Another one we've recommended before but, frankly, until someone comes up with a better solution for the apartment brewer, this is the best on the market. The Brooklyn Brew Shop homebrew kit was put together by Erica Shea and Stephen Valand after Shea found a vintage fermenter in her dad's basement and began brewing. After a beer tour of Europe, the two deduced that all they needed to brew a decent beer in their small Brooklyn apartment was a one-gallon fermenter, an air lock, a screw-top stopper, thermometer, plastic tubing, a clamp, a racking cane, some sanitizer and a kit full of ingredients. They demonstrated their brewing system at the Brooklyn Flea before selling equipment-and-ingredient kits to the public for $40 apiece. Though the little system still requires boiling your mash, sparge water and wort and finding bottles for the finished product, its creators guide users the whole way through with written and video instructions, a recipe book and a blog of formulas and pairings. It's not only a sound, sturdy set, but it also includes holiday starter kits such as Coffee & Donut Stout, Chocolate Maple Porter and Chestnut Brown Ale. As the seasons progress, $15 seasonal refill packs offered throughout the year have featured varieties such as Everyday IPA, Rye PA and Jalapeno Saison. KegWorks keg kits
Know what's awesome about bottling your own beer? Nothing. You spend a whole lot of time sterilizing equipment and bottles, a whole lot of energy filling them all to the right levels, even more time capping them and then, if you're lucky, a few weeks later your beer won't come out a flat, lifeless version of its former self. If the novice homebrewer on your list has already braved the fires of this minor hell, it might be time to get him or her a keg. The standard five-gallon homebrew keg is basically a movie theater or restaurant soda keg given a higher purpose. For between $50 and $60 (in KegWorks' case $60), you can give your brewers the ability to pour themselves a pint at a time while maintaining consistent carbonation and pressure. A CO2 kit for the fridge will run you $140 to $160, while a portable homebrew dispensing kit for tapping your keg on the go sells for $60. Oh, and when the kegging experiments get a little overzealous, Buffalo, N.Y.-based KegWorks has a Draft Beer 911 section for just such emergencies.