Do it yourself: Be your own brew master

Beer lovers rejoice. There’s a way to have a beer at the end of a long day without compromising quality or price. Instead of buying a beer by the bottle or by the case, try brewing it yourself.

Ames has everything you need to become your own brew master. Not only can you get your own starter kits right in town, but you can also get advice from some of Ames’ home brewers.

Twice a month, the Ames Brewers League meets to discuss brewing-related topics to share home mixes. The league’s goal is to educate the Ames community about enjoying beer and brewing it at home.

“We have a wide number of members with different skill levels,” said Mike Young, webmaster of the Ames Brewers League.

He said you can learn more from attending one meeting than you would reading books or researching the topic online.

Young said the league can help new brewers learn everything they need to know about home brewing, from where to get supplies to how to brew a better beer.

Young said Ames has everything you need to brew your own beer. Chester’s Coins & Gifts, 221 Main St., sells both beer brewing starter kits and ingredients kits.

“The starter kit is like your cake pan and the ingredients kit is like your cake mix,” said Scott Nichols, owner of Chester’s.

Young estimates it will cost between $100 and $150 to get started with the hobby. But once people pay the upfront costs of purchasing the correct equipment, brewing beer becomes a lot cheaper.

Young said he can make a five gallon batch of beer for about $15.

“That’s about 50 beers,” he said. “If you’re really into beer, it makes sense to make it yourself.”

At Chester’s, you can purchase brewing starter kits for $69 and ingredients kits for $40. Nichols said he personally used the kit when he first started selling the products.

“I wanted to know how it works,” he said. “You don’t have to be an expert to make pretty good beer. You just have to follow directions.”

One ingredient kit makes about two cases of beer, Nichols said. While home brewing might not be less expensive than buying a case of Bud Light or Natural Ice, Nichols said the beer you brew at home will be of higher quality.
“It’s cheaper than buying an equal quality beer,” he said.
He estimated that the ingredients kit makes a quality of beer that equals the beer you can buy for $8 to $10 a six-pack.

Chester’s has been carrying beer brewing products for about seven years. During those years, Nichols said that the store has a regular traffic of customers who purchase his brewing kits. Of those customers, he estimated that between 20 to 25 percent are college students.

Brewing your own beer does involve some patience though. Nichols said the process can take between two to four weeks.

People that are interested in home brewing should consider attending one of the upcoming Ames Brewers League meetings. The league can be a great resource for new or professional home brewers. More information about the Ames Brewers League is available on its website,, or on its Facebook page.

If you’re ready to jump in, stop into Chester’s. Nichols said he can help people get started with the basics.

Not a beer drinker?
If beer isn’t your cup of tea, Chester’s Coins & Gifts sells wine making equipment and kits, too. Nichols said the process for making wine is easier, but it also takes more patience. With wine you have to allow time for fermentation, then bottle your product and finally allow it to mature. Nichols said the entire process will take several months.