Last month Sarah and I took a trip to the Brooklyn Flea to pick up a black and tan kit from the Brooklyn Brew Shop. The kit included equipment (two one-gallon jugs, two airlocks, two rubber stoppers, two blow-off attachments, one thermometer, plastic tubing, a racking cane, sanitizer and a pouring spoon) to have both brews fermenting at the same time and the ingredients for both and cost $70. I recommend bringing a couple of your homebrews if you have them, we got a $5 discount for bringing two of ours. On Sunday we finally got around to brewing the beer.
The kit is as advertised: only a small space commitment. For homebrewers who have limited storage space, the kit is perfect (currently our beer is fermenting under my desk). I personally like the kit for the added reason that I could fit it in my refrigerator. (Sarah and I have been wanting to brew a schwarzbier for some time but we have no way to refrigerate a five-gallon bucket). Brooklyn Brew Shop provides a limited number of recipe kits. They provide milled grain, hops and yeast for each brew. Most are priced between $11-15 (the recipe kits at the Whole Foods Beer Room on Bowery are $11). After the initial expense of approximately $40 for the first batch you are looking at about $1-1.50 per beer. For those of us who are not yet comfortable creating our own recipes it is a nice way to make sure that you can make some decent beer. Another great thing about the kits is that because of their size, if you are experimenting with recipes and you mess one up you only lose one gallon of beer, not five.
The directions provided are decent and give you the basics for setting up your lauter tun. Ours left something to be desired. My original plan was to go to the Arthur Avenue Market, where you can get all kinds of kitchen supplies, and get a brew pot that I could find a matching strainer for. Unfortunately the market was closed and I was forced to get the supplies from assorted stores in our neighborhood, which meant that none of the materials were exactly the correct size for each other. The largest strainer I could find was ten inches, smaller than our brew pot, and could barely hold the grain for the extra special bitter. A few grains slipped through into the wort and I had to fish them out but in the end the setup worked and we were able to get a full gallon from each. For more information on kits, recipes and directions, visit Brooklynbrewshop.com