I first began homebrewing back in 1991, brewed for about a year, then gave it up until 1998. During the year of 1998 I have been exploring not only beer and mead, but wine and cider as well. Before I get you too interested in Homebrewing, I should mention that the last I heard there are still 3 states where it is illegal. Amazing considering this is supposed to be the land of the free.
I've never been particulary impressed with brewing using the malt extract kits. In fairness, I must say that if you use quality yeast (such as the liquid Wyeast), you will probably produce very good, true to style, beer. I feel that it is a little like making brownies using a brownie mix. They are good brownies. It is clearly more something you've created than buying ready made brownies, but it is not nearly so rewarding as making them yourself from scratch. To truly feel like you are creating beer, whole grain batches are the way to go.
With wine, I have only made the kits and fruit wines (plum). The kits produce very good, true to style wines. The kits sell for approximately $30 to $40 and produce 24 to 28 standarad (750 ml) bottles of wine. The quality of wine is easily on par with what you would expect to pay $10 or more per bottle. This is a very good way to inexpensively create a quality wine cellar. Again, stick to the quality yeasts. Wyeast is a good choice. If you want to go with the dry yeasts, I recommend Lalvin. Stay away from Red Star. It is possible that they have improved since 1991-1992, but I haven't been willing to risk it. I'm hoping to expand into buying either fresh fruit or unconcentrated juice directly from the vineyard. A bonus in making your on wine is that it will keep over the years better than the average commercial wines available now in the United States. The reason for this is that you can properly balance the acids (the kits are usually balanced). Commercial wines often have reduced acids so that they are tasty earlier, but don't keep nearly so long..
Mead is an ancient alcoholic beverage, perhaps the oldest. It is simply honey wine. That is wine made with honey instead of grapes. Their are various types of mead that are made with various adjuncts (brewer talk for additions). I will go into detail of that later.
Hard Cider has very noble roots both in Europe as well as here in America, particularly Colonial America. Its popularity has died down and it was all but gone until very recently. Now there are at least a dozen varieties available. One of the best is the English WoodPecker. Probably the best known here in America is WoodChuck which has at least 3 varieties, Dark, Sweet, and Granny Smith. Hard cider can be distilled into applejack, but this is not so popular anymore. The traditional way was fractal distillation. A process whereby the fermented cider is allowed to partially freeze. The remaining liquid is removed from the ice. Since the water freezes before the alcohol, the remaining liquid is higher in alcohol content. This is illegal to do on your own in the United States. There are no known health consequences of this form of distillation. It is simply iillegal as Government doesn't want to lose out on taxes. If you are caught violating this law, the BATF will decend upon you with such vigor, you will wish that you had simply had 10 lbs of cocaine instead. They will likely take everything you own including your home. Welcome to the land of the free.
I'll add these later.