10 Useful Homebrew Competition Tips to Help You Bring Home a Medal

homebrew competition tips

For homebrewers looking to kick their brewing skills up a notch, entering a homebrew competition is the way to go.

Truth be told, as a competitive person who loves to brew, I find homebrew competitions to be exciting and incredibly useful in growing my skills.

It’s like an athlete prepping for a big game. They practice for hours on end, polishing their skills and improving their performance.

Then, they compete against others who are doing the same.

It’s the only way to see how they stack up against their peers, right?

Here’s the deal: Homebrewing and competitions go hand-in-hand! You brew (practice) and then go toe-to-toe with other brewers (compete).

Not only do you get the opportunity to see where you stand among others, but you also gain valuable feedback on your overall “performance”.

Why Homebrew Competitions Are Worth It

While competing is something I naturally love to do, there are plenty of other fantastic reasons why entering a homebrew competition makes sense:

  • It can help you dial in and improve a recipe that you’ve been working on formulating and perfecting.
  • You might be able to figure out what could be “off” about your overall process.
  • You have the chance to gain valuable feedback and validation, proving the beer you make is of high quality.
  • Help gain recognition and make valuable connections that could help sprout a brewing career.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

It’s All About the Details

It might sound all fine and dandy, but competing in a homebrew competition can be overwhelming at first.

Just take a look at the BJCP 2015 Guidelines (the most current style guidelines).

The established BJCP guidelines are used to define beers by style. They are descriptive and as detailed as possible, and for good reason: it gives judges a base to help keep scoring as consistent as possible.

That doesn’t mean your infamous Bread Pudding Quadruple won’t win, but it does mean you need to be very careful about how you enter your beers (if you want to actually win medals, that is).

And that, my friends, is what brings us to the point of why you’re reading this right now.

How to Prep and Increase Your Chances of Winning

Whether you’ve entered a competition before or have yet to embark on the journey, understanding how homebrew competitions work is crucial to your success.

Do everything right and even a mediocre beer can bring home a medal.

Do it wrong and I can guarantee you’ll be kicking yourself for missing something that was purely preventable!

Is your anxiety riding high yet?

Good, because we’re about to turn it down a notch.

Below, you will find a few tips to help you prep for competitions from start to finish. No more wasting time or feeling like a dog left alone in a field.

Is it rocket science? No, but I hope anyone who is new to competing or has tried a few times without any luck will find some of this useful.

As I always say, let’s dive in, shall we?

Comp Tip #1 – Get a feel for the process

Before you enter a homebrew competition, it’s important to understand how one works.

It can seem like a lot of work, but it’s not terrible once you figure out how to work your way through each step.

That said, here is a quick and dirty breakdown of the overall process:

  • Registration (usually means creating an account online with all of your basic information)
  • Adding entries
  • Dropping off or shipping entries
  • Judging takes place
  • Scoresheets are either mailed or sent electronically, along with any prizes mailed out shortly after (unless you’re in attendance and an award ceremony is planned, which you can take everything home with you).

Most competitions typically operate in the same manner. Once you get one figured out, any that come up after that will be a piece of cake to navigate!

Comp Tip #2 – Plan carefully

If you want things to go as smooth as possible, you need to plan carefully.

What do I mean by that? You will need to:

  • Make sure you are fully aware of ALL deadlines. This is even more critical if you bottle-condition your beer, as it will need plenty of time to carbonate.
  • Understand ALL of the rules. Some competitions get pickier than others. You don’t want something subjective like the color of a bottle cap to disqualify your entry. Sounds silly, but it can happen.
  • Know what styles are allowed. Not every competition is open to all styles. Some might be specific while others are not.
  • Ship only using FedEx/UPS or other private carrier. For those in the United States, shipping beer via the USPS is a federal crime. Only ship your beers using a private carrier like FedEx or UPS. International shippers should be aware of any issues that might happen once their beers hit customs. I’ve heard this can be hit or miss.

The last time I failed to plan properly for a competition, I more than likely pissed off a few organizers.

I confused two different competitions that were in close proximity to each other. One of my local homebrew club members was judging in one and was planning to take some entries with him.

Well, the one I signed up for ended up NOT being the one he was judging in.

The organizers contacted me looking for my bottles, but the shipment period was over. They had to pull my entry, and I screwed up some of their planning since they were waiting on my entry.

Bad move on my part, but at least I learned my lesson (and apologized for being an idiot).

Since then, I plan well in advance and am more meticulous than ever before. So far, so good!

Comp Tip #3 – Stick to the style guidelines as close as you can

As mentioned above, beers are judged based on style guidelines from the BJCP (here is the link to the guidelines again).

Style guidelines are established to give judges a baseline to judge your beer on. Otherwise, the judging would be purely subjective and vary wildly from comp to comp.

When taking a look at the guidelines, you’ll find they cover the following:

  • Style category
  • Appearance
  • Aroma
  • Taste
  • Mouthfeel
  • Other notes unique to the style
  • Commercial examples of the style
  • All necessary numbers (OG/FG/ABV/SRM)

While there are some “catch all” categories out there (for example, 30A: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer), many styles have specific guidelines.

