Today’s guest post comes from Blake Daniels, a stay-at-home dad with a passion for the simple things in life. You would most likely find him spending quality time with his family, brewing and enjoying beer or mowing the lawn.
Over the past few years, I’ve become more interested in the craft beer scene. I’m always amazed at the creative (and tasty) brews that smaller-scale breweries produce. Knowing that most beers are made using four ingredients – water, malt, hops and yeast – makes drinking a brew full of complex flavors all the more impressive.
This newfound respect got me to try my hand at brewing my own beer. When I started, I assumed it would be difficult to match the quality of commercial brews, but it turns out that homebrewers everywhere produce high-quality, award-winning beers in their kitchens and garages using beginner-level equipment.
During my short time as a homebrewer I’ve learned some valuable lessons that might help you avoid a few rookie mistakes that I made.
Do Your Homework
After struggling to make it through my first brew day, I knew that if I didn’t take the time to learn more about the brewing process, I would end up dumping most of my beer (and money) down the drain. I found that the ‘must-read’ book for every homebrewer is The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian.
This book is a great resource for new brewers, offering a look into the history of beer-making, providing clear explanations of every step in the brewing process and even includes well-tested recipes to help you get started. I’m certain that the knowledge I gained from reading this book saved more than one of my batches of homebrew.
If you haven’t decided to start homebrewing yet, there are plenty of other reasons to do some beer-related reading. Checking out brewing books to learn how beer is made and the characteristics of different styles can enhance your beer-drinking experience and give you a greater overall appreciation for beer. There are also magazines like BeerAdvocate and DRAFT that are focused on the industry in general in case you just want to keep a pulse on the world of beer.
Start Off Small
I was so excited to start brewing beer that I ran right out and bought myself a nice new five-gallon brew kit. This is a standard amount of beer that many homebrewers make, so I figured why not dive in and brew with the big boys? However, making that much beer isn’t a small investment when it comes to time or money and when my first few batches came out less than stellar, I was having second thoughts.
Looking back I really wish that I had started off with a smaller one-gallon size kit that would have allowed me to get used to the brewing process before I stepped up to larger batches. Making smaller batches of beer also gives you the opportunity to express your creativity as a brewer. Another thing to keep in mind is that darker, roasty beers like a stout can hide some flaws, as can something like an overly hopped IPA. If you’re nervous about making beer, look into styles that give you wiggle room.
Don’t Go It Alone
The homebrewing community is probably the single-most important resource that you have as a homebrewer. If you have a problem, someone out there has already found a solution.
One great site for all things homebrewing is the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). The AHA can help you find homebrew clubs in your area if you’re looking to meet up with local brewers. Networking with other homebrewers is a great way to expand your brewing knowledge and it never hurts to have an extra set of hands around on brew day.
If you’re the DIY type but don’t know how to get started on your next project, a great place to go is Homebrew Talk. The site has a very active forum, with posts covering a near-endless amount of topics and also offers huge databases of projects. If you’re looking to find some brew-day inspiration, BeerSmith has a user-generated collection of over 100,000 recipes that guarantees you won’t have any trouble coming up with an idea for your next batch of beer.
If you’re just getting started with homebrewing, these tips should give you a solid foundation to build upon, but this is just the beginning. Take some time to tap into all of the information that’s available and you shouldn’t have any problems taking your brewing to the next level.