Alternatives to Northern Brewer and Midwest Supplies + Commentary

Northern Brewer was an essential part of my development as a homebrewer.  They were my go-to supplier for years as I went from extract to all grain and bottling to kegging and beyond.

When I first came up with the idea for Homebrew Finds, I floated it to one of the larger homebrewing podcasts as a… “you should do this” idea.  When they declined, I decided to do it myself.  Who was there soon after?… Northern Brewer.  Jake Keeler was one of the early believers in the idea and sponsored the site well before it made any financial sense to do so.  Not only did they help keep the servers on, Northern Brewer wrote content for Homebrew Finds.  Michael Dawson and Jake Keeler both wrote original articles about malt, hops, new equipment, techniques, how-tos and more.  They saw it as a way to communicate with the homebrewing community, homebrewer to homebrewer.  Thank you to Jake Keeler and Mike Dawson for your belief in and support of Homebrew Finds in our early days!  That’s homebrewing community at it’s finest.  Midwest Supplies wasn’t too far behind.

Since the early days support and community outreach waned.  Some staff turned over, mergers happened and things just change over time.  That’s the way it goes.

I know some suppliers, former staff and current staff.  Without sharing details, my concern is Northern Brewer and Midwest Supplies have become… too big to care.  I wonder if they fancy themselves as the market leader and because of that they don’t feel the need or driving purpose to do some of the community related things that other homebrew shops do.

Fast forward to 2016…. Anheuser Busch through their “Disruptive Growth Group” have purchased stakes in the combined Northern Brewer/Midwest Supplies conglomerate.  See: “Brewing an Exciting Future

Gary Glass, Director of the AHA has issued a statement on the purchase.  See: Northern Brewer Purchased By Anheuser-Busch Inbev,  That article has a poll.  As of this posting… “am not inclined to buy from an Anheuser-Busch Inbev-owned retailer.” has received a whopping 68.89% of the vote.  It appears this is an issue for a lot of people.

A thought from Northern Brewer’s Founder Chris Farley, found in their about section as part of an article titled “Good Beer is Your Right“…

Beer, as Norman McClean wrote, “used to come from your town or the next town over, and not St. Louis or Milwaukee.” Thanks to the craft beer movement, this is largely the case once again – American breweries are at roughly the same number today as they were before the Volstead Act.

You make a choice, a vote, a statement every time you open a bottle of craft or homebrewed beer instead of a can from a factory with an advertising budget that could swallow your local microbrewery whole.

Regardless of who or what owns NB/MWS, I’d really love to see them start to interface with the homebrewing community again.  In a homebrewer to homebrewer sort of a way instead of an Excel spreadsheet, sales forecast-y, bottomline-y sort of way.  Homebrewing is community driven.  Whether it’s interaction on Homebrew Finds and our social networks, online forums, reddit/r/homebrewing, NHC, your homebrew club or you and your friends, homebrewing, for many, is about gemütlichkeit, sharing and community.  Disregarding that, no matter what your station, is, in my opinion, a mistake.  To test this, I will completely remove the first two sentences of this paragraph if Chris Farley asks me to do so.  Beyond that, I’d be happy to consider any corrections of constructive criticism that Northern Brewer has to offer on this post.

HBF Reader Paul [8 Ways to Connect with HBF] suggested that I post a list of alternative suppliers.  A selection of shopping ideas and online homebrew shops follows.  This isn’t a complete list, there are lots more.  These are shops that I have either ordered from myself or recently worked with.  Look for it to grow over time.

Understand, I’m not trying not trying to convince you to stop shopping at Northern Brewer and/or Midwest Supplies.  I’m sure there are a lot of awesome homebrewers that work there, especially if you are local to one of their shops.  Beyond beer and community, homebrewing is also about freedom.  The great news is… You’re free to shop where you want to shop.

  1.  Your local homebrew shop – LHBS are the lifeblood of homebrewing.  If you have a great shop nearby… support them!
  2. MoreBeer – Outstanding customer service, free shipping with most $59 orders, lots of equipment and ingredients and shipping centers on both coasts.  What’s going on at MoreBeer Today?  Today’s Deal of the Day | Sale Items
  3. Adventures in Homebrewing – Outstanding customer service and amazing sale items.  Consistently good prices on kegs, kegging systems, kettles, Cereal Killer Grain Mill and lots more
  4. Great Fermentations – Outstanding selection of Blichmann Gear and parts.  Located in Indiana, GF is usually one of the first to pickup Blichmann merchandise.  Flat rate shipping applies to most items.
  5. love2brew – Located on the East Coast.  Great selection of kits and equipment as well as some innovative items like blend kits and they are one of the few shops that carries hard to find East Coast Yeast.  Shipping can be expensive, even if you’re close.  The trick is to place a $75 order to qualify for free shipping.
  6. Label Peelers – Located right next to the distribution warehouse for a large wholesaler, Label Peelers has price advantages on a lot of gear.  They also generally have good access and pricing on hops.  They generally run a site-wide discount that varies from 20 to 30% or so.
  7. Keg Connection – Great selection and prices on kegs, kegging systems, kegerator parts and gear, faucets, tanks and more.  Flat rate shipping applies to everything site wide.
  8. Bell’s Beer General Store – Bell’s Brewery acknowledges their homebrewing roots by continuing to run their homebrew shop.  Smaller selection that some shops, but for what they do carry, their prices can be hard to beat.  This is an example of a big company continuing to acknowledge the community that they came from.  Bravo Bell’s!
  9. Beer and Wine Hobby – One of the oldest family owned homebrew shops in the country.
  10. Williams Brewing – some unique products and great customer service.  Still run by the owner and founder William Moore
  11. Home Brew Supply – A newer shop from the folks behind Homebrew Talk.  HBS has run some really competitive promos.  They also offer flat rate shipping on many items.
  12. Brew Hardware – Bobby, the mastermind behind Brew Hardware, is a homebrewer through and through.  He’s a really sharp guy that has come up with some thoughtful, well-built and unique equipment.  If you haven’t looked around Brew Hardware… do it.  Brew Hardware has calculated, flat rate and free shipping options depending on order size coupled with already reasonable prices.
  13. Nikobrew – Hops, hops and more hops.  Niko has an outstanding selection, generally great prices and a generous flat rate shipping policy.  If you’re looking for hops, make sure and give Nikobrew a look.
  14. Beverage Elements – Kegs, Kegging Systems, CO2 Tanks, Parts and more
  15. Proflow Dynamics – Fittings, Ball Valves, Tri-Clamps, PUmps, Sight gauges, tubing and lots more
  16. The Brew Bag – All Grain Brew in a Bag equipment

Also check out the AHA’s Find a Homebrew Supply Shop Tool.  If you’re not a member of the American Homebrewer’s Association, I think you should consider joining – Here’s Why.  Check out our AHA Tag to see if there is an active discount for AHA membership.

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