About homebrewandbeer.com

Homebrewandbeer.com is a hobby for Oliver and Geoff. We didn't set up the site to make money; we created it so that we could share our love of beer. As much as we'd like to make our livings from beer, we both have grown-up jobs. Because of pesky work we don't always have the time that we'd like to devote to beer and beer-related activity such as homebrewandbeer.com. So if you've sent us an email and we haven't replied yet, we apologise. We will get to you, eventually.

This site began life in 2000 as Oliver and Geoff's Homebrew and Beer Page. All we'd really intended was that it would be a place for us to post our homebrew recipes for others to see. Over the years friends had sent us beer quotes and photos, so we thought we'd add them, too. Then we added a couple of other sections, such as homebrewing techniques and brewing ingredients.

Before we knew it we were getting dozens of emails from around the world from people with questions about homebrewing. So we created the now-defunct Q+A section. This, too, eventually became far too time-consuming to maintain, so in July 2004 we added the homebrewandbeer.com forum. We now have thousands of members, and almost 110,000 posts about beer, homebrewing, sport, life and everything in between.

During the life of homebrewandbeer.com, we've added new sections and rewritten or revamped others. The site has had several makeovers in its time. Here is how it looked in 2002, in 2004 and in 2013, before the biggest overhaul yet, which you're viewing now.

Technical stuff

After Oliver read Elizabeth Castro's book HTML for the World Wide Web: Visual QuickStart Guide, he set about developing and designing Geoff's and his website about beer and homebrewing. Some planning went into it (usually over beer with Geoff), and we came up with ideas such as the Reviews section and the now-defunct Beer of the Year.

Oliver also read the book Javascript for the World Wide Web Visual Quickstart Guide 4th edition. Unfortunately, he found this book confusing and unhelpful. In any case, he realised that a site without javascript was usually a site that will be compliant with more browsers, take less time to load and be simpler. In previous incarnations of this site there were snippets of javascipt, all of which were taken from free javascript websites and adapted.

Initially, we had used web space provided as part of our email packages. In September 2002 we registered the domain name homebrewandbeer.com.

In late 2004, Oliver decided it was time for a major overhaul of the site. After reading Lynn Bartlett's great book about web development Teach Yourself CSS in 24 Hours, Oliver set about revamping the site, making it cleaner and doing away with the frame-based layout. CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, centralised the styles used on websites, making it very easy to change the look of the site by changing the contents of one file.

But updating the site was still timeconsuming and fiddy because everything except the forum was hand-coded by Oliver, who had written all the HTML and CSS himself. First he wrote the code in Windows Notepad and later the excellent open source Notepad++, all on a PC. Oliver also wrote most of the content for the site.

By 2011, Oliver was sick and tired of hand-coding homebrewandbeer.com and knew that to take the site forward and introduce new features it needed to be migrated to a content management system. He decided on Joomla!, a free open-source content management system, for which there are hundreds of plugins to extend its core features. Due to other commitments, this was a long process and the new site was finally launched in 2014. Joomla makes it much easier to edit and update the site, and integrate new features.

Joomla extensions used on the site include:

  • Mosets Tree
  • Gantry Framework style
  • Xmap
  • JCE Editor
  • JotCache
  • Akeeba Backup
  • ReDJ

The forum uses phpbb, a free bulletin board written in the php scripting language that runs on many databases.

Development of the site and forum on Joomla! and phpBB is done on a laptop using XAMPP, a free package that is an easy way to set up a web server including PHP and MySQL. Files are uploaded to the live site using the free FTP client FileZilla.

Photo editing is done with Irfanview, a shareware program.

Most of the site development is done using the Firefox browser, with the fantastic BugZilla plugin, and it's tested on Internet Explorer 10+, Google Chrome, Opera and Apple Safari to ensure the site appears as intended on the latest browsers.

Web hosting is by Panthur, which Oliver and Geoff can highly recommend for their prompt support and cutting-edge features.

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