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Home Brewing: Fun Hobby Or Vital Skill?

Beer is not just a fine tasting beverage enjoyed by many. As the third most consumed beverage in the world, it may come useful in times you didn’t think it could.

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Featured | Top view of a man weighs malt for home brewing of beer | Home Brewing: Fun Hobby Or Vital Skill?

Curious about home brewing? Discover why you should consider some knowledge about one of the most wanted beverages in the world!

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Home Brewing | What You Need to Know About Craft Beer

Widely Consumed Beverage

We don’t typically think of beer as something that’s absolutely essential to human survival. And while it’s true that securing items like water, food, and shelter should be prioritized above enjoying a cold beer in a survival situation.

Mastering the art of home brewing and simple homebrew recipes sure would be a handy skill to have when the SHTF. You see, alcohol is a constant throughout history.

And whether or not you enjoy drinking beer, wine or spirits, the demand for these items will always be strong. In fact, that demands skyrockets when times are tough.

Beer is currently ranked as the third most consumed beverage on earth, coming in just behind tea and water. The fact is, home brewing is far more than just a satisfying hobby.

In a long term survival situation, this skill along with home brewing supplies can be the difference between feast and famine. There’s no doubt about how people love beer in any part of the world.

It’s bartering value is the most significant reason why people should brew their own beer. A lot of people would readily trade valuable items for beer even in survival mode.

Food is considered a crucial thing in these situations and there’s always someone who would give you food in exchange for your precious beer.

Brew for Your Life

Home brewing kit and pouring craft beer wort into the boil kettle with a silicone tube | Home Brewing: Fun Hobby Or Vital Skill?

No matter what disasters lurk around the corner, just waiting to knock civilization off of its axis, people will still want their cigarettes, booze, chocolate bars, and other vices regardless of how long the crisis lasts.

In fact, when comfort is hard to come by and escaping reality is the only way to stay sane and make it through the day… they’ll pay ridiculous prices for these items.

This knowledge has almost become a cliché among the prepared, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

The unprepared will be willing to pay or do just about anything to get a fix when it is hard to come by. This has been proven true again and again throughout history.

Every single time a dictator outlaws a vice, every time an economic crisis leaves these items in short supply, and every time a war cuts off supply lines. Items like alcohol always find their way into the hands of those who want it, provided of course they are willing to pay dearly for it.

Unlike wine or spirits, beer has an expiration date. Therefore, stockpiling huge quantities of Shiner Bock in your basement wouldn’t do you much good when the SHTF. Unless you enjoy the taste of flat beer…

If you happen to be the only person in your community that knows how to brew a delicious Pale Ale, you would be a  very popular trading partner indeed. You would be at a HUGE advantage in a barter economy.

Think about it. How much could you trade a six-pack for? Could you trade a pony keg for an actual pony? It’s highly possible…

RELATED: Instructions for a Beer Keg Rocket Stove

A Useful Hobby

Heating water to make home brewed beer | Home Brewing: Fun Hobby Or Vital Skill?

We all need a hobby. But the best hobbies are those that help us prepare to be self-sufficient in a way that’s also fun and gratifying.

So that if we ever need to depend on the skills we’ve acquired while tinkering around on the weekends, we will be fully proficient. Learning about home brewing instructions is one of these life skills.

Brewing beer is just as fun in the here and now as it would be indispensable in a SHTF scenario. It’s also economical.

Once you’ve purchased your equipment, a lot of which you probably already own, you can crank out high-quality beer for as little as $3 a six-pack.

The Ins and Outs of Legal Brewing

Homebrew honey brown beer | Home Brewing: Fun Hobby Or Vital Skill?

In times of crisis, you never know what kinds of draconian laws or taxes may suddenly arise. But as I write this, brewing beer in your home for personal consumption is more or less “legal” in all 50 states… but laws vary widely.

