I started homebrewing during my university days. Like everyone else, I started with malt-extract kits. My first batch was alright. The next few batches got progressively worse for some reason. Or my taste got more refined. I stopped brewing after a while, because I wasn’t really liking the beer I was making. Store-bought beer was much better.

But then, last year, I was invited to help with a brewing session at my cousin Adrian’s place. Adrian’s roommate, Gavin, had a lot of experience with all-grain brewing, even won some contests. And Gavin had the extra equipment required. Aside from the all-grain mash, we also opted for a liquid yeast culture from Wyeast. We got an couple American IPA “Pro-mash” kits (including precrushed grains and hops) from Paddock Wood, based in Saskatoon. The results: fantastic beer! And I’m hooked again. (Sadly, Paddock Wood no longer sells brewing supplies or equipment. They’ve converted into a full-time microbrewery.)

Personally, I think the pure liquid yeast culture is the biggest factor in making beer I actually enjoyed drinking. It costs more, sure, but it’s worth it.

Since then, I’ve acquired or built all-grain brewing equipment of my own. I’m not done yet. I’m definitely in the “gadget-head” homebrewer category. Building the equipment is almost as much fun as brewing. Much of my equipment was home-built on the cheap. I rigorously documented the construction of most pieces with my digital camera. Here are the pieces I’ve built myself:

Equipment I’ve bought:

Future plans:

  • Three-tiered gravity brewing system.
  • Some distant day, maybe a RIMS. That’s a project a gadget-head can really get into!

18 responses to “Homebrewing”

  1. Hello Ron, firstly thanks for the excellent web pages about homebrewing! I just started brewing at home and the info is really good for a newbie. I would like to know where you are located since there are alot of refrences to southeren Ontario here and secondly if you would like a hand doing an all grain brew so you could show me how its done? I have been doing extract and want to start all grain but am a little leery. I live in Brantford, Ontario so if you are in the area let me know if you would be willing to show me the ways of all grain brewing.
    Thanks, Shawn.

  2. Ron,

    I’m trying to locate a few stainless steel kegs to convert over to a full grain brewing setup. Do you know where I could find some? I live in Burlington and would like to find a supply of old kegs form my system.

  3. I don’t know Burlington. I suggest you do what I did: let your fingers do the walking. Open the yellow pages and start calling metal recyclers.

    As I said on my “keg conversion” page, I got mine at Madison Steel in Kitchener. It’s not too long a drive from Burlington.

  4. Ron, thanks for all the information.

    Did you say that you’ve been brewing in Waterloo, Ontario?

    I am in Waterloo as well and I am curious as to what your thoughts on how suitable the water is here for homebrewing?

    So far I’ve just been using tap water that has gone through my household water softener. But I have been considering getting some sort of water filtration system for some time. Even just to filter out excess chlorine.

    What do you think?


  5. I haven’t brewed with tap-water in years. The last time I did was an extract brew, and it turned out ok. My friends in Guelph, though, have had very bad results with tap water. Too much chlorine. It may not taste that bad out of the tap, but when you brew, it reacts and forms chlorophenol compounds, which have very nasty chemically taste, even at low concentrations. Entire batches were dumped because of it.

    These days, they don’t even sanitize with bleach… they just use their tap-water!

    Personally, I’ve done all my recent brews with bottled spring water from Glenbriar on Frobisher Dr. Probably expensive, but I don’t homebrew because it’s cheap.

    I’ve heard there’s actually a public spring-water tap somewhere on Hwy 6, where you can get water straight from the spring. Probably in Aberfoyle, since there’s a bottling plant there. Untreated, of course. Not even so much as filtered. So I guess it would be taking a little bit of risk with it. But no more than our ancestors took. I’ve been tempted to try it.

  6. Hey Ron, you’ve really got some great stuff up here. Its all stuff that is doable by anyone who is even modestly handy.

    I’ve brewed in the past with those kits and have had varying results. The brewing I’ve seen you talking about sounds far more involved. Just curious weather you have some sort of “How To Guide”. Something that you may have put out for someone new to the game like me?

