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Weekly Alibi Homebrewing on the WWW

By Devin D. O'Leary

APRIL 13, 1998:  I'm really more of a cocktail man myself, but I've been known to partake in a tasty microbrew or two. Lately it seems more and more of my friends have become interested in the art of homebrewing. Brewpubs, meanwhile, are popping up faster than Starbucks coffeehouses. In the last five years, brewing your own beer has grown from fad to lingering trend. Like all hobbies, though, there are tons of minutia to sift through. In searching the Web for beer-brewing tips, I was greeted with a mind-boggling flood of excellent, fact-packed home pages. Suffice it to say that if you're into homebrewing and surfing the Web, you've got a match made in Heaven. Here are just a few of the more helpful homebrew sites.

The Brewery (hbd.org/brewery/index.html)--Here's a great place to start. You could spend weeks poring over the information shoehorned into this simple site. Start off on the index page, and you've got access to a score of different subpages. Check out Cat's Meow for groovy new beer recipes. Check out the Beer Criticism page for tips on the best microbrews. Download some free beer-brewing software. How about some clip art for your homebrew newsletter? Need a list of homebrew suppliers? Holy Cow! This site has got it all. The library of online texts is simply massive. A subject catalog divides the library into easy-to-browse sections. There are a dozen articles for first-time brewers and hundreds of specialized articles detailing everything from "wort preparation" to "sparge apparatus" (neither of which, I must admit, makes me thirsty for a tall cold one).

Association of Brewers (www.beertown.org)--Here's a bunch of fellows who really know how to come up with a site name. Seems like every brewing group in America is tied in with this hefty Web site. Punch up the main page, and you'll be greeted with a cheerful cartoon drawing of a beer-fueled town square. Each building represents a different page. Go to the library, for example, to check out books (from classics to new releases) on the craft of beer brewing. If you find something you like, you can purchase it right off the Web. Though there is less educational material posted here than at The Brewery, this is the place to go for homebrewing news. The American Homebrewing Association, The Institute for Brewing Studies, the Great American Beer Festival and others post their (weekly or monthly) newsletters here for convenient access. Find out about all the hot beer-related events going on across the country (from tastings to brewery openings to homebrew contests) in one easy stop.

Skotrat's Brew-Rat-Chat Homebrew Chat (miso.wwa.com/~skotrat/Brew-Rat-Chat/)--If you're really into making suds in your basement and feel like sharing your knowledge (or lack thereof) with other home brewmeisters, then drop in on Skotrat's groovy little gathering. This chat room site was designed so that "homebrewers would have a place on the net where they could get together and talk about homebrewing 24 hours a day, seven days a week." All you have to do is choose an online name and an icon (you've got several mug and bottle images to choose from) and you're ready to engage in drunken, digital conversation with folks from around the world. Got a question about brewing that you just can't seem to get answered? This is the place to go. Every day at 10 p.m., Brew-Rat-Chat hosts a different expert-mediated forum. On Monday, the topic is Extract. On Tuesday, it's Ale. Wednesday brings Lager. Thursday is Belgian Lager day. Friday is the All-Grain Forum. Saturday, it's Q&A. And on Sunday, you can look forward to the Beginner's Forum.

Brew Labels (www.speakeasy.org/~winepage/brewlabels)--Once you've actually gotten your beer brewed, I suppose the next step is creating your own personal label. This small site offer a nice jolt of inspiration. In addition to a gallery of their own beer labels, there's also a collection of homebrew labels from around the world (from Fish Oil Ale to Buzzard's Breath Lager). If you wanna make your own labels, there's a nice tutorial article (covering materials, design, adhesives, the whole nine yards). A list of links to other beer-related sites also comes in handy. Now all that's left is to drink the stuff!

--Devin D. O'Leary


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