As you can imagine, alcohol production is a heavily rated enterprise at almost every level, even on the smallest scale. And even though prohibition ended with the 21st Amendment, the authorities are not big fans of those they deem “bootleggers.”

In most states, alcohol is regulated by the volume you produce. In Texas, for example, home brewers can brew “no more than 200 gallons” of beer without a permit from The Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).

The American Home Brewer’s Association has put together an easy-to-use database to find out what’s permissible in your home state.

 

Watch this video for an introduction to home brewing by Default Name:

Learning to brew beer is a rewarding skill on every level. You’ll be a hit at parties, your friends will think you’re a genius, and you’ll have an extremely valuable skill should you ever need to thrive in a barter economy.

My advice is to dive in straight in then invest in some equipment. Good luck and Cheers!

Do you agree about home brewing being useful when SHTF? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 28, 2013, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.




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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Jdub

    January 28, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    Rats, I don’t have a kindle and don’t plan on buying one. How ’bout a free version for us old guys that still use a regular PC?

    • Joe

      January 28, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      No problem Jdub, you can download the free kindle cloud reader from your amazon account and read it just like you would on the kindle (you can also download the cloud reader for just about any smart device, iphone, ipad, etc)

      check it out here

  2. cheryl

    January 28, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    How about a version of this beer brewing guide for nook?

    • Joe

      January 28, 2013 at 7:10 PM

      hey cheryl,

      sorry but as far as I know it is only available for the kindle. I have seen ways for you to break a kindle book and make it work on nook, but as I have never done it, I couldn’t even start to tell you how… or if it’s legal.

      In a case like this google is your friend 🙂

  3. Dave

    January 28, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    As a homebrewer, I have given this some thought. I am not saying that it is impossible or even impractical in EVERY circumstance, but there are things to know about beer making.

    It requires a lot of resources.
    First. Lots of clean, drinkable water. If you are having trouble just getting water to drink, cook and bath, this could be a problem. If your water tastes bad, so will your beer. If your water is preserved with chlorine, It will kill your yeast. Sorry. I spend considerable amount of time AND water cleaning equipment before brewing, cleaning while brewing, cleaning after brewing, and cooling the wort (that alone will take tons of water to cool from boiling down to around 70-80 degrees F in order to get a cold Break* and to pitch your yeast. Then again when it’s time to transfer to a secondary. Although in bad times, this can be skipped. Then again when it’s time to bottle or keg. Then you have to keep the fermenting beer cool. I have not put a meter to it. But I would guess, I use more than 30 gallons of water to make a 5 gallon batch. With all that cleaning, you need lots of cleaning supplies, like “star san” and “PBW, powdered brewery wash” and just regular liquid soap.
    * cold break: At the end of the boil, it is important to cool the wort quickly. While it is still hot, (above 140°F) bacteria and wild yeasts are inhibited. But it is very susceptible to oxidation damage as it cools. There are also sulfur compounds that evolve from the wort while it is hot. If the wort is cooled slowly, dimethyl sulfide will continue to be produced in the wort without being boiled off; causing off-flavors in the finished beer. The objective is to rapidly cool the wort to below 80°F before oxidation or contamination can occur.
    Rapid cooling also forms the Cold Break. This is composed of another group of proteins that need to be thermally shocked into precipitating out of the wort. Slow cooling will not affect them. Cold break, or rather the lack of it, is the cause of Chill Haze. When a beer is chilled for drinking, these proteins partially precipitate forming a haze. As the beer warms up, the proteins re-dissolve. Only by rapid chilling from near-boiling to room temperature will the Cold Break proteins permanently precipitate and not cause Chill Haze. Chill haze is usually regarded as a cosmetic problem. You cannot taste it. However, chill haze indicates that there is an appreciable level of cold-break-type protein in the beer, which has been linked to long-term stability problems. Hazy beer tends to become stale sooner than non-hazy beer. (from John Palmer’s book below)

    Second, time. Depending on the situation, It takes a lot of my time for brew day or bottling day. Time in a survival scenario I may have to use for gathering firewood, food, or other survival necessities. It may be nice later on if things settle down. An extract beer can be brewed faster than an all grain beer because you don’t have the mash. But the rest is the same.

