Thanks to the explosive craft beer revolution of the past decade, there are more options on store shelves than ever before. Gone are the days of being limited to mass-produced domestic beers like Budweiser and Miller Lite.
But even though there’s more freedom of choice in beer than ever before, there still prevails a dedicated homebrew scene. The city also has a homebrewing headquarters of its own: Capital City Homebrew Supply.
Capital City Homebrew Supply is a shop where one can find just about everything they need to get into the world of homebrewing. Its customer base ranges from clueless newbs to old pros who have gone through countless batches. You can walk in empty-handed and walk out with enough supplies to turn your garage into a nanobrewery.
Owner and manager Todd Branstner took an interest in homebrewing himself after visiting a friend’s family in Birmingham, England.
“His uncle brewed beer. It wasn’t much. It was a can of hopped malt extract, some sugar and some yeast — which gives you something alcoholic that tastes sort of like beer. But we liked it,” Branstner said.
Branster returned to the United States with a can of extract and began his path toward becoming an underground brewmaster. As a Michigan State University student in the late-80s and early-90s, Branstner was dealing with a marketplace that wasn’t too kind to people with sophisticated taste in beer. Homebrewing was something of a necessity, he explained.
“I liked the ability to experiment. Back in those days, there wasn’t a lot of beer available that was different. It was all yellow and fizzy. That’s just what beer was,” Branstner said. “With homebrewing, you could make anything you wanted. You could make a stout, a red ale, or you could make German and English styles.”
Branstner eventually used his savings from working retail jobs to open Capital City Homebrew Supply. As a homebrewer, Branstner said the best part of running his own shop is helping people get started with their own homebrew operations, and learning new homebrewing techniques from clever customers that he can try out for himself.
“You learn from your customers. If you’ve got the right mindset, you can digest all of the information they give you and pass it down to other people as questions are asked of you,” he said.
Greg Harris, a regular customer at Capital City Homebrew Supply, enjoys homebrewing due to its industrious DIY spirit. And, of course, getting to enjoy a delicious alcoholic beverage doesn’t hurt either.
“I like the challenge of it, being able to create something yourself that you enjoy. If you’re going to have a hobby, it might as well be a hobby where you get to drink the product at the end,” Harris said.
A beginner’s homebrewing kit for an extract beer costs around $150 and includes malt extract, hops and specialty grains. The process of combining these ingredients, boiling them, adding yeast and bottling the resulting brew to be enjoyed takes a few weeks.
At its very core, Branstner likens basic homebrewing to cooking. He’s also happy to help anybody who visits his shop with questions on how to get started.
“If you know how to cook, that’s helpful. What we’re really doing is just stirring a pot, adding ingredients, mixing them together and watching it,” Branstner said. “If you’ve got the interest and homebrewing sounds like a fun thing to do, give it a try.”