Adherence to these guidelines are crucial to winning a medal! Your goal is to brew a fantastic beer that falls within all of the guidelines for that particular style.

You can have the best beer in the world, but if you enter it into the wrong style, you’re going to HATE it when that scoresheet comes back.

In the end, if you can brew a decent beer and hit all of the “checkboxes”, you’ll be surprised at how well you will do.

Comp Tip #4 – Try beers within your targeted style

Sometimes, descriptions just aren’t enough.

You can imagine all you want, but nothing will come as close to actually seeing, smelling, and tasting something in order to bring that description to life!

The greatest thing about the style guidelines? Commercial examples are given that represent the style appropriately.

That means you have a tangible way to see, smell, and taste beers in a specific style category.

I highly recommend trying beers in a style that you want to target for the following reasons:

  • It makes you aware of a specific style that you have little to no experience with.
  • You can often find clone recipes of a specific style, which gives you an idea of what the grain bill will look like.
  • You can try other beers that fall into those style buckets that have various numbers within the acceptable range

More recently, I wanted to do a more authentic Belgian Blond. I went out and picked up some Leffe Blond (as it is true to style).

I’ll admit – I wasn’t too familiar with Leffe. Heard of it many times, but never actually tried it before.

Doing this helped me understand what type of appearance, aroma, and flavor I should aim for to create a beer that meets the style guidelines.

Oh, and it was pretty damn tasty too!

Comp Tip #5 – Learn how to think like a judge

Thinking like a judge is a great way to figure out what goes on in a judge’s mind when evaluating beers.

There are plenty of questions, such as:

  • Is there a specific way judges pour beer?
  • How do they evaluate the appearance, smell, and taste?
  • What goes into coming up with a final score?

Most competitions consist of a BJCP Certified judge at each table and a provisional or non-BJCP judge. The two judges award points based on a BJCP Scoresheet. The final score is decided by an average of both judge’s scores.

By understanding what you’re being scored on, you can take off the homebrewer cap and put on your judge’s one instead.

How can you do this? Simple:

  • Find some BJCP Certified judges and ask them to walk you through their process.
  • Go through the scoresheet and get familiar with what is judged on. Pay attention to any descriptions of off-flavors too (more on that later).

I know this might sound subjective (and it can be), but make your best effort to evaluate your beers like a judge would.

Also, make sure to be honest and objective with yourself! It’s the only way to really dial in how you think a judge will perceive your homebrew.

Comp Tip #6 – Look up winning recipes and try to formulate something similar

When someone wins at something, most people try to figure out how. It’s just human nature.

We want to find out why someone won. What was that “one thing” that made them stick out above the others?

When it comes to beer, there are TONS of winning recipes online from a variety of competitions (most notably from the National Homebrew Competition).

If you want to bring home a medal but don’t know what to brew, thumbing through previous winning recipes is a good start.

You don’t have to brew the same recipe. Instead, use it as a template when you’re formulating your own recipes.

I highly recommend looking for recipes that are simple to emulate. Don’t go for something advanced if you are a beginner.

Note: If you need a resource for building recipes, check out Brewgr. I use it for my recipe calculations/formulations. It’s free and fairly decent, although it doesn’t have the latest BJCP guidelines (still uses 2008 guidelines).

Comp Tip #7 – Start small and then expand

When you’re first starting to dip your toes into competing, you want to start small.

You can easily find a small homebrew competition to enter nearly every month of the year.

And when I say small, I usually mean under 150 entries. At this level, flight sizes are usually pretty tiny (think 10 or less entries per category).

Entering your first handful of competitions on the smaller scale is good for many reasons:

  • You will become accustomed to the process.
  • It gives you a chance to actually win something, thus boosting your confidence.
  • You will still get valuable feedback from a BJCP Certified judge.

Once you get more comfortable (and better at brewing, of course), you can start to branch out into the larger competitions.

It’s all about gaining feedback and improving your skills. Don’t try to hit a home run when you haven’t even swung a bat yet!

Comp Tip #8 – Read up on common off-flavors

Nothing is more disappointing than patiently waiting 4 to 6 weeks after brewing a batch, only to find out that something isn’t quite right.

It’s something all homebrewers want to avoid on all counts, yet something we’ve all experienced at one point in time.

Unfortunately, off-flavors DO happen, and there are many of them to boot.

Knowing what each off-flavor tastes like, how to detect it, and how to avoid it are the keys to making better beer.

You can find all of the most common off-flavors in this list. It also includes a description of the off-flavor, along with possible solutions to avoid the problem in the future.

Certified judges have to know off-flavors VERY well. It’s part of how they become certified to begin with.

You don’t need their level of expertise, but knowing and understanding the various off-flavors that can occur will only strengthen your skills.

From there, it’s all about making corrections and slowly tweaking one variable at a time until your recipe is perfected.

Comp Tip #9 – Consider the judge’s notes after you receive them

Remember when I talked about feedback and how valuable it can be?