    Third, You have to use a LOT of propane to boil the wort for 60 to 90 minutes, plus heat your mash water and sparge water. Do you have enough to keep cooking food?

    Fourth, This is minor, liquid yeast has a limited shelf life, even in a refrigerator. you are limited to dry brewers yeast. It works, nothing wrong with it. Just limited on styles available. people have been known to use baker’s yeast, but it does not perform nearly as well. But in a real pinch, I would reluctantly use it.

    Fifth, You also need malted grains to brew with. If our Just In Time Delivery system or economic system is shut down and you can’t buy it, what then? Are you going to take out some vegetables to grow some? How much acrage do you need? You will need to malt it yourself dry it. grind it and then mash it. Very time consuming. If a local farmer is planting barley, you may be able to trade other valuable merchandise for it. (there goes your profit) You can buy a lot of DME (dry malt extract) or LME (Liquid). They have a shelf life too. I think DME would survive longer. I have not tested it yet. They cost more than grains right now to buy. But, if you stock up, you can be set to go. There are plenty of styles you can purchase. (hmmm, one more thing on my “to buy” list. I already have about 300 lbs of malted grain of various kinds.)

    Sixth, You need hops. Something else that has to be shipped in for the most part. Fresh hops and pellet hops will both go stale, even in a freezer. Vacuum sealing in mylar bags with o2 absorber will extend the life. Some hop varieties can be grown depending on your location. They are fairly easy, just have to plant the rhizomes, wait a few years for them to create flowers, fight the diseases and bugs, fight the drought, fight the excess rain, build trellises to grow on, harvest them, dry them, use them. (no problem mon!) Right now I am limited to the few pounds in my freezer.

    Seventh. You need to carbonate your beer. Either corn sugar, which is better than table sugar. Or CO2 (carbon dioxide). What you don’t have a tank of that sitting in the basement? Stock up on corn sugar. It has a good long shelf life.

    Eighth. specialized equipment. If you do an extract beer, the equipment list is shorter.

    I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting into the hobby. It is fun, but a lot of work at the same time. Even in normal times. I just wanted to give some information, that if you do this thinking you are going to get rich when the grid is down, you need to decide with your eyes open and know the facts. In the short term of a SHTF,or WROL everyone is going to be focused on basic day to day survival. In the long term, as things settle into a routine, order can be re-established, then some homebrew may hit the spot. At that time some old stale extract with moldy hops, rain water, dry yeast and corn sugar, may just taste like the best brew you have ever had.

    I recommend reading the book by John Palmer “How to Brew” The older version of his book is available online for free. He is one of the top leading experts on brewing quality beer. After all, you want something you can be proud of and enjoy. http://www.howtobrew.com/intro.html

    P.S. one thing that is very simple to make with minimal equipment and ingredients is mead, and melomels, You need carboys, wine or champagne yeast, and a way to bottle the elixir. You just have to find a source of honey.
    Fruit wines are also simple, but require lots of vining chemicals that have to be stocked up on.
    Lots of bottles for anything you do.
    Cheers. Prost.

    • TpC

      January 28, 2013 at 9:10 PM

      sounds like ‘moonshine’ would be easier or even a fruit based wine maybe?

      • Joe

        January 28, 2013 at 9:57 PM

        The difference with moonshine and beer is that you can legally practice brewing beer before tshtf… You don’t want to be practicing moonshine… I’ve heard some nasty stories from some of my… More rural family members. Wine and beer are both acquired tastes.. And I suppose If you mess up your wine you can always make vinegar!

