Fun Friday: Doctors Who Homebrew Beer
This Fun Friday post will be about doctors who homebrew beer. Every so often I post a lighthearted, but yet financially related topic. In the past decade the hobby of brewing beer has seen a huge surge in popularity. With the surge in home brewing beer, there has also been a surge in the number of craft breweries created by those who may have started as home brewers.
I started home brewing beer about 11 years ago while in college. Over time, my collection of brewing equipment has grown. As the collection has grown, so has the cost of home brewing beer. For this Fun Friday post, lets discuss doctors that homebrew, how to brew beer, and the financial costs of brewing beer at home.
Picture above is recent beer that I have brewed and filtered. The beer on the left is a pale ale. Beer on the right is an American Lite Lager
Home Brewing History
Brewing beer as a hobby and a business dates back thousands of years. More recently, in 1978 President Jimmy Carter signed into law a bill that allowed home brewing beers. Prior to this law, any beer made was subject to an excise tax paid to the government, regardless if brewed by a company or individual at home.
This law opened the flood gates of individuals starting to brew beer legally at home. Some states such as Alabama and Mississippi kept brewing beer at home illegal until 2013, when their laws were subsequently changed to allow anyone to brew beer at home. Of course, there are limits to how much beer one can brew at home and as part of these laws, home-brewed beer can not be sold.
A Brief Primer On How To Brew
Brewing beer is not hard to do but very difficult to master. There are only a few required ingredients to produce alcohol (beer).
- Sugar (In the form of malt / grains / rice)
Below is a picture walk though of a brew day.
Boil water and prepare for brewing beer
The Mash: Pour the hot water into a container that holds the grains and allow time for the sugars to be extracted
After the mash is complete, transfer the liquid to the pot and create a boil. Add hops then cool to room temperature and put into a “carboy” or a container for fermentation. Add yeasts once the beer is cooled down
Once fermentation is complete, its time to keg or bottle your beer!
After kegged and pressurized, you have the option to filter your beer and let sit while the beer becomes carbonated
Pre Filtered Beer
Post filtered beer for you and your friends to enjoy
It sounds simple but just like cooking by a recipe, perfecting the process can drastically change the final taste of the beer.
I won’t go through the entire process on this website in dramatic details. Many books and resources have been written that can guide you if you are really interested. A good resource for beginners on how to brew beer is listed at The American Homebrewers Association.
Brewing Beer Does Not Save You Money
The costs of brewing beer may seem cheap. Excluding equipment purchases, it now costs me about $0.24 to produce a pint of beer at my home (This costs varies depending on style since hops are expensive). IPA’s, hop heavy beers, can easily double this costs.
What home brewers conveniently leave out is the amount of supplies needed in order to produce good beer. Here are a run down of my costs for my homebrew system:
- Chest freezer I have turned into a kegerator($200)
- Chest freezer I have turned into a fermentation chamber ($100)
- Supplies needed to keg beer ($400)
- Pot to boil water ($100)
- Outdoor burner to heat the water + gas can ($70 + ~$30 to refill liquid gas canister)
- Filter for…well filtering my beer ($100 + $2 per filters used for each batch)
- Carbon-dioxide (Canister ~$79, gas is about $3.99 a pound)
- Tubing, cleaning supplies ($20)
- Bottler with beer gun to fill up bottles if I choose not to keg or make some of my beer portable ($100)
- Carboy used to ferment the beer ($60)
- Numerous other small items for cleaning pots, beer bottles, kegs that probably add up to over ($200)
In total I have spent well over $1,000 on supplies just for home brewing beer. I started out with a small $100 kit to brew beer but quickly realized that the beer produced was somewhat tolerable.
Like any hobby, this one can be as expensive as you want it to be. In order for me to “save money” by home brewing my own beer, I would have to brew hundreds of batches of beer to come close to breaking even (assuming I was buying craft beer at the grocery store as a comparison).
The Benefit Of Homebrewing Beer
The hobby has introduced me to a lot of people who I most likely never would have met otherwise. I’ve made some life long friends along the way that have been more than worth the money spent on brewing supplies.
Having my kegerator set up is always a big hit for a party. No need for my friends to bring beer when its time to BBQ on a day off. I’ve got the supply covered. Many good conversations and evenings were had cooking and hanging out with friends drinking a home brewed beer.
Putting Homebrewer On My Applications To Residency
When I was applying for residency, I debated if I should put that I am a homebrewer. I was worried that programs might associate drinking alcohol with potential negative connotations. Before applying, I asked my dean for her advise. She told me that since I had won awards and talked about it along with my passion for cooking, she didn’t see any problem.
I ended up putting it on my application and rolled the dice. It was a HUGE hit. Every single place that I interviewed loved that I had something unique on my application. Home brewing beer came up in almost every interview that I had. In fact, at the place where I matched, almost the entire interview was focused on our mutual love for craft beer and good food. I walked out of the interview thinking that I completely bombed it since we didn’t talk hardly about medicine at all. For a couple of weeks I was beating myself up mentally since this was my number one choice. I thought that I blew my chances. Eventually, match day came and went. I ended up matching at my number one choice despite talking about beer most of the time in the interview.
Putting a hobby where some people might look down unfavorably on drinking was a bit of a risk. In the end, it ended up working out for me since I matched at my number one choice. Maybe there were a couple of programs that turned me away due to the mention of alcohol. I guess I’ll never know.
Hobbies Are Expensive
Everyone needs a hobby to keep some degree of sanity. In my past post, I described how I also like to play games. I also enjoy biking, hiking, and being on the lake. I now tend to spend much more time outdoors compared to hobbies that require less physical activity. Recently, I have not been brewing as much beer as I once did. It’s a nice skill to have that makes an interesting conversation piece. However, I will admit that there are two reasons why I do not brew as much as I once did. First, there are so many great craft brewers around the corner nearby. Second, I grew tired of throwing out beer that I wasn’t able to give away or finish. I’m not a huge drinker so it was very hard to finish each batch even after months of waiting.
Do you also home brew your own beer?
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2 thoughts on “Fun Friday: Doctors Who Homebrew Beer”
Very fun. I have thought about brewing beer but at the end of the day am not ready to commit to the effort it would take…I imagine the community is the best part. Either way I am forwarding this article to my friend who has been debating brewing beer for some time.
Bill Murray drank your beer? That’s remarkable!
I’ve been brewing for six years now. Great hobby — a homebrew club is a great way to make new friends, too.