This is where that all comes into play now.

If you’ve entered competitions before, you’re probably familiar with the judge’s notes and evaluation.

They follow a specific formula based on the official BJCP Scoresheet.

Here is an example of a scoresheet from beer I recently entered into a competition that scored 38/50 (my Peanut Butter Porter recipe).

Every competition that is BJCP sanctioned uses the same sheet, so you’ll get familiar with it VERY quick.

All that said, when trying to improve a beer recipe, it is important to take this feedback into consideration.

I will agree that it can be subjective at times, but try to pull something away from it. There could be one thing you’re not doing that could be the difference between a gold medal and an honorable mention.

Comp Tip #10 – Join a homebrew club

Believe it or not, there are a lot of homebrewers who don’t belong to a homebrew club.

For some folks that live in less populous areas, it’s completely understandable. The closest homebrew club could be miles and miles away.

But for those who do live in an area where a local club is around, you should be a part of it!

Seriously – it’s one of the smartest moves you can make.

Think about it for a second…

Not only will you have plenty of experienced people willing to evaluate your beer, you might be surprised how many BJCP judges are members too!

I know in my local club, there are at least a few guys who are BCJP Certified. I can go to them and get competition-level feedback right on the spot.

They can also offer critical advice, such as what category or style I should place a beer in that might be on the fence.

That kind of access is invaluable. And besides that, you’ll make some pretty kick-ass friends too!

One thing to note: If you don’t have a club in your area but know of other homebrewers around town, start one up!

You can keep it as formal or informal as you want. The value you will gain from it will be worth the effort involved – trust me!

Now You’re Ready to Compete

Like I said before, a homebrew competition is a great way to step up your brewing and compare yourself to others.

It can also be a fantastic way to gain validation and confidence. The key is to never to give up.

Don’t let one bad score keep you out of the game. You might just be closer to winning your first medal than you think!

Note: If you want to see a schedule of BJCP sanctioned competitions from all over the globe, head on over to the American Homebrewers Association website.

I use the same calendar to plan out my competing schedule. It’s the easiest way to find competitions quickly and effortlessly, hands down!

I also recommend joining the American Homebrewers Association. Not only do you get access to awesome benefits, but you also get the opportunity to enter the granddaddy of them all – the National Homebrew Competition!

The 4 Major Benefits I Get From Buying Brewing Ingredients in Bulk

brewing ingredients in bulk

Buying brewing ingredients in bulk was always something that I was touch-n-go with for some time.

I knew that I eventually wanted to do it, but I just never ended up taking the plunge.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t always brewing as much as I am now, so I didn’t see the need. There wasn’t a way I could justify it at the time.

That picture looks a bit different now.

I started getting busier. With three kids, my day job, and a wife that works part-time in the evenings, my window of opportunity to hit the local brew store was dwindling.

I knew I had to change something up to keep my sanity and make things easier.

That was when I decided to make the leap and get into buying in bulk: Grains, hops, yeast, water, and any essential additives (e.g. candi sugar, flavor extracts).

Once I did that, I finally realized why buying in bulk works for so many others.

What Buying Brewing Ingredients in Bulk Has Taught Me

I learned very quickly this was the right move for me, especially with my brewing frequency (which has picked up quite a bit in the last two months).

Of course, there were a handful of fantastic benefits that I also got to (and continue to) experience as I moved into the elusive world of “going bulk”:

1) I can brew whenever I want

Kinda tough to argue with this one, right?

When I have some free time (which I will admit is quite rare as of late), I can pull up my list of recipes, check out what I have ready to go, and get everything together for an impromptu brew day!

A lot of people might say, “Well, I brew whenever I want to already. What’s the big deal?” To that, I’ll throw this question your way:

What happens when something falls through on a Friday night at 7PM, and you’re suddenly left with no plans AND have been itching to brew, but just haven’t had the time?

I don’t know about you, but when things like that happen to me, I certainly make sure to take advantage.

My local homebrew shop isn’t opened at those hours, which often meant I didn’t have the ability to brew when I wanted (or when it fit my schedule). I’d still have to work in a trip to get everything, then either figure out if I was brewing right away or trying to tuck everything away for another time.

Now, I can crank out brew days on my own terms.

2) Makes it easier to plan out brew days

When my calendar starts to jam up, it takes a bit more planning to get my brew days in. It’s not impossible, but just takes a little more work.

There is nothing worse than planning a recipe, only to show up at the brew shop and the grain(s) or hop(s) you need aren’t in stock.

For me, it’s happened more than once. I’ve had to adjust recipes on the fly or look for substitutes. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of that.

I like to know what I’m getting and stick to it.

By purchasing in bulk, however, I can plan out my brew days with relative ease.

While it can be said that I’m “limited” to what I can brew with (since it’s only what I have in stock), I don’t mind it.

In fact, I actually prefer it!

What’s sweetens the pot even more is that I can map out my recipes months in advance. I do my bulk purchase and make sure I cover what I want to brew.

This way, I know that when I want to brew a specific recipe, I don’t have to worry about a subbing one type of grain out for another. No worrying about what hops are a good substitute.

