I had a chance yesterday morning to stop in to Omaha’s newest homebrew shop, Patriot Homebrew Supply. I needed ingredients for an upcoming batch and I was in the area so I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I was greeted by Matt, the owner, and he gave me some quick directions on how his store is set up and how to shop for ingredients.
One of the first things you will notice is that you get to weigh out your grain yourself and you pay for it in increments as low as an ounce. This is a feature that appeals to me a lot. I don’t know how many times I've developed a stash of random specialty malts in my basement that don’t get used because I had to order a full pound of each even if all I needed was four ounces! Everything is well organized too, so it was easy to see what malts were available. Matt also has a chart of substitutions should he not have a malt or hop you were looking for. Speaking of hops, he also stocks a good selection of hops from Hop Union as well as Indie Hops out of Oregon and I believe he also stocks some local whole leaf hops from Rhynalds Hops Growers. As far as yeasts go, PHS stocks strains from all of the major brands. I didn't get a good look at the equipment side of PHS but Matt did tell me that he will be stocking 15 gallon Bayou Classic kettles very soon and he is registered as a Blichmann Engineering dealer so he can order you anything you need from Blichmann if you so desire.
One downside of shopping at a local homebrew shop tends to be pricing. The smaller local guys just can’t beat the volume and therefore the pricing of the big online retailers like Northern Brewer, Midwest Supplies, MoreBeer, etc. However, I found that Matt’s prices on everything I bought were all within 20% of the prices found at Northern Brewer and most were less than 10% more expensive. Combine that kind of competitive pricing, the ability to buy malt in one ounce increments, and no shipping costs and I actually spent less at PHS than I would have if I had ordered everything through Northern Brewer online.
In talking with Matt, I also found out that he will be installing a brewing system (capable of producing 20 gallons of wort) in the shop that people may be able to rent time on to brew wort right there in the store. He will also use it to brew his own beer to have on tap at the shop so you can drink a pint while you shop. What a great plan!
In short, I found Patriot Homebrew Supply to be a well-organized shop with competitive pricing and a friendly atmosphere. I will most definitely be shopping there again!