Don, I used to home brew quite a bit. I think brewing on board would be awkward, but could be done. You will need 5 gallons of clean water for a standard batch of brew itself and maybe close to the same for cleaning
and sanitizing. However, I think by timing the batch with a water refill, this wouldn't be a big problem. I think the bigger problems are the space the equipment
takes up, temperature control and movement.
First of all, you will be limited to ales unless you have a very large refridgeration system or are spending the winter some where cool. I've fermented and aged most ales in the mid 60s. (Lagers need cooler temperatures, with the exception of steam beers) If you are crusing somewhere the temps are much warmer, you risk blowing the fermentation or getting off flavors.
You can avoid bottles by carrying two stainless 2.5 kegs and can pressurize these using small C02 cartridges like one uses on inflatable
life jackets. (These kegs will cut down time, effort and water you need for sanitizing compared to bottles.) You'll also need to carry a 5-gallon fermenter and 5-gallon transfer tank (basically a 5-gallon bucket will do.) For the main brew, you will need a pot of 3 gallons or more. The easiest way to carry the beer making supplies themselves would be to carry a few kits. Of course is you want to have a constant supply of beer, you need to start the next batch, before you finish the first which means at least one more mini keg or 12 more bottles. The problem you'll run into with the mini-kegs once again is having cool beer to drink. Unless you have a huge fridge capable of carrying a 2.5 gallon mini keg, you'll have to cool each beer before you drink it You could just fill a plastic bottle and throw in against the cold plate a couple hours before consumption
, but it's something you will need to keep up on.
My other concern would be boat motion during the fermenting process. If you have a couple weeks at anchor
somewhere, with only some easy sailing, that's probably not a problem.
Compared to American beer prices, you have to make a lot of home brew to make up the financial difference. I think it averaged me something like 80 cents a bottle for home brew based on ingredients only. The occasional bad batch can bring this up over a dollar per bottle easily. However, even at a dollar a bottle, you can be much cheaper than many islands cruising areas.
Personally, if I was a full time cruiser on a large catamaran
, I'd certainly consider it, but for 6-months on a low 30s monohull
, I wouldn't.
I also used to make wine and while I never made wine cruising either, I know one woman who did. Wine is even more sensative to temperature changes, etc, than beer, so I imagine if she could successfully make wine on board, beer could be done, but realize it's a lot of gear
and not ideal conditions.
Williams Brewing out of California
is a good place to start start getting a feel for what you need and what it costs.
(You can get basic fermenter, transfer pale, and kit to make a 5-gallon batch for under US$150 I think. SS 2.5 keggers probalbly run about $85 or so each these days. Of course if you drink a lot of beer, bottles are not a problem to get)