Whether you’re an experienced homebrewer, or you want to try your hand at the art of crafting beer at home, you’ll need to find a reliable brewing supply store to purchase materials. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a reputable shop in their neighborhood, so we’re rounding up five online retailers who have the goods you need to whip up your next batch of brew.
Below, we’ll talk about the equipment you’ll need to purchase to get started and the supplies needed for every beer recipe. Next, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of shopping online. Finally, we will reveal our top five places to buy the best brew supplies online.
Two components go into every homebrew, the equipment needed to make the beer and the supplies for your recipe.
Regarding equipment, there are several items that you need to have to create your brew. There are also a handful of upgrades or extras that are nice to have along the way, and are definitely worth the investment if you’re passionate about your homebrewing pastime.
Here are our lists for each.
These are the absolute essentials you’ll need as part of your arsenal for any recipe you attempt.
- At least a four-gallon pot like an aluminum lobster pot or similar.
- A five to six-gallon plastic primary fermentation bucket that includes a lid and airlock.
- A second five to six-gallon plastic secondary fermentation bucket that includes a spigot so that you can use it for bottling and sanitizing.
- An additional airlock and stopper.
- Small nylon bags to store your hops and add them to the boil.
- A racking cane and a spoon for stirring and siphoning.
- Food grade sanitizer for cleaning. Choose one that is acid or iodine-based.
- An accurate hydrometer.
- A waterproof thermometer that accurately reads in the 130 to 190-degree Fahrenheit range.
- A bottle capper.
- Enough bottles and caps for the quantity of beer you brew.
- Beverage line for transferring to bottles.
While these few items, along with dozens of others available at online homebrew supply stores aren’t essential, they are nice to have. Not only will they help to streamline the brewing process, but they can also make your beer better tasting and more flavorful.
- Steel Kettle
- Wort Chiller
- Glass Carboy’s
- Specialized cleaning tools
- Carboy dryer
In addition to the various pieces of equipment that you’ll need to brew your next batch of beer, you’ll also need to buy the ingredients for your recipe.
Every pint is made by combining malts, water, hops, and yeast as well as a variety of other additives to form a well-rounded flavor. Whether you’re craving a pale ale or a stout, these four are always the basis for every beer.
While it is sometimes more challenging to purchase ingredients online, when you buy from places with the best brew supplies and you choose less-perishable versions of each element, you can rest assured that you’ll produce a high-quality pint.
Here are how each of the ingredients interacts, and a few notes to keep in mind when you’re shopping for them.
One of the four crucial beer ingredients, malts are actually grains that have partially sprouted and then been heated up to stop their germination process. The malted grains provide the starch that turns into sugar and feeds the yeast in your mixture.
Many beer recipes rely on barley as their malt of choice, but you can also use other grains like wheat, rice, oats, or rye to add character to your brew.
Techniques like toasting your malts, or buying them already toasted, will add color to your beer and impact the flavor profile too.
Thankfully, water is one ingredient that you won’t need to specifically source through a supply store unless you’re trying to be extra fancy with your beer. As long as your tap water is safe for drinking, you can use it in your brewing process to produce a good-quality beer.
However, if you are an experienced homebrewer and want to attempt to recreate a famous genre of beer with the true characteristics of it’s brewing region, you can buy or make water that will do the trick. For example, if you want to make an Indiana Pale Ale that rivals one found in the Burton on Trent area of England, you’ll need to add calcium to your water to recreate that flavor.
If you’re an IPA lover, then you’re likely already familiar with what hops add to beer. These green flower buds counterbalance the malty flavors in your brew and bring in the bitter element while at the same time preserving its freshness.
There are two different types of hops available for homebrewing use. Whole leaf hops, which are fresher but tend to spoil quickly and pellet hops which are dried and compressed and have a longer shelf life.
When shopping online, only purchase whole-leaf hops from retailers who can provide information about their freshness so that you don’t end up with unusable ingredients.
If not for yeast, our delicious beer recipes would be nothing more than a soupy mash of hops and malts. Yeast is the ingredient that makes the magic happen.
A micro-organism that feats on the sugar and starches in your blend, once the yeast has processed them all it releases carbon dioxide and alcohol to give your brew a fizzy, high-octane kick.
There are two types of yeast, Ale, and Lager, and different recipes will call for one over the other depending on the temperature required. When you’re shopping online, choose retailers who store the yeast according to the instructions as it is a temperamental compound and won’t work correctly if it hasn’t been handled appropriately.
You’ll also need to choose between dry or liquid yeast. While it’s easy to get your hands on both, dry yeast has a longer and more stable shelf life. However, liquid yeast comes in a more comprehensive variety and gives you some exciting options if you want to experiment.
Pros and Cons of Shopping Online
There are pros and cons to shopping online. Even if you purchase from the best brew supplies, there are just a few drawbacks from visiting your local store in-person. Here are a few things to consider.
1. Easy to Compare Hops and Save Money
Hops can be one of the pricier ingredients your recipe calls for, and when you’re shopping in-person, it’s difficult to see if there’s a swap that makes sense. However, online it’s easy to compare the hop varieties by their alpha acid percent (AA%) and hop oils to find alternatives with a similar bitterness and aroma that are less expensive.
