Tuesday, October 4, 2011

11 Things I've Learned (so far) as a Beginning Brewer

I don’t go into the woods to shoot deer.  I don’t put a worm on a hook to snag some illusive fish.  The thrill of the hunt for me it to learn something new and conquer it.  Several years ago I make a darkroom in my garage to develop my own photographs.  Technology and the Florida heat took care of that hobby.  The hunt now is to brew the best beer I can.

I’ve learned a lot in this past month alone.  I was like a lot of people, who have no clue about brewing beer…and now at least I feel like I know something.  There is a lot more to learn, which is also part of the thrill of the hunt.

So, what did I learn?  Let’s see…

1. The Homebrew store isn’t the Home Depot retail environment I expected.  Bottom line, know what you want and order it.  The online ordering is actually great!  Order and pay online, pick up in the store the next day.  …and the big bag of white stuff that comes with the kit is corn sugar.

2. Over analyzing may not be the best approach, but the planning and preparation pays off.

3. a. There is a difference between cleaning and sanitizing.  b. Our dishwasher has a sanitize feature…works great for the bottles.  Cool, huh.

4. When the wort boils over (and it will foam very high at the beginning of the boil) it makes one hell of a smelly mess on the stove top…and a pain to clean off later.

5. Siphoning scares me and I’m still not sure I understand how to get it to work.  So, I limit the process to one siphon only (at the end from carboy to bucket for bottling).

6. Don’t lower the hydrometer case into the carboy with a pair of tongs.  It will fall in and get lost in the carboy.

7. Use the racking cane to transfer the brew from the carboy to the hydrometer tube by inserting and holding your thumb over the hole at the top end…like the game you used to play at McDonald’s as a kid.

8. A. There is a website called Hopville.  B. It is a great resource for building your recipe, as well as checking similar recipes.  It will give estimate ABV, IBU, beginning and ending gravities.

9. Waiting and patience are required.  Bottle and wait two/three weeks…ugh.

10. Bottling requires a team effort.  I fill 6 bottles. 13yo caps them while I steady the bottle.  13yo rinses the overspill off the bottles and lets set to dry when I fill the next 6.

11. Don’t throw in 1/3 cup of honey and an extra 1/4 cup of corn sugar, just to add to the fermentable sugars on your first batch.  While it may still turn out nice, it is stressful waiting and not knowing.

Much more to learn… Cheers!