Your Beer vs. Commercial Beer

Continuing the discussion from Sip of Sunshine in Hartford Area?:

Using the ‘Reply as Linked Topic’ function so I can derail the thread all I want!

I honestly makes me sad/frustrated when homebrewers do not believe their beer can be as good as commercial beer. As soon as I tasted my first ever extract/kit batch, this was my goal. Not just to have stuff around that I made that would give someone a buzz, but make beer equivalent to the stuff people take road trips for.

You don’t have a big head in saying that. If you think it is true, then good-on-ya (and more so if others with decent palettes have agreed). I have friends who take trips to Vermont (from Western NY: +/- 7 hours) partially for a weekend getaway but also to BUY Heady/Sip/Hill/Foley/Etc. Our beer is real real close to it, if not as good. So yes, I will spend 6 hours heating/mashing/lifting/cleaning our 1/2 bbl system, but I will have beer that can take the Pepsi challenge with road trip beer any day.

Never settle! Continuously improve your beer until it gets to this point!

I will say, unless one is making Belgian-inspired beers, kegging and temp control were two of the biggest system upgrades that got me on this path.

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BINGO! Plus with your 1/2bbl system you have ~175 beers rather than a a 12 pack that cost $30!

Pietro I suspect that people who don’t feel that their beer is as good don’t have the same passion as individuals like us. Some may lack the desire, some the funds (for temp control, process control, etc). I understand that not everyone takes it as seriously as I (and many others) but I’m very disappointed when I have a beer that doesn’t turn out well and vow to do better next time, no matter the costs.

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The one problem I do have with reading forums where many people regularly talk about how their homebrew is better than commercial is that it can be kind of discouraging for new brewers. My first couple of beers were drinkable, but probably only because of the novelty of “I made it.” After a few more batches, I got stuff that was good. Good enough to compare to commercial, but not beat road-trip whales. I still make the occasional dog, but I figure out what my mistake was and move on. I remember being really self conscious with my first few batches, thinking I was doing things incredibly wrong. The attainable goal of “make an APA that is as good as a mid-market weekday APA” was way easier for me to look at than “make something that makes Pliny taste like Coors lite.” Continuous improvement, as you say, but I think it’s important to tell new brewers that it takes a while, and some discipline to get there.

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I always take someone’s self-review of their own beer with a big ol’ grain of salt. Taste is just way too subjective, and throw in the inherent bias of comparing something you made with a commercial product and I just find it hard to believe that the opinion could be even remotely neutral. Many studies have shown, even among expert tasters, that bias is a huge factor in evaluating beer. For me, I’m naturally self-critical, so whenever I taste one of my own beers, I’m doing it with a cynic’s eye. Without thinking about it, I go immediately to actively looking for anything negative in it. Every note of this and hint of that I taste gets filtered through the lens of “is that bad”, “do I not like that”, etc. I don’t taste commercial beers like that. It’s only when, after active searching, I can’t find anything to dislike that I even begin to think about what I do like. Others probably do the exact opposite, but either way its a strong confirmation bias at play. You need to taste blind IMO, and I know some people do, but I’d guess that most don’t.

That being said, I’m confident serving my beer alongside commercial.

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Amen! Not every beer I make turns out world class. And it took a long while to get to where I’m at. Lots of trial and error. LOTS OF PROCESS REFINEMENT FOR MY SYSTEM.


Pb905 I agree that many are more positively biased towards their beer. I’m a lot like you in that I look for flaws in my beer. With that said when I go to bottle/beer stores and walk out with nothing because I would rather drink my beer there’s something to be said. When others bring beer from some very respected breweries and would rather drink mine… That’s enough said.


Same boat. So funny, this just happened to me a few weeks ago, went in with a few friends, came out with nothing. On purpose.

And understand that I am one who is extremely critical of his own beer. In fact, it took conscious effort to get back to a place where I can just sit down and enjoy one. Agreed as well that most men love the smell of their own flatulence. And a lot of beer (including homebrewed beer) is just that.

To the new brewers: you CAN make beer this good. It takes some discipline, education, and maybe a few dumped batches. I guess my point is that I frankly don’t see a point in doing this if this isn’t one’s goal. But I do get that some people “just enjoy the process”. I am not one of those people.

I think I wouldn’t bother brewing if I didn’t like my beer. To often I have purchased a beer and after drinking it felt I’ve wasted my time and money. I’ve been known to leave half full beers on the bar and order something else. Some beers I make are mediocre untill I get it dialed in or abandon the recipe. But I would rather drink my mediocre beer than a mediocre commercial. And yes I have often walked out of package stores empty handed.

