First, a brewing pot or kettle is where you brewing begins. This doesn't have to be huge and you may already own something you can use. A 16 quart stock pot will work just fine if you're working on a stovetop. A 16 quart pot will have a working volume of about 3.5 gallons at the most - "but wait" you say, "I'm making 5 gallons of beer!" Your brew on a stovetop will create a concentrated version of the finished beer that you'll top up to 5 gallons once you get it into the fermenter. This is an extremely common way to brew. It's where nearly everyone starts and many people brew like this for years and years. If you have the option to use a propane burner and work outside, go for it. If you have a burner and pot that you use for crawfish boils, frying turkey, etc, you're ahead of the game! Make sure your kettle is stainless steel and not aluminum - aluminum (which is reactive to the lower pH of a brewing beer) is dull and often has a brushed appearance, stainless steel will be shiny. A propane burner will let you get to a boil more quickly and you won't worry about making a mess in the kitchen. One caveat, a larger boil volume becomes more work to cool so you might still want your first brew to be in the kitchen while you become accustomed to the process. You'll also have more work cooling a larger kettle which makes a wort chiller a very practical purchase.
Second, there's some essential gear that is necessary and then some little things that just make the whole process easier. We offer an all-in-one starter kit that has everything to get you off on the right foot. Are there cheaper kits out there? Sure, but frustration is not an ingredient that you want in your first couple of batches of beer. For 2 stage fermentation, which is recommended for the best results, our kit comes with a 6.5 gallon bucket, a carboy, plus all of the tools to care for your beer until it gets to the bottle - a hydrometer, thermometers, a long spoon, siphon, thieft/test jar, bottle brush, capper, bottle filler, and plenty of sanitizer.
Finally, this should be fun! Homebrewers everywhere know the name Charlie Papazian. He taught us to "relax, don't worry, have a homebrew!" This is likely a new hobby for you with unfamiliar processes, new gear, and new terminology, and it can be a little intimidating sometimes. But seriously, relax. Fermentation is a natural process and we're just steering it along the path where we want it to go with our ingredients and processes. Cleaning and sanitizing are the most important things you can do to ensure a good beer. Without those two nothing else matters, but those aren't difficult so embrace them from day one. Then you can go on to explore the huge range of malts, hops, and yeasts that you'll be using for years to come, brewing beers that you haven't even heard of yet. You can do this.
I get it. You've been looking into the costs to get started and since you aren't sure that you're going to enjoy this you're a little hesitant to pull the trigger and brew 5 gallons. Here's why you should: The one gallon kits sold in department stores and malls around the holidays might look like a fun gift and a cheaper way to try out brewing, but there are hidden costs with these kits. First, it's just as much work to brew one gallon as it is to brew 5 gallons - at the end of a month you'll probably want to have more than 8-10 bottles of beer to enjoy and share with friends and family, but that's all you'll have. Second, there's no wiggle room for errors. The fermentation temperature is hard to hold steady in a smaller volume than it is in a larger volume. Daily and nightly swings become a significant hazard. And should you have a blowoff where a vigorous fermentation causes you to lose some beer through an airlock or blowoff tube, well, you don't have much to spare. Third, when it comes to having beer to spare, you don't have the volume to pull samples for performing a gravity test during or at the end of your brew prior to bottling. Floating a hydrometer requires a sample large enough to fill a test jar at least a third of the way, and that's a good portion of your one gallon batch. Fourth, bottling your beer from a one gallon jug takes some real practice to develop a process that keeps you from spilling and/or getting frustrated. One of the biggest barriers to your brewing hobby is frustration with a process and that's exactly what I'm trying to eliminate. Finally, let's assume that you pull off the one gallon kit, you love it, and you want to scale up. Almost none of the gear from that one gallon equipment will be useful in brewing 5 gallons - you'll have to start again and get everything new apart from the smallest, cheapest things like airlocks. That's not saving money! Oh and if you're worried that the 5 gallon batch will end up being something that you won't like? Well, that's where I or another experienced brewer can come in. I won't let you get a recipe that's too big or complicated when you're just getting started and we'll make sure that it's a beer style that you already like. Stout, porter, pale ale, hefeweizen, IPA, and sour ale are all things you can brew along with just about anything else you can imagine.
Let's get going! Because beer doesn't brew itself!