You just can’t do it anymore. You’re tapped out. Last week’s party was just too much. All in all, your friends went through a crippling amount of beer and you’re fresh out of cash for this weekend. The idea of a Saturday night pounding beer after beer dissipates quicker than your motor function after a few double shots of Bacardi 151. Let’s face it, drinking isn’t cheap.

If you’re a dedicated beer swiller, like I am, putting down a six-pack of expensive beer, or a 30 of not-so expensive beer a weekend, you’re shelling out major cash. Maybe you want that expensive but oh-so-tasty beer at a fraction of the store price. Or maybe you just want a metric shit-ton of beer that is dirt cheap.

Here’s a little secret: Brew it yourself, lads and lasses! Homebrewing is simple and damn cheap (once you plunk down the money for decent equipment). And you can make any kind of beer you’ve ever heard of, and some you haven’t. But how do you get into it? How much will it cost? Oh help me, Pint Half Full! Well, OK. But only since you asked nicely.

Brewing beer is a complicated mixture of biology, chemistry and patience. Fortunately for us, this complicated process has been perfected into an art form by men and women far smarter than I, and written about extensively enough so that anyone can make a decent batch of brew. I won’t go into the wonderful science of brewing here because, frankly, there are books and Web sites that do it better than I can. I also don’t have room. But I will give you an overview.

Like a certain SNL skit, it goes as follows: One, boil water. Two, add beer stuff to boiling water for a certain amount of time, then cool. Three, make her open the box. Wait, no, hold on. Three, pitch yeast and then ferment. That’s pretty much it. If you want to learn all the ins and outs of this process, I recommend Charlie Papizan’s ‘The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.” The man is a legend in the brewing industry and is one of the figureheads of the homebrewing movement, even before it was legal. That’s right folks homebrewing was illegal up until President Jimmy Carter signed a bill allowing for home production of oat soda and wine. Nice guy, that farmer.

OK, so you stopped by Barnes ‘ Noble and got Charlie Papizan’s book. Or you borrowed my copy, which is sitting next to me. Now you need the stuff. First off, you need the carboy. This is a fancy word for a gigantic glass jug that is your primary fermenter. Secondly, you need an airlock. Third, you need a hydrometer, which measures the specific gravity of the beer and can tell you how much sugar is available to ferment. Fourth, you need a huge metal brew-pot and something to heat about five gallons of water.

Technically, that’s all you need. Sure, you’ll need bottles, a bottle capper and bottle caps to package it all. But with this set-up, you can make some fine beer. Other accessories include a secondary fermenter that you can use to ‘rack” the beer after you ferment it. Racking is simply siphoning off the delicious beer and leaving behind all the gunky yeast and particulates left over.

A racking setup, which includes a hose to transfer the liquid and a racking cane, are actually recommended but you don’t really need them. They just make the job easier. What you do need is a lot of bleach. Everything you are going to brew with must be sparklingly clean in only the germ-killing way, which a touch of bleach can manage. Any little funky mothers in the liquid can ruin a perfectly sweet batch of wort (big ole stew of fermentable sugars in water), turning it into a horrific batch of ungodly tastes and sensations.

Whew. I’ll be damned. I only covered the stuff you need and I’m already out of room! Looks like I’ll have to make this a multi-parter. So, tune in next week when I go about the actual process of brewing and not just what you need to do it.

As always, e-mail is at the bottom. Cheers!
Spolverino is a member of the class of 2010.

Scott’s e-mail address is

He reviews beer and wine for

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