I’ll even go as far as to say that I don’t have to worry about certain yeast styles not being in stock. I brew with what I have, and it’s never been more fun!

3) I actually save money

We all know that if you’re getting into brewing to save money on beer, you’re probably going to have a bad time.

Depending on your batch size and brewing frequency, you could be turning over a decent chunk of change for each batch.

Like I said – we do it for the love, NOT to save money!

Except when I started buying brewing ingredients in bulk, I actually DID start to save money!

Here’s the thing: One of the many concerns of going bulk is storage and crushing grain.

For storage, brewers either don’t have the room or want to shell out the extra cash for storage containers.

For crushing grain, it’s usually the cost of a grain mill that leaves most a bit apprehensive. Large mills tend to run anywhere from $89+. For a lot of us, that isn’t always an easy pill to swallow.

All of that said, this is what I ended up with:

  • A corona mill ($18.99 on Amazon)
  • (1) 40-lb Vittles Vault (for my 2-row – scored it for $16.73 on Amazon on a limited-time deal)
  • (14) 3-lb and 5-lb plastic containers with twist-n-seal lids from Dollar Tree ($14+tax)
  • Vacuum sealer ($32.90 on Amazon)
  • Extra vacuum sealer bags ($8.99 on Amazon for 2 rolls)

I had to shell out about $94 and some change for all of that, but it’s easily going to pay for itself (and has already started to).

As for my hops and grain, here is a quick comparison of what I was paying at my local brew shop vs. what I pay when buying in bulk:

  • Grains at my LHBS, on average, cost me nearly $2/lb. Buying in bulk, my costs are now close to $1.30/lb. If I bought grain by the sack, that cost could be even lower (I tend to buy in 5 to 10-lb increments for base grains and 1 to 2-lb increments for specialty due to my smaller batch sizes).
  • Hops, on average, were around $2/oz at my LHBS. Buying in bulk? Averaging nearly $0.80/oz!

So, on a typical batch where I’m using roughly 3 to 3.5-lbs of grain, I’m saving anywhere from $2.10-$2.45. Add in roughly a half ounce to an ounce of hops for a savings of $0.60-$1.20 and my total savings on grains and hops alone is $2.70-$3.65 a batch (1.5 gallons)!

Since I currently brew about three 1.5 gallon batches every two weeks, the savings starts to add up pretty quick.

And when I harvest yeast and generate a small starter, the cost per batch goes down even more!

I tend to use a lot of dry yeast, which I split in half (remember – I’m doing about 1.5 gallons regularly). At $2.99 a pack for Safale US-05, for example, I’m paying roughly $1.49 per batch at first pitch.

Now, if I am able to pull off 8 to 10 generations (including the first pitch) from that half-pack, my yeast cost per batch plummets down to  a mere $0.15-$0.19! That cost is spread across a whopping 16 to 20 small batches!

Harvesting dry yeast might seem “cheap” when you can just buy another pack, but not all dry yeast is as affordable as US-05. Safbrew BE-256 (Abbaye), for example, is around $6 to $7 a pack. Break all that down like I did above, and it’s clear to see how harvesting yeast and reusing it will save you a ton over time.

Between grains, hops, and yeast, my all in costs average anywhere from $4.69 on the low end to $5.90 on the high end. Not bad for cranking out roughly 14 to 15 beers per batch!

One thing to remember: If I were to increase my batch size, my overall “cost per beer” would continue to decrease. I typically only brew 5 gallon batches with a good friend of mine, as we split up the batch when we’re done. We also go in together with the costs of ingredients, so that’s an entirely different ballgame.

4) It’s more convenient (and saves time)

With 3 kids, my spare time is few and far between. Buying brewing ingredients in bulk saves me from having to run to the brew store a handful of times each week.

Besides that, it’s super convenient. Hell, I can mill my grains while my kids are by my side (often helping me fetch grains or just eating them, which they love to do).

To put it into perspective: My local homebrew shop is open 10AM-6PM. I’m usually home from work around 4PM. The problem? My wife has to be to work by 5PM.

Trying to hit the brew shop after work AND make it home in time before my wife needs to leave is nearly impossible (due to where I work and live in proximity to the brew shop).

What about loading up the kids and making the trip? At the time of writing, my youngest is 20 months old and loves to get into everything. Add in my other two kids and I can tell you that getting through the grocery store with the three of them is a challenge on a good day.

As a result, I usually have to adjust my work schedule in order to have enough time at the shop to get everything I need. Doing this frequently started taking up A LOT of my time.

It also started to get harder for me to do.

After my first bulk order showed up and I got everything properly stored away, prepping for my next brew day was awesome!

I literally walked down to my basement, measured out my grains, milled everything, and put my bag of grains aside. With my hops in the freezer and my yeast on standby in the fridge, I was ready for my brew day the following morning.

No more trying to squeeze in a trip to the brew store, adjusting my schedule, or fighting traffic hoping to make it there in time.

It was such a damn good feeling to be able to have that kind of convenience available. That alone makes it all worth it to me.