  7. Hey brewers:
    I did my only mash homebrew in pittsberg a bunch of years back. I was a guest of my brother in law, but had studied brewing at work at a local microbrewery and homebrewing from library books. Together that day we made a 100% malt mash brew and hopped generously from start to finish with cascade plugs and flowers. When my samples arrived I devoured them at one sitting they were so tasty.
    I have also had success with on premise brewing using distilled water. This is also reccomended in my home brewers bible. In 2009 I want to aquire/make equipment for a 50L batch of mash brewing.I live in Guelph andam looking to link up with serious brewers.

  8. I’m just starting to learn about homebrewing and need to find a good supplier of equipment and ingredients. Now that Paddock Wood is no longer selling online, where do you guys suggest buying equipment online in Canada or even in you’re own local. Piper, looks like you’re in the KW area, I’m in Burlington so not that far away.

  9. There aren’t any really good suppliers in Canada that I know of. I mean, nothing that can remotely compare to US suppliers like Northern Brewer or Austin Homebrew Supply.

    If you want malt in large quantities (your base malts), you can get it in 25kg bags at Gilbertson & Page in Fergus. They’re quite economical, in quantity.

    For smaller quantities of specialty malts and liquid yeast for my last batch I used Homebrewer’s Retail (http://www.homebrewersretail.com), which is an online store, shipping from Whitby, ON. He was good to deal with.

    There used to be a Canadian Homebrewing Supplies, but the web-site appears to be defunct now.

    Canada just doesn’t seem to be able to support a decent homebrewing supply shop. But dealing with the US shops is a minefield, because of the borderline criminal “brokerage” fees charged by the couriers to bring anything into Canada. The only shops you can safely deal with are ones that will ship by US Postal Service. Couriers like UPS/Fed Ex must be avoided like the plague.

  10. Ron there is a spring with nice water in New Dundee. If you are interested give me a call. 519 696 3358. Bruce

  11. I buy yeast, hops and extract from BrewTime in Hamilton…they likely sell grains too and will order in specialty yeast. Nice people. I used to travel to Michigan often and I would go to either Adventures in Homebrewing in Taylor or WineBarrel in Livonia. I would buy 50kg bags of Briess 2-row for around $50. I would be interested to talk to any serious homebrewers in the area..I live in Brantford.

  12. I would recommend the Southern Ontario Brewers email list. They have been doing group buys for various supplies, and there are some great deals to be had.

    There was recently a grain group buy, that ended up being 160 55lb bags in total. Due to the size or the order, pricing was incredible. 55lb bag of Marris Otter was $34, and canadian 2-row was about $24.

    Pricing on a group buy of hops worked out to about $14/lb.


    There is also some homebrewers on the KW beer forum at:


    and a group just started meeting:


  13. I like to brew dark beer. When ready, I bottle it in 2 liter coke bottles. Keep it in the fridge for those hot days. Don’t drink a lot, so after about three days the CO2 is gone, and the stuff tastes like british beer. Still very good.

  14. Hello,
    Is it possible to buy one of the beer kegs from you?
    Thanks so much for your posting.

  15. Hello. I’m also in Waterloo and considering brewing my own beer. I have hops growing in front of my house and luckily am a fan of Pilsener! I cannot thank you enough for the resources that I have already found on your blog. So, thanks… I will be back… Scott

  16. Great site Ron! Lots of good information for home brewers and brewing supplies. In case anyone is still interested about Waterloo water… I have brewed many batches in Waterloo and found there to be no issues. Generally if I like to drink the water from the tap it’s good enough to brew with. Then again, I do not get too technical with water formulations, other brewers who do may have a better take on water in the area. Keep up the good blogging!

  17. Love the site Ron. Seems much has changed over the years for the better in Canada! There is the store in Brampton that carries Canadianhomebrewsupplies now. One called http://www.ontariobeerkegs.com that is not only a homebrew supplier but a kegerator conversion store. That one is easily the best priced store in Canada. One in Chalk river called Beergrains and a few in Toronto.

    Good time to be a homebrewer!

    • Ontario Beer Kegs does look good. They list a few of the more esoteric items I ordered from the US not long ago, such as a flexible CO2 hose for the high-pressure side (my regulators are wall-mounted.)

      Still, no liquid yeasts. Who in Canada has liquid yeast?

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