Online retailers, unlike a storefront in your neighborhood, usually have large warehouses full of storage space for their inventory. As a result, they often have a much broader selection that you can find in-store. If you’re looking for a specific or hard to locate ingredient, you’ll likely have better luck scoring it online.
There are few things more annoying than heading to the store with your needed list of supplies only to find that there are one or more of them not in stock. Not only will you then possibly need to make an additional trip, but you may also find yourself ordering online anyway.
One pro to shopping online is being able to see the availability of the inventory quickly and to browse elsewhere with the click of a button if the retailer is missing something you need for your order.
4. Score Free Shipping and Promos
Although you’ll never pay extra for shipping if you visit a store, many times online retailers will offer discounts on products and free shipping to save you money. Be sure to look for advertisements on the site, and also pay attention to savings with bulk orders.
For materials with a long shelf life, like pellet hops, for example, you could buy a large quantity and save a significant amount of money in the long run.
There are, however, a couple of drawbacks.
1. No In-Person Assistance Available
If you’re someone who enjoys talking with sales associates and getting feedback from others in your craft, you might feel like you’re missing out by shopping online. While some retailers do offer an online chat feature where you can ask questions, it isn’t quite the same as having a face to face conversation with another homebrewer about their experiences.
2. Be Mindful of Ingredient Freshness
In some recipes, it’s essential that the ingredients you use are kept as fresh as possible. Freshness can significantly impact the flavor of your beer, and you can look at the packaging and use-by dates easily in store. Online, however, you need to find retailers that provide that information for each of their products.
Top 5 Places to Buy the Best Brew Supplies Online
While there are hundreds of places to shop online for brew supplies, these are a few of the best. Here’s why.
Well known for their brew kits featuring premium ingredients and unique recipes, Brewers Best is a great source for brew supplies online.
Many local retailers carry their products, making it easy to browse and compare them at in-store locations as well.
While they don’t sell one-off equipment or ingredients, their kits are some of the best and most comprehensive available Whether you’re looking for a recipe and the corresponding ingredients for a German Octoberfest, or a Deluxe equipment kit, you can find it online with Brewers Best.
One of the premier online retailers for do-it-yourselfers, Midwest Supplies is famous for their incredible inventory and high-quality supplies. They feature hardware and ingredients for every type of brewer, whether you want to make beer, wine, cider, coffee or kombucha.
Best of all, their website is extremely user-friendly and easy to navigate. They have each cater broken down into beginner-friendly options as well as by specific niches, like raw ingredients or recipes.
Further, if you’re looking for something special to either upgrade your equipment or add to your next brew, chances are good they have it.
Midwest Supplies sells both kits and individual purchases, so you can upgrade unique items in your brewing collection without needing to buy duplicates of things you already own.
From an ingredients standpoint, they carry a wide array of products. Even better, they have a feature on the website for customer Q&A about a particular item, which gives you an opportunity to ask about critical information like bottling or expiration dates on liquid yeast.
They frequently run promotions for free items, discounted shipping, or cash rebates to be used for future purchases to encourage repeat business.
Touted as being the #1 homebrewer supply company and known as industry experts, Northern Brewer boasts an impressive website and selection of brew supplies.
They have a dedicated section for new brewers, making it easy to navigate everything from kits to recipes and ingredients, to how-to videos if you’re inexperienced. For more advanced crafters, they have hundreds of pieces of equipment that feature drool-worthy upgrades with both improved features and functionality.
They offer over a dozen brew recipe kits, including hard-to-find small one-gallon batch kits as well as limited edition specialty kits that incorporate premium, rare ingredients.
They offer a plethora of malts, yeasts, hops, sugars, flavorings, spices and finishes, and their robust customer online chat feature makes it easy to ask questions with an experienced professional during business hours about any of their products.
As an added bonus, they provide $7.95 flat-rate shipping on most orders which saves you from injuring high costs if you place a large bulk order.
This robust online retailer offers products from eight different manufacturers that run the gamut from beginner-friendly kits to individual recipe ingredients.
Perhaps most impressive are their wide selection of complete homebrew kits and over two dozen recipe kits for brewers of every skill level.
Homebrew Supply also sells a smattering of individual ingredients and equipment that aren’t part of a bit, and they offer a 30-day money back guarantee return policy to sweeten the deal.
Check their site often as they have a daily deal that is usually extremely competitive, and they offer $8.95 flat-rate shipping on all orders.
A family owned and operated company since 1999, Adventures in Homebrewing is a one-stop supply shop for experienced brewers.
They boast an inventory of over 5,000 items, including hundreds of beer kits to suit every palate. Notably, they have “look-alike” recipes for most of the popular beer varieties, like Sam Adams Boston Lager and Fat Tire, and Newcastle which make it easy to choose where to start if you’re not sure what you’ll like.
Although they have a robust selection and inventory, you’ll want to come to the site after doing some self-education. Unlike some of the other large sites above, they don’t have an area specifically set aside for beginners, and they don’t offer any comprehensive equipment kits.
That said, they do provide a comprehensive how-to section on their site that gives you valuable information on every step of the brewing process.
While every one of the retailers we feature above boasts some of the best brew supplies in the business, Northern Brewer stands out from the competition as an excellent choice. Their array of products and ingredients, notable customer service features and a dedicated area for new brewers make them a user-friendly and reputable choice.
Regardless of where and how you choose to shop, make sure you pick up the right tools and ingredients for the job to guarantee a delicious batch of beer.