Note: I do support my local brew shop when I can and still make trips (when time allows) for some of those “one-off” things I might need.

Are You Ready to Go Bulk?

If you’ve been tossing around the idea of going bulk, there are a few things to consider first:

  • Your brew frequency. Do you brew enough to use up everything in a reasonable amount of time?
  • Room for storage. If you’re low on storage space, buying bulk might not be for you (although I would suggest that even with minimal storage, a bag of something like 2-row isn’t a bad thing to have around).
  • Investment of additional equipment/storage containers. Yes, you will have to pay a little bit upfront for these things, but if your brew frequency is high, you’ll recoup that money and then some fairly quick!
  • You have more time. Some people love to go to the brew store to hang out and talk shop. Nothing is wrong with that and I love to do that when I am able to, but it’s not always in the cards for me. If you still want the brew shop experience, you might not be ready for bulk.

If it works for you, I highly recommend taking the plunge! It has been absolutely great for my current schedule and lifestyle. I’ve even managed to squeeze in more family time due to the time saved from having to head to the brew shop.

buying brewing ingredients in bulk
My current grains on hand

Here’s where I do my bulk purchasing from:

MoreBeer.com – Mostly grains and yeast (when needed), but will grab random things like bottle caps or brewing additives I’m low on (such as lactose, orange peel, or corn sugar).

Since I brew smaller batches and order grain at 1, 2, 5, and 10-lb increments, I utilize their Fast & Free Shipping on any order over $59. Paying $0 for shipping saves me a TON of cash (not to mention the cheaper grain prices when buying in bulk).

YakimaValleyHops.com – Hops and dry yeast.

Absolutely LOVE these guys! Their prices are amazing and product is stellar. Cannot recommend them enough!

What do you think?

Whether you buy in bulk, plan to, or want nothing to do with it, drop us a comment below!

The Top 30 Must-Have Gifts for Homebrewers (to Win Over Their Hearts)

gifts for homebrewers

Whether it’s the holidays, someone’s birthday, a special occasion, or just because – finding gifts for homebrewers can be both fun and challenging.

Fortunately for you, I’ve got you covered!

Even if you’re not looking for a gift and you’re here to find something cool or different to add to your brew stock, you’re in the right place.

A Comprehensive List of Gifts for Homebrewers

Alright folks – this is a big one to sift through. Skip around and read a few ideas or read through them all. Either way, you’ll find plenty of neat things that not only make great gifts for homebrewers, but also make great gifts for you, too!

#1 – Brew Journal

In order to make award-winning beer, homebrewers need to know everything about their process inside and out. The best way to do it? Take copious notes from brew day to the first tasting and beyond.

And while a spiral notebook can fit the bill, there are better and more helpful options out there.

That’s where a formal brew journal comes into play. It allows brewers to dial in and refine their recipes and processes by keeping a log of everything they brewed.

It’s also ideal for identifying problems in the brewing process. Any true homebrewer will appreciate its usefulness.

Most brew journals come packed with other crucial information, such as:

  • Gravity charts (to help determine ABV percentage)
  • SRM guides
  • Information on grain and hops
  • Tips on troubleshooting

Looks like it’s time to exchange that old logbook for something more durable and long lasting!

#2 – Custom Beer Bottle Labels

Anyone bottling their own beer is used to doing either one of two things:

  • Cleaning up and de-labeling bottles from previously purchased beer
  • Buying new beer bottles free of any labeling or previous use

Regardless of what you do, one thing is for sure – those plain old amber bottles can get boring after awhile. It’s fun to dress things up sometimes, so why not truly make your beer your own with custom beer labels?

There are a variety of options out there to choose from, with the most popular being Neato Blank Beer Labels. I’ve heard the software isn’t the best out there, but I believe if you work with it enough, you can get the hang of it fairly quick.

If that’s not your forte, you can always check out my tips on custom beer label design in this post here and pick up some printable templates to match.

#3 – Custom Beer Bottle Caps

Similar to the labels above, custom bottle caps can also make great gifts for homebrewers looking to up their presentation.

GrogTag is a unique site that offers custom bottle caps. You have the option of uploading your own design or adding custom text to a ready-made design.

Like anything else that’s customized, these aren’t exactly “cheap” (About $22 for 50 bottle caps). However, this is all in fun and a gift that a homebrewer would surely appreciate.

On the other hand, you could always splurge on a few packs of regular bottle caps instead, since many brewers who don’t keg will always find them useful.

#4 – Digital Thermometer

Brewing and temperature readings go hand-in-hand. Homebrewers need to take temperature readings of several things in the brewing process, such as:

  • Strike water
  • Mash
  • Cool down
  • Before bottling

One of the handiest tools I have in my arsenal is a digital thermometer. A good one will give accurate readings in seconds.

It is a critical tool in any homebrewers toolbox and one that I recommend upgrading to, especially if you’re using an analog meat thermometer (I mean, they work, but being able to immediately read a digital output over analog is MUCH better in my opinion).