      • Dave

        January 29, 2013 at 9:59 AM

        moonshine starts off with something similar to beer. They have to create their mash and let it ferment. Mostly they use corn. But they also use other grains. So alcohol distilling is more involved. run is made out of sugar cane. tequilla is made from aguave.

        • gena

          January 29, 2013 at 10:23 AM

          You might want to have the supplies for moonshine on hand but since it is a federal crime to make it, I sure wouldn’t want to make it until or unless the government crashes. I’d sure hate to be sitting in a federal prison cell when things go south.

    • JJMNAV

      May 25, 2019 at 10:04 AM

      Valid arguments for Brewing; however, I believe that becoming a Vintner is a more valuable skill. Wine is a great way of preserving fruit, other than drying, canning or freezing. In general, 20 pounds of fruit produces 5 gallons of wine, alcohol content depends on how sweet the fruit is and the wild yeast that settles on fruit before harvest will get the fermentation going. Just like beer, your first few batches may be less than desirable but practice can result in delicious drinks. And, if desired, you can distill wine into Brandy, turning 4 or 5 bottles of wine into 1 of brandy.

  4. gena

    January 29, 2013 at 1:05 AM

    Northern Brewer also has the equipment and supplies for both beer brewing and wine making for relatively low prices. They have prices for just about all income ranges. I bought their one gallon wine making kit for about $35 which includes a lot of recipes for fruit based wines. You do have to buy several other items in order to make the wines. And I bought their moderate level beer brewing kit with a secondary fermentor to make higher gravity beers.
    I live in Texas and got to thinking the other day, before even seeing this article, just how much beer, per usual 12 ounce bottle or can, you can make within the 200 so gallon legal limit, and it really is a hell of a lot of beer. A quart is 32 ounces, times 4 is 128 ounces, so one gallon makes 10 bottles, so 200 gallons makes in excess of 2000 bottles of beer per year. You can buy bottles or it might be more fun to buy some longnecks and just don’t toss them when you (and perhaps you can drag some friends to help you come up with empty bottles) and then just buy caps to recap them with your brew and cleaning and sanitizing them very well.
    This is looking more and more like a really fun hobby.

  5. gena

    January 29, 2013 at 1:07 AM

    Oh, and thanks for the free download, I’m going to my Kindle for PC to read it now. Also put it on my Kindle Fire.

  6. Dave

    January 29, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    APOLOGIES. I completely forgot until I turned off the computer last night. There is a product available. It is a liquid malt extract (LME) that has the hops already in it. Now all you need is dry brewers yeast and corn sugar. Both of which are shelf stable. Additionally, these are set up to do a “partial boil”. You only boil about half of the water, add the extract, follow directions, pour into very cold water already in a fermenter that is sitting in an ice bath. Then stir like mad (or get a wort chiller). This greatly reduces the amount your investment in equipment. Sanitation, fermenting and bottling are still the same. These ‘kits’ do come in several styles of beer. The limitation is the hops are bittering only. You do not have the flavor or aroma hops. You don’t have much control over your recipe. Virtually all home brewers start with extracts. Some brewers make only extracts for decades and do very well. So, I don’t want to discourage anyone from trying.

  7. Barbara

    February 13, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    Just finished reading the book. It breaks the steps down for me well enough that I might try beer brewing someday. But as Dave noted, beer brewing requires equipment, brew-specific supplies and lots of good water. It also requires good temperature management, which is difficult at my house.
    Temperature and shelf space are two reasons why I brew the easy pro-biotic stuff in gallon glass pickle jars (I get the empty jars free from the convenience stores).
    Thus, in a crisis, I keep the live cultures in something that they like to eat, and store basic supplies and water to make more stuff:
    Powdered milk (or nut milk, or soy milk, etc) to make kefir
    Tea bags and sugar to make kombusha (chai kvas)
    Salt (optional in some ferments) Root veggies, cabbage and available fruit to make “krauts”.
    (see “Cultured Food Life: Learn to Make Probiotic Foods in Your Home” by Donna Schwenk. I do simplified versions of her stuff.)

