Legend holds that the Egyptian god Osiris taught humans to brew beer. But it was then-President Jimmy Carter who in 1978 made it legal for Americans to concoct their own suds at home.
With the laws against home brewing--a holdover from Prohibition--swept away, the floodgates opened for a hobby that has grown rapidly over the past 17 years. According to various estimates, anywhere from 200,000 to 1 million Americans now brew their own beer.
Home brewing can be a cost-saver for drinkers who otherwise pay $6 or $7 for a six-pack of premium beer. The equipment and ingredients for two cases of home brew cost from $50 to $100, which translates to as little as 50 cents a bottle.
But home brewers must be willing to work.
Brewing Your Own Beer
Home brewing is like cooking a new dish. There are several steps involved and specific instructions.
1) BOILING PROCESS--The two-hour process involves measuring and adding grains at carefully timed intervals. The steamy wort --whether for a lager, porter or ale--must be stirred according to the recipe.
2) MALT EXTRACT--Next comes the malt extract. Aficionados make their own, steeping malt barley for hours in advance. However, prepared extract is available in stores.
3) BREWER'S YEAST--Brewer's yeast is added. The batch is cooled and poured into a large vessel for about two weeks of fermentation.
4) BOTTLING--Bottling consumes roughly an afternoon.
WHERE TO GET HELP
--Department stores and home-brewing shops offer kits that include equipment and pre-measured ingredients.
--Books: "The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing" by Charlie Papazian. And the American Homebrewers Assn. offers a free step-by-step manual.
--Do-it-yourself breweries such as the Hamilton Gregg Brewworks in Hermosa Beach. For about $100, Hamilton Gregg provides the necessary equipment, ingredients and advice.
There are 745 micro-brewers in the U.S., according to the American Homebrewers Assn. These small breweries and pubs operate in the gap between home tinkering and mass production. They often brew exotic beers, such as porters and stouts, in 7-, 15- and 20-barrel batches.
At the Anheuser-Busch plant in Van Nuys, a small army of employees do essentially the same work as home and micro-brewers. But they do it on a vastly larger scale. Millions of barrels of beer pass through giant kettles and stainless steel vats.
Sources: The American Homebrewers Assn. and Hamilton Gregg Brewworks.
Researched by DAVID WHARTON / Los Angeles Times