There are a TON of affordable digital thermometers out there, so any one of them should work fine. This is the one that I use and it’s always up for the job with no issues.

#5 – Homebrewing Books

Like anything else, brewing is a constant game of learning and refining. What better way to pick up new techniques or learn new methods by diving into a few homebrewing books?

There are books out there for brewers in all stages. From the ultimate beginner to the incredibly advanced, it isn’t hard to find something that will spark new ideas. It’s one of the reasons that books make a fantastic gift for any homebrewer!

To give you an idea of some of the better books out there, here is a small list of a few of the greater ones that I personally enjoy:

Again, this list isn’t complete, but the books above cover everything from extreme beginners to the highly advanced brewer.

#6 – Bottle Drying Tree

Bottling beer is a labor of love.

Then again, for homebrewers who aren’t currently kegging their beer, it’s a labor of necessity!

Washing and drying bottles can be a pain, especially on bottling day. You want your bottles to dry quickly, but tossing them on top of a towel on the counter isn’t always the best approach.

That’s where a bottle drying tree can save the day!

The way it works is simple:

  • One solid piece of plastic with angled branches sits atop a plastic base.
  • Bottles are inside face-down, allowing any excess liquid to easy flow out and onto the base below.
  • The arrangement of the branches keeps things dry and prevents liquid from dripping onto other bottles.

While there are many bottle drying trees to choose from (as well as various capacities), this one is our favorite. It’s relatively inexpensive and makes a great gift for a homebrewer who frequently deals with glass bottles.

#7 – Inkbird Temp Controller

One of the keys to making great beer starts with proper temperature control during fermentation.

Did you know that during active fermentation, the temperature of beer can increase anywhere from 5°F to 10°F? If temps aren’t controlled, this environment is a breading ground for off-flavors.

Dialing in temperatures can help with consistency, thus allowing you to control the wild fluctuations that can occur during active fermentation. Better control = better beer.

A temperature controller, when combined with a cooling chamber (such as a deep freezer) is the best way to ensure your beer ferments at the temperatures YOU want – not the other way around!

Personally, I use the Inkbird ITC-308 Dual Temp Controller, as this controls both heating AND cooling. When combined with a heating element, my temperatures are usually right on point.

For the price (roughly $35), you honestly can’t beat it. I guarantee an aspiring homebrewer you know will welcome this with open arms.

#8 – Vacuum Sealer

Just like buying groceries in bulk can help save a few bucks, doing the same for brewing ingredients can really drive the overall cost per batch.

One of my main bulk purchases are hops. When you compare the price of hops from my local homebrew store (roughly $2.25/oz) to what I can purchase in bulk online (currently averaging around $0.80/oz), it’s easy to see why buying in bulk makes sense.

Except there is one problem – long-term storage.

In order to keep hops fresh, it’s recommended that they be stored in a freezer. Storing them loosely (in a sealed sandwich bag, for example) can invite oxygen, which oxidizes hops and can alter their taste, aroma, and bittering power over time.

Problems like this are easily solved with one solution – a vacuum sealer!

When hops are vacuum sealed, you can expect them to last potentially years in the freezer. It takes the worry factor out of buying hops in bulk.

I also use my vacuum sealer for dry yeast (when I only use a half-pack, for example) and other brewing adjuncts. I couldn’t imagine storing ingredients long-term without it!

You can pick up the sealer that I use here (for less than $35 too).

#9 – Kettle Upgrade

Many brewers new to the hobby often start out with a kettle that is small, featureless, and basic enough to do the job.

While they work great, they start to wear down quicker than their higher quality counterparts. Cheap doesn’t always mean “better”.

A top-quality kettle is going to be more expensive, but one thing is for sure – when taken care of, these steel kettles can last for years on end.

Many also come with helpful features, such as a ball-valve (which makes it easier to transfer wort from the boil kettle to a fermenter).

If you know a homebrewer that desperately needs an upgrade, now might be the time to give them a gift that will be sure to make them smile!

Here’s a solid boil kettle that won’t break the bank: Bayou Classic 8 Gallon Stainless Brew Kettle (w/Ball Valve and Thermometer)

#10 – Hydrometer

In my opinion, a hydrometer is an essential tool in a homebrewer’s arsenal. It’s the easiest way to measure a beer’s final ABV percentage.

It’s not a necessity, but for someone that is into the science of brewing (like most of us), using a hydrometer can help determine whether or not certain processes are working like they should.

Every recipe has an original gravity and a final gravity. A hydrometer measures the density of wort, which is then used to gauge whether or not a brewed beer hit its specific target numbers. If not, something in the process may not have went accordingly, which can help brewers troubleshoot, refine, and try again until they get it right.

It’s all about the numbers, baby!

Hydrometers can be had for almost next to nothing. I use this one frequently, but any hydrometer will do.

#11 – 6.5 Gallon Fermenting Buckets

As someone that exclusively using plastic buckets to ferment my beer, I have plenty of them sitting around. You can honestly never have enough of them.

Then again, I crank out a lot of small-batch size beers, but still – most brewers (I think) will agree with me.