    Now if y’all come up with a survival beer recipe using the whole oats that I can get from the feed store four blocks from my house…

    • gena

      February 13, 2013 at 12:40 PM

      I ordered a book on Amazon, in Kindle format, about how to grow your own ingredients for beer, the hops, malt and such. Haven’t read it yet, looks interesting. I got a beer making kit from Northern Brewer and a wine making kit. The wine making kit recipe book looks a bit expensive. To make one gallon of wine, according to the book, you have to buy 16-18 (I think, maybe more) pounds of grapes. Where I live, grapes are usually $2-3 a pound, so I just decided, a whole lot cheaper to go to the liquor store and buy the stuff and store it. I don’t drink wine anyhow, but was just going to make it for storage, you know… By the time you put $32 to 48 in for one gallon of wine, well, that damn well better be good wine.

  8. Barbara

    February 13, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    Here’s a grape possibility:
    I ordered a self-fertile hybrid muscadine grape vine (just one, because exterior space is also limited) from Ison’s vineyard/nursery. It may be a year or two before I get grapes for the wine press, but I plan to string the vine along the west side of the house for shade. Ison’s has good prices and is shipping now while the plants are dormant.

    • gena

      February 16, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      Barbara – do you have a website for that nursery? Is it local or regional? Can you buy over the internet? Sounds like a good idea. I live in S Texas and the climate might be OK to grow grapes.

  9. Barbara

    February 13, 2013 at 10:34 PM

    The memories are coming back to me of a family friend who made wine out of anything and everything: grapes, plums, dandilions, rice… So maybe I can come up with some form of oat ale after all, or maybe hooch from the neighbor’s peaches.

  10. gena

    February 16, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Don’t know if I should say so, but about 20 or so years ago I was a patient at a VA hospital, and a fellow vet set up some thing in his locker in which he was able to make some wine. I don’t drink wine so never tried it but others told me it was drinkable. And he apparently didn’t get caught. You could immediately tell what it was when he opened his locker. They are likely stricter now than they were back then.

  11. gena

    February 16, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    Slight correction, it was more than 30 years ago, around 1980, when I was in for back surgery. Gosh, how times fly.

  12. Barbara

    February 19, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    Ison’s Vineyard/nursery is in Georgia.
    Their website is http://www.isons.com

    Muscadine grape is the wild grape that grows here in the South (the stuff grows on the fence of the Houston zoo, and into the trees of the local parks).
    But these people have come up with tasty, easy-to-grow hybrids that can handle both hot and southern-cold weather (not northern snow). They prefer to ship their stuff in winter and early spring while the plants are dormant.

    As for the stuff in your fellow vet’s locker, he may have been brewing hooch (bootleg wine made from anything available). If you can’t find a recipe online, you can find it in
    Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods
    by Sandor Ellix Katz
    Sandor brews everything, even aged miso. He’s my go-to reference if I ever decide to expand my repertoire.

    • gena

      February 20, 2013 at 12:31 AM

      I went there, liked their facebook page and almost ordered some olive trees, grape vines, and blue berry plants, and then saw a newsflash that we might have a nasty freeze first week of March, so I’m holding off ordering until that is over with. I have been planting for a couple of weeks and am going to be carrying in so many plants, I was half way joking on FB that I might as well just make an appointment with the back surgeon ahead of time. I did make a list of the first purchase I plan to make from them, and as soon as the danger of freeze is past will place that order, and will likely order more when I get the next pay check. I live in zone 9, so all the plants I’m ordering should be OK. I need to get the soil tested for pH, but since our ground here is so crappy, I make raised beds for everything anyhow. I presume you can get the potting soil tested for pH without the expense of buying a soil tester.

