I have to preface this post by noting that the first homebrew shop I ever visited is the gold standard. George and Nancy at Homesweet Homebrew in Philadelphia are amazing. They’ve been in the business for a long time and have been very influential for a lot of brewers in the area. They run the area homebrewers’ association meetings, organize homebrew events at Philly Beer Week, and write for the Midatlantic Brew News. George and Nancy are both pros at helping put together a recipe.
I’ll admit that when we rolled up to the shop, up on Military and Sheridan a few miles north of center city, I wasn’t expecting too much. My most recent homebrew shop experiences have been at Beers of the World and Sunset Hydroponics and Homebrew. While it’s great that they both have homebrew gear the former is really a bottle shop and the latter a hydroponics shop. Employees at both were stumped by questions about recipes and yeasts. I thought Homesweet Homebrew was maybe an anomaly-a homebrew shop where the owners were longtime brewers- and I’d have to resort to forums. That changed instantly when we walked in the door and saw a shop chock-full of ingredients and gear and an awesome employee helped us put together what promises to be a sick APA recipe.
Like a good homebrew shop Niagara Traditions has supplies for making wine and soda. But seeing a full fruit/wine press in the window was pretty cool. Maybe someday I’ll find one of those myself and use it to press some apples for hard cider. I’ve also never seen a complex stainless steel funnelled homebrew setup just chilling in a shop before. It was about $1100 I think, which is about $1000 over my budget but hey, a guy can dream. The shop had a great variety of grains pre-bagged in all different quantities. They had a nice variety of spices and extracts, a lot of fun kegging gear, carboys, and pretty much everything a homebrewer could want.
After poking around the shop we asked Burt to help us with a recipe. He spent a good amount of time talking us through things. We picked out our grains carefully, adding some light and dark crystal for body, we got some high AA hops and are going to use some whole-leaf Sorachi for our first dry-hop. He asked us what we wanted our ABV at, easily guesstimating that we had 4-5% currently, and added in some Briess DME and liquid extract when we told him 8-9%. Burt knew the taste and aroma characteristics of malts, yeasts and hops off the top of his head and, according to him, he is just one of the clan of homebrewers that work at the shop.
Niagara Traditions used to be based in Niagara Falls but moved down to Buffalo to better be able to serve their customers from around the state. They do a very busy mail-order business but you’re going to have to have some patience until their website is back up. In the meantime you can always call them and I’m sure they’ll be able to walk you through a recipe or help you out with equipment.
Take your time at the shop though or you’ll miss things. I almost missed the Whirlfloc. 😀