Ben Franklin is often misquoted as saying, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." While there's no evidence he actually said those words, the sentiment rings true for millions of beer drinkers. And for those in Bel Air, AleCraft's new storefront on North Bond Street is great news.
A paradise for home-brewers, AleCraft opened a storefront on Office Street in September 2013 before moving to larger quarters on Bond Street this month. The expanded store has an indoor brewing setup and sells everything needed to brew your own beer.
"We'd been home-brewing for seven or eight years, and in 2010 we started growing our own hops," says Brad Streett, who co-owns AleCraft with his wife, Eryn.
From growing their own ingredients, the couple developed the idea of opening a shop to help other home-brewers in the area.
Customers include folks like Phillip Rhudy, who's planning to open the Independent Brewing Co., a brewery and taproom to be located in Bel Air.
"They stock a great selection of quality merchandise," Rhudy says of the Streetts.
Brad and Eryn Streett believe two main trends are responsible for driving the popularity of home-brewing.
"Craft beer is becoming more and more popular," says Brad. "But as a result, it's also getting more expensive to buy. Brewing your own is cheaper."
Eryn adds that the popularity of the do-it-yourself movement is also a factor. "People want to grow their own food and make their own cheese and their own soap," she says. "Why not make their own beer, too?"
Sometimes folks are put off by fears that the process is expensive and time-consuming, but the Streetts can reassure newcomers on both counts. Beginner beermaking kits start at $78.
And what about the time involved?
"From brewing to bottling only takes about five weeks," Brad says, adding that most of that is the time it takes for the product to cool and age.
In addition to starter kits, the store offers packages that allow customers to create their own unique beer varieties.
"If there's a particular craft beer someone wants," says Eryn, "we can put together the ingredients to help them clone that flavor at home."
AleCraft features free brewing classes every month, and private lessons can be scheduled for a fee. The store even stocks a variety of other do-it-yourself kits and supplies for those interested in making their own hard cider, wine or cheese.
"The Streetts are great people," says Rhudy. "They are very accomplished home-brewers, and the shop is a great addition to Harford County."