Not all LHBS are created equal. That is probably obvious. Just recently I have stopped shopping at F.H. Steinbart’s and started shopping almost exclusively at Brew Bros. Why?
Hops Prices: they are still marked up at hop scare prices. Wasn’t that 3 or 4 years ago??? 3.99 or 4.99 for 2 oz? Are you kidding? You can get hops at half of that price at Brew Bros. or even less at other online retailers. Why would ANYONE pay 4 or 5 dollars for 2 oz. of hops? I have no idea. Even with paying the 5 dollar delivery fee for Brew Bros. to bring my stuff to Hopworks, I still save a significant amount of money.
Ordering: one time I saw online that they had Styrian Goldings. These of course are used primarily in Belgian ales and especially in Saisons. Great, I was about ready to brew a Saison. I ordered 2 oz. for pickup. When I went to pick up my order these hops were missing. They said they would be in later in the week. I called four times in the next month and a half, and finally they told me, “sorry, we can’t get these.” So they gave me a store credit. That’s fine, but disappointing as these hops are readily available at many places online. They’re not that hard to get. Northern Brewer, Midwest Supply, Label Peelers etc. What I think they actually meant is, we can’t make an 80% profit like we do on all of our other hops, so we will just give you a credit to buy the other overprices stuff we sell in the store.
Grind: The base malt grain mill is fantastic. You can set it at whatever crush you desire. The specialty malt mill is abysmal. 1/4 of your grain spits out the side onto the floor. And for whatever reason, overall I get MUCH better efficiency when I have Brew Bros. grind. I went from 65-68% to 73-75% doing NOTHING different than switching suppliers.
Selection: Honestly, Steinbart’s has a decent selection. But Brew Bros. is better. They have more malt varieties than anyone I’ve ever seen. A few times I have tried to get Castle Belgian Pils at Steinbart’s and they haven’t had it. This is a travesty for anyone trying to brew authentic Belgian beers, which I would assume are quite a few people.
The huge malt selection at Brew Bros. obviously begs the question, how fresh are these? I don’t know, but I’ve never gotten anything that’s been bad or created off-flavors. So far, so good. The other thing is that you don’t know what brand of malt you are buying at Steinbart’s. I’m sure you could ask, but that gets a little tedious. With Brew Bros. it’s nice to be able to know exactly what maltster you are buying from so you can easily duplicate your brew. Again, this isn’t that big of a deal, but I like to be able to know what I’m buying.
One thing I like about Steinbart’s is that their employees are knowledgeable and it’s fun to talk beer stuff. Obviously, ordering online at Brew Bros. can’t replace the face to face discussion about malts and process. I have nothing against F.H. Steinbart’s. I think they’re a decent home brew shop that the rest of the country would love to have. But in Portlandia where there are several to choose from, I think there are better and cheaper.
Brew Bros. – I now buy about everything here. Check out the malt selection. Tip of the cap to my friend Andy at Logos Brewing for giving me the heads up about this place.
Freshops – if you know what you’re going to brew for the next 6 months after hop harvest. I place a large order here every year. Home brew stores do the same thing. They buy at 1-2 dollars for 2 oz. and sell at 4 or 5. Don’t be fooled, you can place that order yourself and save a ton of money.
Label Peelers – if you need proprietary brands that everyone is out of like Amarillo or Simcoe.
Hops Direct – great if you love a particular kind of hop and want to buy a pound of it. Great prices.
Where do you shop?