    • gena

      February 20, 2013 at 12:44 AM

      I think the “hooch” Bill made in his locker used fruit juice, yeast, and I think sugar, I’m not sure. I was horrified, not that he was making it but where, since it is a major felony to even have alcohol in a VA hospital, let alone brew it in your locker. Somehow or another he didn’t get caught and he told me he and some other vets actually drank it and didn’t die or go to jail. I’m hesitant to break any laws and really reluctant to break federal laws cause they are much stricter in enforcing and sentencing and have no “good time.” Drinking a glass of wine isn’t worth jail time to me.

      • Barbara

        February 20, 2013 at 8:56 AM

        The term “hooch” refers to making the beverage illegally, most frequently in prison. Probably shouldn’t brew in other government-run facilities either. Home-brew is regulated differently.

        Ison’s likes to do their shipping in the winter when plants are dormant. I put my order in with them 3rd week of January and received it Feb 16… So maybe call your order in and ask them what their current backlog is.

        I am not versed in matching grapes to wine labels. Some will tell you on the label, like Maneschewitz Concord Grape (now produced in in regular and 2 “cream” flavors). But even their creams are mixed wines.

        • gena

          February 20, 2013 at 10:09 AM

          I won’t have the money to place on order until March 1st, and am hoping to order two olive trees, three black spanish bunch grape vines, and three blueberry plants, plus some special fertilizers for blueberries and strawberries.
          And since they are warning of a possible artic cold front hitting south texas in early March I’m not sure I want to deal with anymore until after that.
          I also found a nursery in texas, womack nursery, which has better prices on some of the things I want to order and worse prices on others. They do not seem to carry olive trees. One of my friends was telling me it is a lot of work to get the olives to where you can eat them or make oil from them, but I love olives enough I would be willing to do whatever it takes. I also found that the ground around here is pretty alkaline, but since I would likely be using potting soil or top soil in raised beds or containers, I don’t think that would likely be problematic. I can’t remember which of the plants I want to order require ground less alkaline than what we have here, but our natural ground is full of rocks and too hard to dig into, so whatever you grow you have to use raised beds. I had peppers and tomatoes more than I could deal with last year, so the raised beds seem to work fine. Also tried container plants on the large, covered patio and that worked well also. Would likely have to extend my fence, as the fence was put up for my dogs and even more so to keep the deer from eating everything I was growing. They munched my first set of tomato plants down to the ground. (They do not seem to care for cayenne peppers which I have out the kazoo.) I bought both a small wine making kit and a beer brewing kit from Northern Brewer and once the weather settles down and I know for certain I won’t have potted plants all over the living room, I plan to start setting these systems up and giving it a try. If I have to carry all the new plants in I will need everything to hold plants so I’m waiting to see if this artic cold front does come through.

        • gena

          February 20, 2013 at 10:17 AM

          I just called them, asked if the items would likely be available March 1st,he said he felt sure they would be, said they would be shipped within a week of the order. I asked him about raised beds and potting soil, he said most of their Texas customers do that and it works fine. And he said the 15% discount should still be in effect them on the total purchase. Sounded like really nice person. I live in growing zone 9 which is perfect for all the things I plan to order.

  13. gena

    February 20, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    Barbara – are those grapes you are speaking of the stuff muscatel is made of? I was kinda thinking that was probably true so I’m planning on buying some black spanish grape vines instead. I only drank one sip of muscatel once, and if I had been able to would have spit it out. I was with my parents visiting my aunt and she asked me if I’d rather have a glass of wine or a glass of bourbon and I really drink neither, am a beer drinker only, but figured I could gag the wine down easier than the bourbon. After the one sip, I wandered out on the balcony, to “check out the view” and tossed half the glass of wine off the balcony, and then when I went inside I asked if there was ice in the kitchen and then went and dumped the rest of the wine down the drain and put ice cubes and water in it. When we left I asked my father what in the hell type wine that was and he said muscatel and I have never wanted to even try it again. But when I go to the convenience store and look in the beer and wine case, most of the wine they sell there is muscatel. To each his own.

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