Homebrewing Blog and Resource

Local Homebrew Shop

Support your local homebrew shop (or LHBS).  That is a common statement I hear sometimes.  I like the spirit of the saying for sure, but I think I have met the end of my time at my local shop.  Wednesday I went to my local shop and I was pleasantly surprised.  Usually, they are missing several ingredients that I’d like to put into my recipe.  (To make it worse, they often suggest things as substitutes that personally I don’t think will really work.) 

 Two things they came up short on.  I wanted some Crystal 80 for an Oatmeal Stout recipe.  They don’t carry C80, they had some sort of C150 (cara-red I think?, so its not even a crystal malt).  I looked in there little malt guide they have hanging on the shelf and they closest thing I could find to it LISTED was a Cara-Munich III 65-75L.  But when I picked up the one pound bag of the stuff, it was 53-63L.  Well, I have never used Cara-Munich so I figured I’d suck it up and use the Cara-Munich III in place of C80… ugh.

The second thing they didn’t have was American 2-row malt.  This they normally carry but they were out of it at the time.  She said it would be in the next day…but I was there now.  So instead I went with something they called Pale Malt.  I don’t even know if it’s an English Pale Malt or Briess’s Pale Malt. 

On the ride home, I started thinking about this more.  Why don’t they put the origin of the malts on the bulk grain bins?  They have bins labelled Pilsner, 6-row, 2-row, Wheat, and Pale Malt but what does that mean?  I know I could have asked but they are super busy with Grape season and no one was coming out from behind the counter as I scratched my head in front of the bins. (I should mention the bins are right in front of the counter where no one was spurred to help me. I know I should have asked!)

I did actually get someone’s attention and asked about the “2-row” situation.  When I said I would just sub the other malts for my needs, I asked if they had any pre-bagged 5lb lots left. She said “No, but there is plenty of 1lb-ers available.” 

I said I was looking for 16 lbs of 2-row, again she said there’s plenty of 1lb bags if you want.  When I asked if there was a price difference she said, “Well the self service stuff is cheapest of the 1lb, 5lb, bulk options.”  Congrats on trying to up sell me to the bags at $0.30 more per pound or whatever it is.

At least they had all the hops I wanted, but they were out of WLP002 and like the 2-row I won’t hold it against them – I just went for WLP005 (same flavor a little more attenuative).  I picked up some tubing and caps as well. 

All said I spent just over $98.00 (I got ingredients for a wheat beer as well, so two beers total).

So here is the local part:  I know I can get all the ingredients I want the first time if I ordered online at one of the big online guys.  Then factor in my drive time and gas money…shipping is actually cheaper. Not to mention my local has prices about 10% higher then anywhere else.  Depending on where I order from, shipping might even be free!  Oh well.  The local shop is nice to have mainly in the summer when shipping yeast across the country isn’t a good idea but for the most part doesn’t this global-internet economy make any shop my local shop???

Stay tuned for an Oatmeal Stout Brew log and a Wheat beer brew log from me… and maybe a few online orders as well.



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  1. Did you pick me up some cider yeast?

  2. They were tapped out. They are focused on the grape harvest right now too. This weekend they have all the winers coming in to pick up their fresh grape orders. They pretty much ignore the beer brewers needs during this time.

  3. Sorry to hear about your experience. I can tell you that the Cara-Munich III isn’t bad. It will not taste as sweet as crystal though, usually ends up with a biscuit like flavor also usually is closer to 75L – 80L. Not what I would substitute for 80L

    I’m not really sure how a shop can not carry 2 row. With pale malt, I would figure that they are speaking about American 2 Row Pale Malt which is Briess. The difference between that and English Pale Malt (Maris Otter) is usually a bit less biscuit in flavor. Most of the times people will not even put Pale Malt if it is Maris Otter though, just Maris Otter.

    Not knowing your home brew shop, I can figure that the 2 row the 6 row are most likely american. As far as wheat/pilsen it’s a wild card but I would bet that it’s American because if the Pale malt is not labeled as Maris Otter then it sounds like they carry mostly American products. If I had to take a guess the pils might be Belgium because German Pils is far less asked for.

    I understand your fury with your Local Homebrew Shop, but I don’t mean to come off as rude but local does not imply the internet. I hear the argument all the time, “I don’t have a local homebrew shop.”, or, “my local homebrew shop went out of business.” Well it’s because people aren’t supporting local business. Now if they have a horrible business plan on trying to please customers, not your fault. As far as the pricing goes, not knowing who you go to, it’s impossible for a homebrew shop to compete with any of the big companies on the internet. It’s always going to be more. Big companies can sell such a higher level of volume then a brick and motor that has a mere 1500 square feet. They can sell in a month more then most places can sell in a year.

