Northern Brewer brew kettles

Yes, you can use your existing pots to brew your beer, but that can not only take its toll on the cookware but get really messy if your stockpot isn't quite the right size.

While you can find brewing pots and stock pots on Amazon ( AMZN) or even in a local homebrew supply store, it can get a bit dizzying if you don't know exactly what you're looking for. First off, a new homebrewer making five-gallon batches is going to learn quickly that a five gallon pot won't make much other than a mess. Secondly, a homebrewer just starting out can get by without the built-in theremometers, spigots and other items that tend to drive up the price of something like this.

For a new brewer, a 7.5-gallon kettle will do. It's small enough that it can be put to work on a stovetop without getting in the way and big enough to accommodate a new brewer once he or she moves on from starter kits to all-grain recipes and from the stove to a high-powered propane burner. Should your brewer's needs change down the road, Minnesota- and Wisconsin-based Northern Brewer can show something in a 10.5-gallon spigoted kettle or a $400-plus 10- to 55-gallon kettle with an "autosparger" that trickles water through your grain so you don't have to.

Portland Growler Co. growlers

Once your brewer's made a batch or two and starts meeting other brewers, it's going to be time to share.

For homebrewers or even craft beer lovers in general, that usually means growlers: 32- to 64-ounce resealable jugs for your beer-toting pleasure. Now there are schools of thought on growlers that are about as diverse as the craft beer community itself. One brand of drinker won't spend an extra dime beyond the $5 to $7 most breweries or bars charge for a glass-handled growler with a screwtop. Another disdains such barbarism and will part with about $35 for a jug with an ornamental metal handle, Grolsch-style porcelain flip-top and rubber gasket to keep beer as cold and fresh as possible.

The last group wants a growler that stands out, but feels bad shelling out more cash just for aesthetics. That's where the holiday season comes in handy and when earthenware growlers such as those sold by Portland Growler become a great gift option. Made by a group of Portland-based designers and ceramicists with locally sourced clay (no, this isn't a Portlandia tie-in), Portland growlers come in two sizes (32- and 64-ounce), four colors and three styles -- including one with a handle shaped like a bike sprocket.

Homebrewing gets awfully serious and expensive for a hobby that produces beer. At least the container carrying that beer can be as fun as the product itself.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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