PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Does someone on your holiday gift list want to brew beer at home, but seems way too into it for one of those plastic-jug-and-packets kits at the local discount shop? Don't worry, their newfound homebrewing habit won't bankrupt you.Little more than a decade ago, home beer brewing was a niche that required a whole lot of research and an equal amount of money. The American Homebrewers Association had a little less than 8,500 members, down by nearly 10,000 from a decade before -- after the microbrew boom of the 1990s went bust. This year, the association added its 30,000th member, saw homebrew spending increase by almost 20% and saw four out of every brewery supply shops in the U.S. sell more beginners' kits than the year before.
Just about every brewing supply shop will have a kit like this, but few are put together by the folks whose book you'll need to make your first attempt at a Lagunitas IPA or even a Heineken lager. We've recommended this particular kit before and Tess and Mark Szamatulski, owners of the Maltose Express brewing supply shop in Monroe, Conn., are a big reason why. They put this $110 kit together themselves and packed it with a primary 7.8-gallon plastic fermenter with a drilled and grommeted lid, a secondary stage five-gallon glass carboy, airlock and stopper, racking cane, five feet of flexible tubing, bottle filler, capper, caps, sanitizer, hydrometer, floating thermometer, bottle brush and two books. The first volume is Byron Burch's how-to guide Brewing Quality Beers (which can be replaced with Charlie Papazian's Joy of Homebrewing) and the second is the Szamatulskis' taste-alike recipe book Clone Brews. You're on your own for ingredients, through the Szamatulskis offer kits of ingredients for their cloned beer recipes. The kits of malt, hops, grains, yeast or malt extracts for beginners range from $36 for a clone of Lone Star lager to $98 for Dominion Millenium barleywine. The brewing kit and the kits of ingredients are pretty middle-of-the-road price-wise, but are still a tough investment if your brewer doesn't have a lot of time or spice. If that's the case, may we suggest: