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Brew Your Own Beer: Our Beer Writer Does

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- If we're going to keep up this coverage of the beer industry -- craft beer or otherwise -- it's probably a good idea for someone at this publication to brew a batch or so of their own beer.

Consumers do not have to be brewers to know what they like in a beer, where they like to enjoy one, how they feel about being marketed to by breweries and what influences their decision in the bar or beer aisle. Still, it helps to know the process behind that beer, the cost involved and how much value you're getting out of each beer.

That was at least some of the thinking that went into our first batch: A five-gallon stash of milk stout that's carbonating as you read this. It was all done on a starter kit cobbled together by my wife and father-in-law for Christmas and despite my initial fears -- that a misstep would contaminate the batch, that my measurements were off, that using the kitchen stove instead of a dedicated high-output burner had botched the process -- the first sips are making me wish the next few weeks of carbonation would end already.

The big takeaway from the first batch is the reinforcement of my already profound respect for brewers. The end result is fun and tasty, but the journey toward that finished batch is tough. I'm going to spare you the step-by-step tedium, but just to let you know, there's a whole lot of patience involved. My first beer is a clone of Longmont, Colo.-based Left Hand Brewing's flagship Milk Stout pulled from the pages of the Clone Brews beer recipe book written by Tess and Mark Szamatulski. When we spoke with Tess Szamatulski for a homebrewing story a few years back, she noted that she and her husband had a much easier time drawing customers into their Maltose Express homebrew shop in Milton, Conn., when they could provide recipes of brand-name beers they already loved.

Considering how much beer you end up with after even a small pilot batch like ours, it pays to really enjoy it. Just realize that much of your brewing process is going to be taken up by the following:

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