    I understand though, if they are always missing items maybe they are biting off more then they can chew, and it does not work well if they are giving bad advice on top of that.

    Sorry to hear about your homebrew issues with the shop. I guess the big reason why people enjoy to go to homebrew shops is that they like to talk to people face to face and ask questions. Some people also like to see the items before they buy them. If there out of stuff that sucks, and if they give bad advice, they don’t really have a good service going on. Then I understand why you wouldn’t want to go back. Kinda failing at both fronts of why people might want to go, because you can’t compete with the pricing.

    Better luck next time.

  4. Scott

    I don’t have nearly the experience you guys have and I’m already leaning toward online stores. I live in a very favorable town for homebrewers and have 2 shops pretty close by.

    The shop with the nice-guy owner doesn’t have the content in stock, and he often suggests compromises that are quite dissatisfying (and I hate feeling like I have to “settle”). I’m finishing out my last year on partial mash recipes, and the last time I went in, I asked for pale LME. Leter that night I’m half-way through my boil and about to pour in the LME and I realize the guy gave me brown LME. I was furious. Never going back there.

    The other shop option is closer and usually has the ingredients (not always though), but they have a-holes behind the counter. Can’t stand it. I’m tired of having to go in there prepared to battle.

    Local is not always better. Settling is a requirement with ‘local’, and that doesn’t pair well with the care and passion I have for the beer I plan to brew. That said, I am going to go try the LHBS options in the next town over before completely giving up.

    This post struck a chord. The blog is great. Thanks!

  5. It’s unfortunate that your in a situation where settling is a requirement with shopping local. I think it’s my personality, even though I have no problem going to amazon.com to get books or, bestbuy.com to get computer stuff, I’ve preferred to go to LHBS because I wanted to learn from the people that have been doing it. Hard to learn when a guy is prick behind the counter and hard to learn when another guy doesn’t even give you what you payed for.

    Again it may just be me, but I’ve viewed homebrew shops as a learning place where you get to talk to other home brewers while you are in line, and shoot ideas with people behind the desk. Quite honestly it’s where I’ve gotten most of my ideas and some of the best tips. From just that aspect alone I have grown exponentially as a brewer. I guess you could argue there are forums to learn from. I mean this is a great blog with honest content where you can trust the provider and there are other great blogs out there that are content rich but, I have grown to distrust most forums though. And also blogs are different then forums.

    Me personally I have read a lot of forums and surprised to see so many people just give B.S answers feels a lot of the time it’s the blind leading the blind. A lot of incorrect information floats around and people who I claim that they do “Hochkurz Double Decoction” every single batch, I would love to see that. Oddly enough there responses are almost exact wording from a magazine, and oddly enough they don’t have a single picture on it but they claim themselves as a near expert. A lot of the times I just view forums more of a place of that so many people measure there man hood which could be described in different words which are inappropriate for the blog.

    But I’ve met people at homebrew shops that are in line that invite me to brew with them and learned how to make all sorts of styles of beer from those types of experiences. The good, the bad, all of it has been enjoyable parts to my home brewing experience. Making the recipe is 99% sanitation and 1% following directions, to me its about embedding your self with the craft brew culture, at least that’s where I’ve learned the most. You can make all the recipes in the world and not learn a single thing other then just how to follow directions. To me that’s a lot of copy catting. I guess people are fine with that me, I like to know why I’m doing certain things, why other hops work, why other yeast strands work. If your out of something knowing a substitute and realizing it’s the practically the same thing, all of a sudden things that people blow up to be really big deals you see as blowing smoke. But I’m flexible when it comes to it also so who knows.

    It’s sad to hear that other people don’t have the same experience or there home brew shops are letting them down and losing trust. Home brewing to me is is more then then the finished product but it’s an experience from the time you start your car to get the supplies to the point that you finish your bottle of sweet nectar that you made. The whole thing summed up is home brewing, but I know I’m in a minority in thought as well as personal experiences with it, with that said I would like to make it clear that I’m not trying to convince any one. Just an interesting topic which I hope that I wasn’t to abrasive on either.



  6. I had a similar experience with my LHBS which actually does an online biz as well (seven bridges co-op in Santa Cruz, CA). They are strictly organic, so a considerable number of products are simply unavailable there. At my other LHBS (actually closer to my house than seven bridges), they only sell pre-milled 1 and 5lb bags, totally worthless to me as I prefer to mill my own grain. It’s important to know what you LHBS carries, and don’t be shy to call ahead to be sure its in stock. Truth be told, though, I will probably be sticking to online stores for grain but I still have every reason to shop at the LHBS for hardware and yeast. (As a matter of fact, I got some past-date yeast from Midwest Supplies that was totally non-viable after being shipped in the summer heat without a cold pack–I’ll never buy yeast online again unless absolutely necessary).

  7. Wow guys lots of great comments, and thanks to all who have confidence in our site. We are always actively talking about how to keep the content “real” and “honest”. A couple comments from myself to keep the discussion up.
    At this particular LHBS, there used to be several “douches” behind the counter. But they seem to have fixed that over the past couple years. That said, as I shop I often hear shop workers handing out poor to inadequate advice. This shop is where I got my start. And it was a great shop when I was an extract brewer. But as my skills progressed I quickly out paced the stores knowledge-based. I realized this one day when I asked the owner some simple questions about making a mash tun. She eventually just said “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I try not to butt in but when I see a customer released back into the isles of the shop after getting confusing adivice (you can see it on their face), I have sometimes said to them “Hey, you don’t want to do it that way do this.” Then their faces light up and it suddenly makes sense.
    As far as forums go I totally agree that often its newbies giving answers to newbie questions. Or worse, its someone just spouting off the standard answer they’ve heard a thousand times. The type of forum answer I can’t stand is when someone clearly is just empting the book in the post just to show how much they know, when a one sentence answer will do. I learned a lot from forums at one point, but you do need to learn to take the good with the bad. In fact you have to expect to learn partly though wading through the bad advice at the same time. Sometimes, I wonder where people get their credibility sometimes.

  8. Well it’s the truth. I could not be in more step with Mike right now. I respect websites like yours which have honest information that anyone can apply to there brewing abilities. Things that you have talked about have obviously been tried and true. It’s a relief to find some blogs out there that are trying to keep the standard of brewing up and have set the ego aside.

    That’s bad when the owner of the store, does not know the simple concept behind behind a mash tun (for those reading this that don’t know what a mash tun is, don’t feel bad I’m not being condescending – you don’t own a homebrew shop you don’t have to know). I mean honestly it sounds bad but if she would have just read , “Joy of home brewing” she probably could have B.S’d her way through the answer. Maybe she’s a wine maker not a brewer. In some respect I’m glad to hear that she just didn’t flat out lie though as bad as it sounds. Misinformation is worse then no information in my opinion. I’ve been to home brew shops where the people behind the desk will avoid to answer the question and leave people confused as hell. Exp: Some guys ask “How much DME would you use to prime for bottling?”. Well he could had said the answer (which I believe the standard is 1 cup and 1/4 of DME but I haven’t done it that way in a while so I could be off, and I believe the argument for doing it is that your suppose to get smaller bubbles in your beer when compared to corn sugar) but all he said is, “Don’t do it that way, just use corn sugar”. REALLY?! That’s not what the guy wanted to do, probably wanted to change it up so when your out of corn sugar he knows how to adjust, nice going guy. To this shop owners defense, I know he knows the answer because he’s been doing it for a while, but some of these people that are, “head haunchos” really don’t seem to have interpersonal skills you need when dealing with customers, should have not gone into retail.

    I do think you have a valid point with forums. I think that a lot of people can learn up to some point of experience with using a brewing forum, not really sure what point that is and maybe it’s different for everyone. I was the same as you when I first started brewing I would go to forums and learn a thing or too, but you get to a point and I’m guessing that it was the same with you, you just starting having to make your own discoveries to get better; doing is the answer at a point and working through the troubles and mistakes does make you much better.

    And a quick shout to Adam, I agree. Knowing what your LHBS is crucial. A lot of these guys can’t carry everything or don’t want to for what ever reason. Giving a quick phone call can save a trip both ways ending up empty handed. Sometimes if they are low in something and they know your coming for it they might even set it aside for ya. And the yeast thing in the summer time could not be more true. Unless your doing dry yeast, it ain’t even worth it to get it sent in the summer time. If it isn’t getting shipped before Thursday (because it will just sit in a warehouse over the weekend which will kill the yeast 9 out of 10 times) all you did was waste hard earned money.



  9. I’m very fortunate to have a great source of grain, yeast, and hops locally (Brewmeister in Folsom, CA). They’re ‘ok’ on equipment, they carry the essentials, but not some of the more exotic stuff. But it’s nice to be able to go in, get good quality grain (good selection) and they grind on the spot.

  10. Chris

    I live in a town with a pop of 75,000. No homebrew shop. Lots of wine shops. The only one who calls themselves a HB store sell old, stale cans of beer kits which look 10 years old. I asked if they had any grains and the lady gave me a funny look. I stumped her. I have to order all my brewing stuff on line. We do have a malting company in town and I can buy 25 kg sacks of grain. The specialty grains I buy on-line. I sure wish we had a good HB store, but apparantly wine rules, so that means they make money on wine and don’t with beer.

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