Brett Kihlmire
Beer City

The Secret of a Great Brew

It’s all about having the right ingredients, equipment and knowledge and Northern Brewer helps home brewers acquire all three.

By - Dec 4th, 2014 03:08 pm

Northern Brewer.

Northern Brewer.

Beer is a serious business in Milwaukee. Whether it’s drinking or brewing, Milwaukeeans love their beer. And with the meteoric rise of hobby brewing, beer fans are now crafting their own brews with gear and ingredients found at the Northern Brewer in West Allis.

More than the average brew shop, Northern Brewer carries everything one would need to brew homemade beer, mead, wine, soda, and cider. But for the brewing enthusiast, Northern Brewer is more than just a vendor of assorted beer making kits. Key beer ingredients such as dried hop pellets, corn sugar, candy syrup, specialty herbs and spices, and malted grains, as well as liquid malt extract for the beginning brewer, are available in almost every variety imaginable.

For those new to brewing or lacking the drive or knowledge to craft a recipe from scratch or brew in the all-grain fashion, convenient all-in-one kits containing liquid malt extract are available in numerous brew styles such as Milk Stout, Czech Pilsner, and Cream Ales. All-grain kits are available as well for the moderately skilled. In addition to starter kits, Northern Brewer offers free basic tutorials on YouTube as well as in depth classes to help beginners get a hand on the craft or venture into more adventurous styles and creations.

As much as quality ingredients are the key to a tasty brew, a set of brewing equipment can make or break your entire enterprise. Fortunately, Northern Brewer has top-of-the-line equipment available in the form of kits and standalone products such as glass and plastic carboys, copper-coated wort chillers, thick walled brewing kettles, electric and propane burners, grain mills, and much more. While not all of the products made available to home brewing enthusiasts are completely necessary to the hobby, the sheer amount of equipment at one’s disposal is delightful. However, one has to approach this section of the store with a bit of knowledge about the craft before buying; a plastic carboy may seem like a safer alternative but glass cleans easier and doesn’t retain odors, and an expensive grain mill isn’t necessary if one has a decently sized food processor or even a rolling pin on hand.

After brewing and fermenting, a question comes to mind when debating long term storage of their brew: keg or bottle. Fortunately, Northern Brewer carries equipment for both. For the bottle enthusiast, glass bottles, custom labels, bottle caps, capping machines, and growlers are available, as well are traditional keg systems. And while the beginning brewer is encouraged to take the cheaper bottled beer route, there’s something to be said about drafting a homemade beer in your home.

Northern Brewer has been around for 17 years, and has a particular philosophy noted on its website: “Rock-bottom, fire-sale price structures are unsustainable and create an uneven playing field that ultimately hurts the industry, hobby, and the community,” the store’s owners note. “Our price structure is competitive but built around sustainability.”

The store also aims to create “a homebrew community,” as the site notes. “Talking about brewing is almost as fun as brewing,” the owners note. “We believe this conversation is important, ongoing, dynamic, and bridges the gaps of age, gender, politics, etc.”

Northern Brewer has been a sponsor of the National Homebrew Conference, WineMaker magazine conference and the Brewing Network. Its website operates a forum for beer connoisseurs and budding brew masters to connect, share, and better recipes and ideas regarding their hobby. Northern Brewer also publishes a line of how-to DVD’s, as well as offering three hour, weekend classes hosted by the company’s team of master brewers. Class subject range from brewing all-grain to making cider from juice, an introduction to brewing as a whole, and an introduction to kegging. Classes are generally offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the price can’t be beat: all free. In addition, all classes include a commemorative pint glass, 10 percent off your next purchase, and the greatest gift a home brewer could ask for; expert knowledge on the craft.

As craft beer and home-grown brews continue to become more popular, a store like this can provide timely help. I’ve been a customer of Northern Brewer myself and I heartily recommend it. And if beer’s not your fancy, there’s always cider, wine, and soda. Cheers!

Northern Brewer
1306 S. 108th St., West Allis
(414) 935-4099

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