At a certain point, fascination can turn into obsession. Fine, everyday folks who discover the wonders of craft beer and become enamored with its complexity and history may soon find themselves researching wort and assessing hop varietals. So what's next, after you've filled your brain with boil temperatures and talked the ears off of every local brewer you can find to chat with? Start brewing beer yourself.
As the rise of craft beer in Los Angeles and beyond has ushered in a new balance between major beer distributors and local brew operations with their own unique profile, so too has the home brewing movement grown. Regional craft brewers like Stone Brewing in San Diego and Hangar 24 Brewery in Redlands have continued to grow their own share of the craft beer market, while still spending time on Pro-Am home brewing competitions that allow individuals to win a contest that pairs their champion beer recipe with the brewery's facilities to make a mass-batch of locally sold ale. Others, like Firestone Walker in Paso Robles, work closely with individual home brewers to provide the sort of guidance and advice that comes with decades in the beer business. There's even a Southern California Homebrewers Festival, held annually at Lake Casitas outside of Ojai. Hyper-local beer product hasn't just arrived -- it's been here for years.
So where can a suds-inclined soul seek out the necessary knowledge and materials to begin brewing at home? That depends on where you live. Long Beach home brewers have been counting on Stein Fillers on Norse Way for years to provide for their every need. The warehouse-style store sells everything from beginner's kits to malt mills, with the raw hops, barley, malt and yeast needed to ferment yourself a fine batch of brew. The helpful staff also provides recipes and simple directions on getting started yourself.
Here in Los Angeles, there are sister home brewing stores in Culver City and Eagle Rock that operate under the moniker Culver City Home Brewing Supply. Not only do both locations specialize in setups for novice brewers, they offer frequent $10, three-hour classes to teach the curious about the simplicity of the beer-making process. For anyone with a background in brewing who may lack some of the high-end equipment to finish the job the way they'd like, Culver City Home Brewing Supply also offers daily rentals for things like bottling equipment, wine corkers and more.
In Woodland Hills, the most rustic Wine, Beer and Cheese Making Supplies is a one-stop shop for all of your fermenting needs. Opened in 1972, this shop has been serving the valley and into Los Angeles for more than 40 years, with everything from grape crushing tutorials for oenophiles to an unmatched dry malt supply in the storeroom. Home brewers can also learn the ins and outs of kegging their homemade beers or cultivating their own unique yeast strain for future batches.
Thankfully, the fun doesn't end there. Enterprising home brewers still need a place to gather information, swap stories, talk shop and get feedback on their finished products. Two of the largest home brew clubs in Southern California are the Maltose Falcons and Yeastside Brewers. Skipping over the punny names, each operation offers unparalleled access to like-minded brewers with a wealth of knowledge about the process, the product and the industry. There are monthly meet ups and membership dues to make sure people stay committed and interested, and in exchange the tips and tricks from the community can prove invaluable for new brewers.
Once you've got the information you need, the materials you require and the community you want, home brewing becomes a cinch. The only thing left is finding the room to store your equipment, and the friends who are willing to share a bottle or two with you once its done. There has never been a better, easier time to begin brewing your own beer in Los Angeles.