As the yearly Homebrew Con just wrapped up in Minneapolis, this was a perfect time to catch up with Scott Windsor of Costa Mesa’s Windsor Homebrew Supply, who recently just doubled the shop’s size, adding more space for gear and a bottle shop to grab local beers.
What did you do before opening Windsor Homebrew Supply in Costa Mesa? I heard you were a front man for a band…what was that like?
I went to school in Nashville for the music business and ended up starting a band, writing songs for TV shows, and touring the country. I did that for five-plus years. Though I loved it, the touring life started to take its toll. This is where I first discovered beer–while traveling around the country; I got married and settled down in the Midwest where I’m originally from. My love for beer was growing tremendously and I got into homebrewing. Using my love for business, I ended up owning and operating a couple of homebrew shops out there.
You just expanded the store and added a bottle shop. What sort of beers might we find that we can’t get elsewhere?
The plan is to always have a revolving selection of fresh and interesting bottles. Most are from local breweries. The greatest part is that a lot of my friends run amazing breweries and have started sending me a lot of their limited releases and sometimes brewery only releases. They know I will take care of the bottles and take the time to educate the customers on what they’re buying. It’s a win-win situation. I get to sell some amazing bottles and the breweries get to put them in a shop where they won’t rot on a shelf and with someone who is knowledgeable about their brand.
I’m also doing my best to track down a lot of cool Belgian bottles…they’re fascinating beers. Home brewers also tend to brew a lot of Belgian-inspired beers so its fun for them to pick up ingredients to make their own beer as well as the bottle to drink that inspired them.
What do you think is a good beginner-beer style to make?
I tell people to start with the type of beer they love to drink. That way they know exactly the characteristics of the beer and what to look for. I do think people who like dark beers like porters and stouts have a leg up with their first batch though. The heavy flavors or roast, the chocolate and caramel can cover up little imperfections in the beer.
What does a good homebrew kit cost these days and what does it include?
When asked that question in the shop I show the customer 3 things: 1) An equipment kit that includes all of your equipment for fermenting the beer and bottling it. Things such as a glass carboy (fermentor), bottling bucket and all the little things like bottle capper, siphon pump, brushes, cleaning and sanitizing solution, tubing, a hydrometer to measure alcohol and so on. Price $70 to $95. 2) A stainless kettle or stock pot. This you will use to boil all of your ingredients. Generally, beginners start out with a 5- to 8-gallon kettle. Price $29 to $59. 3) and lastly, an ingredient kit to brew your first batch. These range from $30 to $48. Those are the three essential pieces to getting started brewing. So you are usually in the $150- to $200-range to go home and brew your first batch.
I do indeed. The beginner’s classes are extremely popular so that is what we do the most. We usually do two classes a month and they are on Sundays at 1 p.m. We list the dates on the website. We also try and pepper in more advanced all-grain classes and off-flavor classes.
You’re surrounded by Barley Forge, Gunwhale Ales, The Lab, The Camp, and several of my favorite cocktail spots in O.C., with Mesa, Vaca, and Pizzeria Ortica. Were you aware of your surroundings when you chose your location?
I really like the vibe of Costa Mesa and I feel it’s more local business-oriented so I started looking around. I always liked the area with The Camp and The Lab and the more independent and youthful feel. When I found out that Barley Forge was opening their brewery and tasting room in the same area, I was all in. I immediately started looking for space and settled on where I am now. The area is really starting to take off with Gunwhale Ales and other breweries wanting to make Costa Mesa home. I’m really excited to see the growth in the area.
What do you think of O.C.’s beer scene?
I get asked this question quite a bit. When we weren’t living out here we used to come visit family and I would always go to the Bruery for my go-to brewery fix and then to Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach for a great tap and bottle list. You had to look pretty hard to find a decent tap list or tasting room. Now it’s like the floodgates have been opened. I think we are up to 36 breweries with many in planning. There are also now a ton of places that have a great bottle and tap selection. We went from 0 to 100 real quick. I think this is all great but there is a little bit of catching up to do still. Many consumers are still being educated and many of the breweries and craft beer bars are still working out some kinks. All in all I am really excited about it and the continued growth. I am excited to be a part of it.