These fermentation buckets make excellent gifts and will be welcome by any homebrewer. If anything, it’ll give them an excuse to whip up another batch or increase their brew frequency. How can you argue with that?

#12 – Beer Thief

From taking gravity readings to tasting beer as the yeast nears its clean up process, a beer thief is the tool that helps get the job done.

The way it works is simple:

  • Sanitize your beer thief (inside and out) before it comes into contact with any wort.
  • Insert into fermenting bucket at an angle, gently pressing it against the wall.
  • Wort will slowly enter the thief as it descends into the bucket.
  • Once enough wort is available for sample, a sanitized hydrometer can be inserted directly for a reading.
  • If tasting, the beer thief only needs pressed against the bottom of a glass to empty the wort from the device.

Like my hydrometer, this is one of the most utilized pieces of equipment I own. It’s cheap, efficient, and handy to have around.

#13 – Refractometer

Refractometers are pretty nifty and fun to have around. Used as a tool to measure gravity (to determine overall ABV percentage), it works a bit differently than a hydrometer.

Hydrometers measure the density of wort in order to help determine ABV, whereas refractometers use the reflection of light to measure overall gravity.

The key benefit to a refractometer is that it only requires a couple drops of wort. This makes gravity readings convenient and simple.

I admit that I haven’t used my refractometer as much lately, but I’ll probably get back into the swing of it soon. It’s a fun piece of equipment for those “brew geeks” out there that want another way to measure gravity.

The good news? Picking up one of these bad boys won’t break the bank.

Regardless, it’s one of those fun and unique gifts for homebrewers that many most likely do not have in their inventory.

I use this Anpro refractometer that I picked up on Amazon for about $25, which is a steal in my opinion.

#14 – Homebrew Apparel

Who doesn’t love a good shirt that shows their love and affection for homebrewing?

Any sort of homebrewing apparel is a fantastic gift. It’s also one of the easiest ones to pick up. I mean, how can you go wrong with this?

BrewerShirts.com has one of the LARGEST selections of brew apparel that I know of. Not only do they carry men’s and women’s apparel, but they even have a few things for your furry friends and little future homebrewers. Check ’em out!

#15 – Stir Plate

When working with liquid yeast and standard 5-gallon batch sizes, it is fairly common to create a yeast starter. Doing this increases the volume of yeast cells by giving them some wort to feed on and multiply.

As a result, the more yeast cells that go into an unfermented wort, the better the chances of hitting those final target gravity numbers.

One key piece of equipment that can help grow a starter quickly and effortlessly is a stir plate. Through the use of magnets, stir plates create a “whirpool” effect, constantly stirring wort to agitate the yeast enough to get them up and moving.

For any serious homebrewer who is looking to up their yeast game and start brewing big beers, this is the tool to make it happen.

While I don’t use a stir plate (as I currently don’t do too much with starters at the moment – dry yeast is my go-to for now), I have heard great things about the Maelstrom Stir Plate. It’s an investment, but a lot of brewers seem to be happy with it!

#16 – Beer Ingredient Kits

A lot of us all-grain brewers have a bunch of fun formulating our own recipes. It’s kind of like cooking – when you dream up something, manage to pull it off perfectly and get rave reviews, it feels good.

Then again, when you can make something that is proven and doesn’t take as much effort but STILL comes out good – well, that can be a good thing, too.

That’s why beer ingredient kits can be a fun way to break up the craziness of homebrewing. I still brew a few various kits from time to time, especially when time is minimal, but I still want to squeeze in a “brew day”.

MoreBeer.com (my latest go to for all of my brewing ingredients) has a wide variety of beer kits available to homebrewers of all types (extract, partial mash, and all-grain).

In my opinion, picking up one of these is one of the easiest ways you can toss a gift to a happy homebrewer!

#17 – AHA Membership

The American Homebrewers Association® is the premier organization for homebrewers all around the world. Members get access to special perks, such as:

  • Various member deals with AHA partners.
  • Subscription to Zymurgy magazine (digital or print).
  • Access to exclusive events (such as the coveted National Homebrew Convention, which you must be an AHA member in order to enter the biggest competition of the year).
  • Access to seminars, articles, recipes, and so much more to help you brew better beer!

Make gift giving easy on yourself and pick up a membership for your favorite homebrewer here.

#18 – PBW and Star San

Cleaning and sanitizing are to brewing like peanut butter and jelly are to bread. Ask any homebrewer and they will all say the same thing – they spend a LOT of time cleaning and sanitizing equipment.

It’s just a part of the process. That said, it doesn’t hurt to have a hefty stock of PBW (powered brewery wash) or Star San (sanitizer) hanging around.

If you ask me, a homebrewer can’t have enough of either. As long as it’s stored correctly, the shelf life of this stuff is quite long.

Get Star San and/or PBW for a homebrewer and they will be thanking you for life!