I never really got into it with the idea of comparing my homebrew to something commercial at first. It was more that I’m the kind of person that would rather make something myself than buy it if I can along with the idea that with homebrewing I could drink to my taste. Let me expound on that for a moment. I’ve always loved beer, and after discovering that there was far more to beer than just Miller Genuine Draft and Miller High Life (my dad’s staple beers when he was able to drink), I found that I had a real love for what I suppose could be called more like craft beer. Rogue, Erie Brewing Company, Penn Brewery, even Guinness. The problem with that was that being a poor college student at the time, I couldn’t afford to drink that sort of beer nearly as often as I’d like. I usually had a case of something around, but I horded it. I always wanted to drink those sorts of beer all the time. I’m no longer a poor college student, but now I’ve found myself to be a poor contractor. Starting out on my own when the bottom was falling out of the market didn’t do me any favors, but that’s another story.

I had looked into home brewing when I was at college, but the cost to get started with decent equipment and do it right exceeded what I saw reasonable to spend at the time. Fast forward a few years and my brother buys me all of the stuff to do it right for Christmas one year. That was all I needed, I dove in with both feet. I’ve made some, in my opinion, good beer and some not-so-good stuff. So far, I’ve only had one that ended up needing dumped, so I think I’m doing fairly well with it. Cost of equipment aside, I’m able to make two cases of beer that I like for the cost of buying one from the store, and that makes it affordable to me. And I’m happy to finally be able to drink to my taste preference on a regular basis. Of course, I’m always looking to improve, but I’m satisfied in the fact that I’ve achieved my desire to drink the types of beer I enjoy.

As far as comparing my beer to commercial stuff… I ended up with an unwelcome surprise in that regard. I had never planned to compare mine to commercial, but I had heard a lot of good things about a somewhat local brewery and ended up taking a date there one night. When I went home, I was disappointed in a lot of things. The food was good, but rather overpriced. I didn’t really hit it off with my date. And most of all, the beer was… tolerable. Barely. My first selection was a Scottish Export for around $10 a pint. My first two sips left me frowning at my glass. I still can’t put my finger on what beer it was, but one of my home brews tasted EXACTLY like it. Kind of upsetting when you consider that at the time, I was just starting to experiment with partial mash brewing, most of my stuff was modified extract kits. My second beer, whatever it was, was ok, but nothing worth remembering. My third and final beer was a winter warmer. I was excited with the prospects of making it my desert. But it proved to be… watery. Bleh.

Now I find myself looking at commercial beers very critically and often asking for samples before I’m willing to commit to a glass of anything commercial. I find it rather upsetting to be drinking a beer out somewhere and thinking that I could be comfortably seated at home with a premium cigar in hand, my faithful German Shepherd by my side and a better tasting brew that I made in my glass.

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I’ve been thinking about my post and I didn’t mean to sound snobbish because there are plenty of commercial beer that I drink. I can always find a twelve pack of descent beer to pick up For a party or picnic. What I ment about walking out without something was when I’m looking for something special to try. Many places don’t carry a deep selection.

When I first started brewing, I got lucky. I had exceptionally good tap water for extract brewing, and there was a LHBS nearby that have some very well designed kits. Plus I was living in an old poorly insulated house that had terribly uneven temperatures, which meant that there was always a spot that was perfect temperature for fermenting. It only took a few attempts before I was making some really good beers. The kits were pretty pricey, so I wasn’t saving any money, but I was making beer that (to me) tasted as good or better than most beers I could buy. So that became the rational for my brewing: like many other things you can make from scratch yourself, it is possible to make beer better than what you buy. At least that is my the goal; and yes, it takes some hard work and dedication.

Had a conversation with a microbrewer a couple years ago at a homebrew beer competition. He was one of the judges. I told him my rational for brewing (can make better than you can buy) and he looked at me in disbelief. “That crap these people make?” Funny thing is, I tried one of his beers when I saw it in a store, and can honestly say it reminds me of some of the homebrew I tried in the 80s and 90s. Not quite clear, and with a yeasty character.

I guess it’s not just homebrewers who can have an inflated perception of their beer.

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RC couldn’t agree more! Just because they are “pro” doesn’t mean their beer is better. Essentially they are doing like you or I, just 10bbl vs 10gal.

I think people get confused about that. Their beer MUST be good because they are “pro.” ANYONE can open a brewery and become “pro.”

I got into this kinda expecting it to be a phase. Maybe we’d brew a beer about as often as I make a big batch of my weapons-grade chili; once or twice a year… After about 50 batches in just over 3 years, I may not be the most prolific brewer, but I certainly know which end of the paddle to stick in the mash. I’ve never run out home brew, but have gone months without chili in the freezer.

There’s something of a boom in the craft industry in my neighborhood. Two brewpubs within walking distance of my house with a third rumored to be on the way, and two craft-focused taprooms, the smaller selection is about 15 taps. The larger is 23, with a huge bottle selection as well. (Bottle shops are extremely rare in PA where laws aim to make drinking as inconvenient as possible.)

