The self-stated goal of this series of "DIY” articles is to “prepare people for the Next Reneisance or Apocalypse, whichever comes first”. In that light, Brew and Grow, a beverage/hydroponics supply store, located on 3625 N. Kedzie Ave. is a valuable resource for gardeners and brewers during a Reneisance, and an absolutely indispensable one during the apocalypse.
The Brew and Grow store, a franchise local to the area of Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, strikes a nice balance between the size and volume of a chain store and the personal touch of a local business. Clean rows of products in a wide open space are paired with posters and banners advertising workshops, festivals, and brewing events. Scattered amidsts the raw ingredients and supplies are personal projects that the store employers are working on: perculating jugs of mead on one shelf an airing jar of Kombucha on another, an outdoor garden, an indoor crop of peppers under a UV light, and other such things. These features show that the store's staff clearly know what they're doing, and put their knowledge to use for their own purposes as well as the customers.
One half of the store is devoted to supplies for gardening; the rows in the center hold bags and bottles of fertilizer, growing mediums, seed stock and nutrient solutions for soil-free hydroponics, along with more exotic supplies such as carbon dioxide bags and equipment ranging from ultraviolet light lanterns to Ph meters.
The other half is devoted to the brewing of fermented beverages. Wall dispensers provide different varieties of grain and hops for beer making, along with acid absorbers, flavor ingredients, and refrigerated cultures of yeast; there are similar supplies for making personal stocks of wine, soda, mead and other alcoholic beverages, as well as vats, filters, strainers and other equipment needed for brewing. A single shelf near the entrance contains packaged 'Brew it Yourself' kits, with ingredients and equipment that customers can take out of the box and use to make their own beer, wine, and even Kombucha, a health drink made from tea fermented with a bacteria-yeast culture that looks like an alien blob creature.
Brew and Grow also offers regular two homebrewing classes for customers who want to learn how to use the items they purchase. The Beginner Homebrewing Classes, which lasts two and a half hours for around $20, teaches participants how to brew basic extract beer, and how to evaluate it's taste, texture, and aroma for general quality. The Advanced Homebrewing Classes lasts a half and hour longer for around $30, and teaches advanced beer-making techniques using grain milling, Ph measuring, and the carefull addition of malt and hops.
Brew and Grow's employees also answer people's brewing questions on an informal basis: one employeee, Erica, provided practical advice on how to brew a perfect jar of Kombucha:
“The SCOBY [short for “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast”] has be the same size as the rim of the jar you're making Kombucha in.” She explained. “It grows and produces Kombucha best when it's put in a jar filled with sugar and high-caffine black tea to feed on. Cover your jar with a cotton cloth and place it in a dark, warm cupboard for a week: the Kombucha will be done by then, and you can pour out the liquid and start making another batch.”
“Eventually, a new colony will start growing off of the SCOBY like the bud of a cactus.” She added. “Don't let the SCOBY get too thick: peel the extra layers off so that it remains a flat disk.”
Brew and Grow, all in all, is a source of knowledge as well as supplies; it's staffed by a community of knowledgable brewers and gardeners, and is a gathering house for both educational classrooms, books, and public events for making beverages and foodstuff. If the apocalypse happens and mankind is sent back to the Stone Age, loot this place for the gear you'll need to grow your own food and not starve to death over the winter.