With the 24th annual Big Brew coming up on May 1, it would be amiss if I didn’t share a bit with you about my favorite hobby — homebrewing.

Big Brew is the American Homebrewers Association’s way of celebrating National Homebrew Day, by having as many people around the world as possible commit to brewing on a single day, and when safe, celebrating the hobby together. As I write this column, folks from 46 different countries have committed to brewing a total of 11,179 gallons of beer this coming Saturday.

I’ve been homebrewing for 10 years now, and have enjoyed every minute of it. I first got into it because I loved craft beer, and the bottle shop I frequented in college also happened to sell homebrew supplies. I was buying beer from them so often that they suggested I try making my own — so I did! My first batch was utterly terrible, an attempt at a West Coast IPA that ultimately tasted like bitter, soggy cardboard. But I didn’t mind — I had so much fun making it I was instantly hooked.

Homebrewing has enriched my life in many was, and I know that is true for others as well. As it is my favorite hobby, I urge you to give it a try. Homebrewing is great because it’s affordable, you procure experience and knowledge, you gain a superb community of people, and of course — the beer!

One perk of homebrewing is that it is affordable — or at least can be. It’s very possible to brew beer for less money than you would pay for it at the store. This fact alone is what brings many people into the homebrewing fold, but many seasoned veterans with laugh at this notion — not because it isn’t true, but because when you get addicted to buying nicer equipment and tech toys, the price point definitely goes up. All this is to say that you don’t need the best of the best equipment, but boy is it fun to have it.

Another reason to homebrew is the valuable experience and knowledge. By understanding and physically doing each step in the beer making process, your appreciation and ability increases, making beer drinking even more enjoyable. This knowledge and experience can also help in building a brewing career — many professional brewers started as homebrewers. I credit my homebrewing knowledge for my employment at several breweries.

The camaraderie among the homebrewing community is invaluable. Whether you’re brewing with a buddy, cracking open a beer with a homebrew club, or simply walking into a homebrew supply store, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. There is a sense of warmth and fellowship the permeates the whole homebrewing world.

If you’ve never homebrewed before and all of this sounds up your alley, I beseech you to give it a try. Introductory homebrew kits come with easy directions that walk you through the process step by step. Visit your local homebrew supply store or reach out to a local homebrew club, and they will happily give you guidance. The internet is a great resource.

If you’re brewing your first batch or 50th batch, I would love to hear from you. Let me know how the process is going, or if you need any resources.

Amy Martin is a member of the North American Guild of Beer Writers and is on the Governing Committee of the American Homebrewers Association. She is marketing assistant and membership coordinator at Stormcloud Brewing Company in Frankfort. Reach Martin at polkadotsandpints@gmail.com.

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