Home beer brewing equipment. Available at The Cellar Ltd., 10314 Main St., Fairfax. 591-4668.
Home-brewed beer is naturally carbonated, unpasteurized, free of chemicals and additives, tastes better than most commercially brewed beers, and, thanks to a law passed in October, is no longer illegal. One adult in each household is now allowed to produce 200 gallons of beer annually for personal or family consumption; an adult living alone may brew 100 gallons a year. This kind of beer is desired not only for what fans consider its superior taste, but also for its inexpensiveness, costing an average of 14 cents per bottle. Brewing requires some special equipment: a container in which the beer ages, a siphon hose, bottles, caps, a bottle capper, and the main ingredients of dried malt or malt syrup, yeast, hops and corn sugar.Norbert Bender sells all the paraphernalia for beer-making (and wine-making) at The Cellar in Fairfax and estimates that a basic kit for making five gallons (two cases) of beer will cost about $40 (an average of $9 for the expendable ingredients, $30 for the reusable equipment). Depending on the taste of the drinker, beer can be made with various ratios of malt and sugar, and different brands of malt and hops (many are imported). "It's similar to cooking," says Bender. "There's just an infinite combination of ingredients." Some of the English beer recipes, he observes, "looked around the kitchen and said 'Let's make beer with it.'" The average cycle for home-brewing requires 8 to 10 days for the beer to "age" in the container and about four weeks for it to mellow in the bottle. Most say it's worth the wait.