This is a great idea for a group. I've been home brewing for about 10 years. My first brew was from a wine kit with a juice concentrate of Cabernet Sauvignon and some oak chips. I didn't rinse the bottles well enough after sanitizing with sulphate sanitizer, so the wine turned out to have a strange in-your-nose follow up aroma - oops.
Since then I've made plenty of wine & beer, delved heavily into mead until honey tripled in price (thank, colony collapse syndrome), and turned out several batches of home made vodka - which I often turn into liqueurs.
One year a friend with a crabapple tree was kind enough to let me pick the thing clean. I juiced the crabapples, mixed with honey, flavoured with over-steeped Jasmine tea, added water to get an sg of 1.080, adjusted my ph with a kit from the brew store, and turned out an incredible beverage that has yet to be named.
I've been toying for years with the idea of making saki, but I need to be careful making the koji kin because I have a mild mold allergy.
So, what have you brewed?
I haven't focused enough to actually get started yet but that will be changing very soon.
That is very cool that you have ventured into vodka. That is something I want to get into along with craft brews.
The furthest I have made it into vodka is the home infusing of Smirnoff 100 with my favorite fruits.
The biggest obstacle to getting started in home brewing seems to be over-thinking it, as far as I've seen. Most brew shops offer a kit for under $80 that will give you everything you need to make your first batch of beer - including the beer kit. The easiest way to get your first batch of bottles is just to save plastic soda bottles that seem to have a top that reseals really well. Expect that a batch or so might not turn out but that you can learn from each experience.
For vodka, the easiest way to start is to look into 'turbo yeast'. With only that, a basic start-up kit, and some sugar, you can make a 20% alcohol by volume vodka without needing to experiment with distillation. Figure out how to drip it slowly through an activated charcoal filter and it will be an odourless, flavourless vodka. Normally you would put 2 ounces of 40% vodka into 5 ounces of orange juice to make a nice vodka & orange cocktail, but if you mix 5 ounces of 20% vodka with 2 ounces of concentrated orange juice you get the same effect. It costs less, and sets you off down the road to making more interesting products later.
I would be glad to offer any advice that I can, although I don't know anything about further distilling home made vodka because that is illegal - although I've heard rumours that there are websites offering such information, and I do have a background in process engineering that might allow me to answer 'theoretical' questions. :D
Years back I was a beer brewer but since shucking city life and moving to the country I am strictly a winemaker. I have about 75 vines in my small vineyard.
Chardonnel -French hybrid
Landot Noir " "
Vignoles " "
Chambourcin " "
The french hybrids are just now starting to produce fruit and this year I will get my first crop off the Landot. I have a mullberry tree I would love to use the fruit off of but it is very difficult to harvest. But man those berries are delicious.
Well, we have two taps run cold into our house and then a few varieties in bottle at any one time. Right now my menu looks something like this:
Belgian Abbey Ale
Belgian Trappist Trippel
Chocolate Vanilla Stout
Oaked Scottish Ale
Blueberry Wheat Ale