The Home Brewery's sales are evenly split between beer- and wine-makers, say owners Todd and Sheri Frye, leaning on the store's wine kits, which they added since buying the business. To celebrate the 25th year, the store is offering a special Double India Pale Ale recipe.
Business Spotlight: The Home Brewery
Lagers, ales and wine. If it's quality you're after, skip the store and make your libations at home, says Todd Frye, owner of The Home Brewery.
The Ozark business sells beer- and wine-making supplies by mail order, in-store and online.
"We are pretty much a specialty grocery store for malt, hops, yeast, grains, grape juice and different bottling and fermentation equipment," Frye says. "We supply all the bits and pieces so the home hobbyist can put together their own recipes."
There are an estimated 750,000 home brewers in the U.S., according to the American Homebrewers Association. Home brewing, sometimes called craft brewing, has become a popular hobby for a variety of reasons, Frye says. It can be less expensive than buying commercial beers, and home brews are often better quality. Creating beverages at home also lets people create a custom drink perfectly suited to their tastes.
"You can brew better beer than you can buy," says Ivan Eftink, president of Bug Zero in Springfield, who has been brewing beer at home for more 11 years. "It's fresh and customized to suit my taste. If you want a beer that's a little extra hoppy or malty, you can tweak the recipe."
Making good beer at home takes a minimal investment of cash and time and not a lot of space. The basic production equipment will cost a home brewer $100 to $140, and the ingredients to make a case of beer runs an average of $30 to $40. Wine-makers will pay around $140 for basic equipment, and they can make six gallons of wine for between $60 and $150.
"Todd always has everything I need right there," Eftink says. "While you may be able to get those things online, you can't get his expert guidance there when you have a question. There is always a question when you are developing recipes: which grain, hop and yeast to use and how much of each of them."
Frye began his home brewing career in 1996 when he took a job managing The Home Brewery for former owner Sam Wammack. Wammack started the store in 1984 as a mail-order business.
"We saw the concentration on beer in the 90s when the microbrew craze was hitting big," Frye says, noting that clients were spread coast-to-coast.
In 1999, Todd and his wife, Sheri Frye, purchased the company from Wammack upon his retirement. "That's when we started developing the wine business," Frye adds.
Today, sales are split roughly 50-50 between beer- and wine-makers.
There is seasonal ebb and flow to the hobbies. Wine making blossoms in the early spring when fresh fruits become available. Beer making ramps up in September and October around harvest time.
Frye says The Home Brewery is the only brew shop for 250 miles and draws customers in from as far as 400 miles away. Mail orders still account for up to 60 percent of the business. The Fryes ship product to every state and around the world, including servicemen based in Jakarta, Guam and Japan.
Brewing beer is both a science and an art.
"It's a pretty good marriage between the two," Frye says. "It's a lot like cooking in that there's a lot of chemistry involved, but there's also a lot of interpretation."
The country's economic woes haven't posed a threat to home brewing; it has simply changed the types of beer people make.
"Five years ago, people would make these expensive, exotic beers, around $60 per case, and put everything into these beers," Frye says. "They were doing it for the art and craft of it."
Today, customers are trimming the cost per batch, with cases averaging between $25 and $30. "Depending on the beer, you can make a really good beer for about half the cost of the beer in the store," he adds.
The Home Brewery has a 900-square-foot showroom attached to another 1,500 square feet of warehouse space. The Fryes printed 35,000 catalogs this year, and the company sends them free to anyone who's interested in beer and wine making. Recently, Todd Frye added cheese-making supplies and ingredients, such as cultures, basket molds and fine muslins for straining.
"People like making things at home," Frye says. "Beer brewing is just good fun."[[In-content Ad]]
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