Beer. One of the great things about the US is that homebrewing is legal. It kinda needs to be because the prohibition killed off so many American breweries, we’re still living in the aftermath where the beer with the biggest market share is not American at all (It’s owned by a Belgian-Brazilian* company) and also tastes like urine.
But once you start looking past Bud, you realize just how awesome American Microbreweries are. If you’re in SoCal, I highly recommend the Orange County Beer Festival in Silverado to sample the goods that people brew here. If you’re visiting, I recommend anything from Kona Brewing Co, most Sam Adams or a Shiner Bock.
Homebrewing is one of those things that are easy to pickup and start and then offer a lot of room to master it. I started out with a simple starter kit that contained almost everything I needed, except for a 5 gallon kettle and some bottles (5 gallon results in ~45 12oz bottles).
After checking your local laws, you start out by boiling the beer for an hour, putting in any special ingredients that come with the recipe kit and stirring a lot. If you have a lawn and an outdoor burner, awesome! A gas stove works well enough as well, just expect it to take longer, but the risk of nasty boilovers is lower.
After that, you need to chill it as quickly as possible. An ice bath works perfectly well for the start, although once you get serious I’d recommend a Wort Chiller.
You then move the chilled wort into a fermenting bucket, which can be a glass carboy or a plastic bucket. Make sure that stuff is sanitized (the starter kit comes with sanitizing solution).
This then goes into a cold, dark, quiet place for 2-4 weeks, depending on the recipe. Now you can take the time cleaning up the kettle and all equipment while you’re waiting…
After the fermentation is done, you fill the beer into a bottling bucket, together with some sugar (the recipe contains all the details). From there, you then fill the (sanitized) beer bottles one by one. This may be a bit messy as stuff will drip when you pull out the hose. Having another person helps, but isn’t required.
The kit comes with a bottle capper and caps, which is a quite fun part of the bottling process. If you want some awesome custom printed caps, Bottlemark sells them for 12 cents a cap. Might be a good investment for the future.
After you’ve bottled all ~45 bottles, it takes another week or two and you’re good to go! (These beers are bottle conditioned and there will be a small layer of (harmless) sediment at the bottom. It’s recommended to drink from a glass.
This process is a bit simplified, but not by much, I mainly left out sanitizing and siphoning stuff. Brewing beer from a recipe kit is a really simple process, but one that opens the door into a whole world of experimentation and good flavors. You can also grab a few 1 gallon kits to have several experimental brews in parallel. There is also a StackExchange site dedicated to Home Brewing.
The 21st Amendment to the US constitution was one of the most important decisions in the past hundred years, a true victory of democracy. Let’s not desecrate that by drinking Bud.
*Just to be clear, this is no stab against the countries Brazil or Belgium or their beer culture. Especially Belgium has an amazing culture of great beers like Stella Artois. I don’t know much about Brazilian beers, but people told me that Eisenbahn Weizenbier is awesome.
**Drink in moderation. Alcohol can be awesome (I’ll refer to Korpiklaani who said it better than I ever could), but it also has destroyed lives of people who grew too dependent on it. And seriously, if you drink and drive, you deserve to get into an accident that leaves you paralyzed for the rest of your life.
***I think it’s stupid that the legal drinking age in the USA is 21. I come from a country that legalizes Beer at 16 and even though there is still a lot of stupid drinking happening, Germans are known for having mastered social drinking. Ask anyone who’s ever been to a Hofbräuhaus.