I get mixed feelings when I’m out for a beer and think, I’ve made better. On the one hand it’s a source of pride and accomplishment, on the other, I usually go out looking for something new or better than what I get at home. Sure, there are also plenty of times when the pros do better than me; I’m not that big-headed. Still it’s nice to know, they’re not so far out of reach.

Getting the temp controlled freezer for fermenting was key to me. It was like the first HD TV after SD. We started off thinking, it can’t be THAT big of a deal, then got one, and the difference was so surprising it was like, “how did we do without this?!”

Making beer that’s better than crappy commercial beer is one thing. There is LOTS of terrible commercial beer on the market, especially these days, and making something superior to that is not a really high bar to clear. Simply not screwing up will give you a better product than a bad commercial beer. Making something superior to the most sought after, highly respected beers in the world is another thing, however. I’ve no doubt that people who say they make good beer, make good beer (hell, I say I make good beer…and I do), but to say you’re consistently outclassing the best beers in the world, or that nothing you can find in the store can stand up to your home brew seems hyperbolic to me. That would therefore make you one of the best brewers in the world, which is a pretty strong take, even for a great home brewer.

Beer all gets made the same way. A good homebrewer can make beer on par with a good commercial beer. An average homebrewer will make beer on par with an average commercial beer, etc.

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I don’t believe that’s what I’m saying at all. I’m not saying Pliny or Heady can’t hold their own against my beer or that my Belgians are better than Westy 12 or Duvel. What I’m saying is my beer is comparable and already paid for and made. I don’t have to wait in line for 3 hours at just a chance to get an all Citra APA because I can make something that stands up to their offering (rather than the other way around).

And I clearly stated that sometimes recipes don’t work out the best and it’s just average. I never stated that I was outclassing ANY beer, all the time.

I still buy commercial beer from time to time… It’s easier to travel with, easier to use in places, and might be what I want when I haven’t brewed any. But I think, as well as many others who are brutally honest, that some of my beers stand up to the better commercial offerings.

not to split hairs, but I never stated that you stated that.

I’d absolutely believe that. I’d say the same thing. Maybe I’m implying things, but that reads a bit more modest and attainable to me than “I’m not gonna wait in line for the most in-demand beers in the country because I can just make the same thing at home.” Not meaning to put words in anyone’s mouth or offend anyone’s pride or say home brewers who think their stuff is good are liars and perverts. Nor was I referencing anyone in particular, I hear these things from lots of home brewers.

I started “homebrewing” with Mr Beer in 2012. I was super excited about trying it out for the first time but realistically brewed at best sub-par beer. However, I got hooked on how to improve and make better beer. I purchased the deluxe brewing kit from our hosts in 2013 after being intrigued enough with the hobby that I decided it was time to upgrade. My first couple attempts were decent but still nothing great. I was enjoying the process and constantly reading and trying to improve. Over the course of the next two years I kept working at it and finally broke down and went all grain at the beginning of 2015. I had done a ton of research on the interwebs on various forums about the process and tips from people who had done it before. I still have a ton more to learn but that, to me, is half the fun of the hobby.

I get a lot of complements from buddies who come over for beers on the quality of my brews but the thing that I will say is that when I first started, I was still buying cases of commercial beer to supplement. At this point I haven’t bought a full case of a single commercial beer in 2 years. I still frequent the local 6 pack shop and every time I go to Giant Eagle (our local grocery has a pub license to get around ridiculous PA state laws on distribution so they have a decent selection of beers for purchase) I immediately start at the beer section for new beers I haven’t tried. I tease my wife that I consider it my grocery delivery charge. :joy: I keep a decent selection of craft brews in the basement fridge because I’m an untappd junkie and I love trying new beers. But to me, the fact that if I find a style I like, I’d rather brew something comparable myself than buy a full case of anything commercial speaks volumes.

I was able to get a case of Headdy Topper before Christmas. It took quite a bit of work and fenangling to get but when you have the chance, you absolutely jump on it. :innocent: That is a flat out amazing beer, no questions asked. I brewed up Off the Topper from our hosts this summer side by side with Plinian Legacy. Was Off the Topper as good as the real thing? No, I would not ever claim to be that accomplished of a brewer. Was it close enough that I would have to think really hard before I put in the work required to obtain another case of Headdy, even if the real thing is better? I can comfortably say that for half the price for twice as much beer that I was legitimately proud to share with my IPA loving friends, I will gladly enjoy my clone. I will continue to work and improve my process with the goal of constant improvement but I can regularly make beers that I and my friends enjoy at this point, which has been my goal from the start.

The biggest complement you can receive as a homebrewer in my humble opinion is when I pour a pint for craft beer loving friends and they go back to the tap for more rather than opening up the fridge to check out the selection of commercial craft I keep on hand. :+1:



Here here Rad! :clap:

Besides, it’s been a ton of fun lurking through Pietro’s mutliple threads with advice on brewing with Conan these past few years. The amount of dedication and work he’s put into just writing about it let alone working with it has to turn out some good results. :innocent: