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Letter from Colorado
By JoAnne Carilli

In the last few months I have spent much of my time (which has been quite enjoyable I might add) speaking and visiting local homebrew supply shops. The topic of kits is one that continues to come up in these discussions.

Local shops are not just offering advice and brewing recipes to their customers. They are making it easy for them to try new styles through their own private-label kits, which constitute a considerable percentage of sales at many shops. The kits include the recipe along with the ingredients (malts, hops, liquid yeast, grains). One shop I visited, Beer at Home in Englewood, Co., has a section of its store dedicated to displaying their kits. A customer can choose from at least eight different beer styles including a monthly special. These kits are a great service for customers because they expose them to new styles they might never try.

But perhaps more importantly, ingredient kits, along with equipment starter sets, provide a beginning brewer with all they need to get started. Here are some reasons why kits are good for both beginning and advanced homebrewers, and how White Labs can assist shops with kit development:

— For beginners: Many extract kits provide great detail on how to make beer, and lay the groundwork for a great-tasting product. Thus, they make it easy on the beginning homebrewer by offering things such as extract hops and malt, but make no concessions when it comes to yeast. Start them out with liquid yeast because it is simple to use and could vastly improve the flavor of their beer and the chances that they will brew again.

— The next step: Our yeast strain posters, available free to homebrew shops, provide details about each yeast strain and which beer styles they can be used for. So, if a beginning homebrewer does not request otherwise, the shop owner can match them with the perfect yeast strain. Or, if the beginning or experienced homebrewer wishes to experiment, the shop owner can point them to the poster and have the customer pick which one he or she thinks best matches their taste buds. For instance, when consulting the chart the customer will notice that when making an extra special bitter, both English Ale Yeast and Irish Ale Yeast have the highest number of stars. They can then base their decision on the various differences in the strains. In addition to the chart, White Labs also provides extract kit labels. These provide an additional means to suggest appropriate liquid yeast styles. To order yours, call us at 1-888-5-Yeast-5.

— Going the extra mile: When putting together kits, one thing to keep in mind is that you want to provide an occasional breath of fresh air. We can help you do this through our Platinum Strain program. As many shops know, every two months we release two unique homebrewing strains, called Platinum strains. Thus, during those two months shops can offer kits that feature these strains (we do have recipes for each platinum strain if you do not want to create your own). You might want to make a Platinum strain kit for the entire year that will work with various yeast strains so that homebrewers can learn to truly appreciate the differences between yeast strains. We’ll be happy to discuss with shops the ways they can alter their kit recipes to take optimum advantage of the Platinum program.

We’d like to hear your comments about how we could improve your brewing kits. You can call me with your comments at 1-888-5-yeast-5 or write me at joanne@whitelabs.com.

JoAnne Carilli is brewery products manager in White Labs’ Colorado office.