Introduction to Home Brewing
I can think of few things more satisfying than cracking open a cold beer made with my own two hands after a few weeks of built anticipation. The taste, the smell, the color, the inebriation… Home brewing is an incredibly rewarding hobby from the start, and significantly more so as your experience grows in the craft.
If you’re reading this, you like beer. If you really like beer, maybe this hobby is up your alley. Home brewing involves effort and patience… And if you’re willing to hold those horses, your effort and patience can be incredibly rewarding.
Before you embark on this great journey, you should ask yourself, “Why do I want to brew my own beer?”. If your answer is anything other than to make good beer, it may not be for you. Years of reading through home brew forums and questions from others has made me realize one of the big motivations of perspective brewers is to save money. I guarantee you, even if you do as many DIYs for equipment and scrounge for cheap ingredients, you will not save money unless you drink a couple of cases of Firestone Walker or Ballast Point per week. And even then, to reach the level of expertise it would take to make such fantastic beers as those wonderful breweries, would require at minimum a few years worth of experience and well into the thousands of dollars worth of equipment building. Do not start home brewing to be “thrifty”.
Now on the other hand… Do you like:
If your answer is “Yes”, do it. You’ll love it. Maybe you’re a little “iffy” on point 2 or 3. If you’re a big chemistry nerd and are just “okay” with cooking, you’ll probably still like it so long as your love for beer is strong. And likewise (like me), if you love to cook, but are not that big of a chemistry fan (the only class I failed in high school), you’re probably fine to take the plunge as well.
If I haven’t scared you away, DO IT! Support your local home brew shop and buy a 5 gallon starter kit for $150-200. It’s everything you’ll need to start making your own great beer at home… Everything other than a recipe kit, of your first batch’s ingredients of course. Typical extract brew recipes that you’ll start with range from around $20-45 depending on the style you’re after.
When I cook, I can’t follow a recipe… That’s why I quit Blue Apron (not to mention all the freaking chopping!). I like to make recipes my own by adding this, doubling that, omitting those… My advice is to stick to the recipes for your first couple batches until you get the process down. Surprisingly, I was quite impressed at the time with my first few batches. My cherry popper was a nut brown ale, which I highly recommend because it’s full of flavor, and most minor “whoopsies” will be masked by that flavor and you’ll end up with a fine ale. My second batch was an IPA I dry hopped (see, I can’t resist adding my own twist), which like a brown ale has overwhelming flavor qualities that can help cover up most mishaps.
My only other advice for you would be the same as you read everywhere else… Cleanliness! Start with a very clean area and sanitize everything well with your no-rinse powdered sanitizer of choice. There’s nothing worse than spending your valuable time and hard earned money brewing a batch that turns out sour due to contamination. And don’t get me going on my stance with sours/wilds/lambics, that’s for another time…