#19 – Storage Containers

Between ingredients and equipment, I utilize a lot of storage containers of all shapes and sizes. What I use depends specifically on what I am storing. For example:

  • If I am storing hops long-term, I use my vacuum sealer with sealer bags (usually a roll so I can cut my bags to size).
  • If I am storing grain, depending on volume, I use Vittles Vaults or standard plastic canisters with a twist-on lid.
  • If I am storing small parts or brewing additives, a variety of Glad containers usually fits the bill.

Storage containers, while not one of the most exciting gifts for homebrewers, is a practical one.

#20 – Digital Scale

At this point, you’re probably aware of all of the useful tools and equipment of a homebrewer, but we’re not done yet!

With hops, grain, priming sugar, brewing additives, and so much more requiring an accurate weight, a digital scale is a handy thing to have around.

I use my digital scale on a regular basis. From weighing my grain to be milled to splitting up my hop additions, I couldn’t make my beer without it.

It is, hands down, one of those no-brainer items a brewer has to have around.

If that weren’t good enough, the price of a decent one can be had for the cost of a cheap fast-food meal. I picked up mine on Amazon for around $11, and I haven’t regretted it one bit!

Here’s 10 More Fun Gifts That Homebrewers Will Love

#21 – Surprise Order of Hops

Hops are essential in beer. With so many to choose from, why not keep a few different varieties on hand?

Better yet, why not surprise a homebrewer with a couple bags of hops for a gift?

I personally use YakimaValleyHops.com for all of my bulk purchasing needs. Their prices are fair and shipping is reasonable.

Go check it out and tell ’em we sent you!

#22 – Beer Decor and Swag

Know a homebrewer who has their own brew station setup in their house (such as a specific room dedicated to brewing)? If so, consider grabbing them some cool stuff to spiff it up a bit.

#23 – Grain Mill

Any brewer thinking of buying grain in bulk is going to need a way to mill their grain. A grain mill is the perfect solution.

Depending on your budget, you can either go with a hand-crank corona mill (works great – better for smaller batches) or an actual grain mill that can be modified with a drill (to avoid operating by hand).

#24 – Muslin Bags

These bags are good to have around for extract brewers who want to utilize specialty grains. They also work well for holding hops (if dry-hopping) and keeping together additives added to the mash (such as pumpkin) in order to avoid a stuck mash.

#25 – Hop Spider

This nifty little tool hangs directly onto a boil kettle and minimizes the amount of hop particulate that’s behind after the boil. It’s design helps contain hops so beer finishes clearer while retaining most of the hop flavor and aroma.

I still have yet to use this, but I know of a lot of brewers who use it frequently and love it.

#26 – Immersion Wort Chiller

Typically a standard piece of a equipment for a serious homebrewer, the immersion wort chiller is an affordable way to rapidly cool down wort to near pitching temperatures.

Before I had a wort chiller, even my smaller batches (1.5 gallons) could take up to an hour to cool using the traditional “ice bath” (ice water in the sink). When my wort chiller did the job, the same batch size was cooled down to near pitch temps in roughly 5 minutes.

Talk about a major time saver!

If you’re looking for a gift that will keep on giving, this is the one!

#27 – Mash Paddle

From stirring up grain to gently swirling around fermented wort and priming sugar to let it blend together, a mash paddle is great for both.

Some people go as far as getting custom, one-of-a-kind mash paddles created. Others will settle for a simple plastic one. Regardless of what you decide, there is no right or wrong way to do it.

Here is a simple mash paddle that I use regularly. Does the trick and has worked just fine for me!

#28 – Quality Beer Glass Set

Every homebrewer needs a good set of glasses in stock. How else are they going to finish off the fruits of their labor?

With so many varieties to choose from, any type of beer glass will do.

One of my favorites is the beer can glass. It’s pretty unique and fun to have sitting around for the next brew that’s ready to be poured.

#29 – Brew Bag

Brew bags are made out of a fine nylon mesh and used for brewers who use the BIAB (Brew-In-A-Bag) method.

In other words, these bags make it easier for small batch brewers to get into all-grain with ease. It’s what I use for all of my small-batch brewing, and my beers have turned out great!

While there are many different sizes to choose from, I have found this one to be more of a universal size (and it’s inexpensive too).

#30 – Insulated Fermenter Cooling Jacket

Temperature control is crucial once beer starts fermenting. If you can control the temperature, you will significantly impact the finished product.

Fail to control temperature and well, it always doesn’t turn out like we all hope it would.

Fermenter cooling jackets are a neat way to help maintain fermentation temps. It works similar to what a lunchbox with ice packs would. Simply place your fermentation bucket in the jacket, insert an ice pack or two, then monitor as necessary.

It can be an investment, but for those not ready to convert a deep freezer into a fermentation chamber, it’s a great solution!

You’ve Got Options

I hope that through this list, you have been able to get some great ideas on what to buy as a gift for a homebrewer you know.

I know it’s quite large, but my goal was to give you all of the ideas and options I could think of. I also hoped that, as a homebrewer, you might find my recommendations worth it.

With that said, if you ever have any questions or want some more information on any of what you see above, feel free to reach out! Just head on over to the Contact Us page and drop me an email. I’d be more than happy to help!