processes involved in homebrewing including lots of great tips to make excellent beer.
This is a solid kit that will last from the first to many batches after. The kit contains the ingredients needed to make great beer. It contains a glass carboy which makes cleaning easy by allowing you to scrub the inside without fear of scratches. The bottle filler is also a great addition and often overlooked but extremely helpful for bottling. For around $90, you won’t be able to find a cheaper deal than this. The stellar reviews help as well.
A large kettle is a necessity for brewing. A great starter size is at least 20 quarts or 5 gallons. These can be found both online (link above to Amazon) or at restaurant supply stores. If you want the best deal, it helps to hunt around. Aluminum is cheaper however stainless steel is much more durable for the long run.
I recently bought this book on Kindle edition and can not put it down. I am constantly going back and referring to the recipes. This is a great book for the new homebrewer. The authors are both veterans of craft beer and homebrewing. They formatted the recipes to appeal to both brand new and experienced brewers.
The auto siphon is a must have item. The auto siphon allows you to transport, or “rack”, the beer from one container to another. This is necessary for moving the beer from the primary fermenter to the bottling bucket. I also use it to take beer from the fermenter to test the gravity (which checks when the beer is done fermenting). This particular auto siphon also comes with tubing.
The Intermediate Homebrewer
1. Turkey Fryer
This system enables the homebrewer to move their brewing outside or in the garage. It saves a lot of the time by being able to do a full boil. It’s a great gift for someone who BIAB (Brew in a Bag) or doesn’t want to get as much equipment as a traditional all grain setup.
2. Kegging Kit
Cleaning bottles can be a real pain in the booty. Many homebrewers eventually move towards kegging so that they can quickly carbonate their beer as well as serve it on draft in their home. This is great for those who frequently have guests over and are always sharing their homebrew with others. I am still in the bottling phase however if I had the space I would keg in a heartbeat.
Many a homebrewer’s eyes have lit up upon learning of this tool. The Thermapen is a thermometer that gives extremely fast (3 seconds!) and accurate temperature readings. Temperature monitoring is a key part of the brewing process. With this pen, this step is a whole lot easier.
Outdoor burner is great for the ability to heat large quantities of liquid quickly. I currently brew on my stovetop and it can take a long time to boil 5 gallons of water. With a propane burner, this happens more rapidly and shortens the brew day. With the mobility of the burner, it allows brew day to occur in the garage or outside which helps cut down on nights spent scrubbing kitchen counters and floors (beer making can get messy).
Temperature control is important. Cooling the wort down after boil is a key step in the brewing process. The wort chiller works by pumping cold water through the wort. This cools it down rapidly and prevents many off flavors from developing within the beer. At some point, many homebrewers ditch the ice bath method of cooling and eventually buy or make one of these. If you’d rather make one, you can find many great instructional videos on youtube if you buy the equipment separately at Lowe’s or Home Depot.
The Expert Homebrewer
1. Grain Mill
As homebrewers become more advanced, many want the ability to crush their own grains. This enables them to control if the grain is fine or coarse. The crush has an impact on certain styles of beer. This is another level of control without relying on the local homebrew store to control how the grains are crushed.
2. Mash Paddle
Pounds of grain and water can get heavy. In order to stir it around, you need a strong paddle. Some homebrewers choose to make their own paddles. Personally, I don’t know many carpenters and the last time I whittled I ended up with splinters. I’ll leave that to someone else and just buy a mash paddle. This one has good reviews and solid welding.
The thermostat measures the temperature inside a fridge or fermentation chamber and adjusts heating or cooling elements in order to keep the temperatures steady. This is a great gift for the more advanced homebrewer who has his or her own fridge or freezer dedicated to fermenting beer. I don’t have much experience with thermostats but I’ve heard several homebrewers talk about this on their wish list.
4. Beer Growler
Sometimes in order to share your delicious homebrew, you must travel with it. With an airtight growler, this allows you to transport your homebrew and keep it fresh along the journey. It doesn’t hurt that it looks bad ass.
Like baking, homebrewing involves measuring out ingredients to ensure accuracy. I recently bought a non-digital scale that works great. However, if given the option I would go straight to the digital scale. Digital scales can give a more precise measurement and can calibrate themselves. Just be careful when weighing out bags of hops or sugar, as someone could get the wrong impression (hint: they look like drugs).
For my homebrewers, what would be on your holiday wish list?