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May 26, 2021 3 min read

Home brewing is a simple and straightforward process, like baking brownies. There is a natural, and logical order. 

  • Acquire the right ingredients or a box of mix (kit)
  • Assemble by the correct method (follow the instructions) 
  • Bake for the prescribed time at the prescribed temperature 

What ends up happening:

  • Add ridiculous amounts of marshmallows, candy bars, extra flour, extra butter, omit something, etc.
  • Ignore the method, or throw the instructions away
  • Bake hotter for half the time

One method set of steps produce a repeatable and good product. The other is a chaos-steeped anarchy that leaves kitchens in shambles, produces a bad product, and make you wonder why you bothered doing it at all. 

You do you. Please do whatever it is that helps you enjoy the hobby. My goal is always to provide the best outcomes for those who want to enjoy this hobby for the long run. It takes a while to get good. You enjoy things more when you get good at them. You want to make better beer, right? 

#1: Attempting a difficult style or technique too soon. Barrel-aged stouts, double New England IPA, Triple-decocted Czech pils, kettle-soured smoothie beer - all of these styles are enjoying varying degrees of popularity and are fantastic and fun to make, but take some advanced skills and specialized equipment to make. It's not a 2nd, 3rd, 10th batch kind of style. Those awesome examples of beers you enjoy from your local brewery are produced by highly skilled brewers with hundreds or thousands of batches of experience on very specialized and very expensive equipment. Without those two things at your disposal, you're going to want to take the path of greatest success, and that means gaining experience and investing in equipment to help you achieve that goal. Spending $70 to make 5 gallons of harsh, purple-brown NEIPA that tastes like a bitter cardboard smoothie isn't going to get you rushing back to get started on the next batch. 

You may be able to masterfully brew any of those example styles with time  - but often I see hombrewers give up after a few failed batches when they don't start with easy wins.

#2: Freestyle brewing techniques/Not taking notes: You don't measure gravity. OK, no problem. You don't measure temperatures - ok, you could run into some issues but you can work around them. You don't measure ingredients. A little of this, a little of that. Ok, that could work out for you for a time. Suddenly, a stuck fermentation. A beer that turns out a lot more or less bitter than last time. A strange off-flavor you can't identify - all of these things happen, but you can't fix them if you don't know the cause. You'll frustrate yourself right out of the hobby after tasting the 3rd attempt to recreate that great one-off you whipped up one rainy Saturday last year. Follow proven methods, take some notes. Not every variable can drastically alter your results, but there is magic in the nuance. You don't need to write novellas on every brew log but definitely note the important things - times, temperatures, and amounts. Write down tasting notes and don't be afraid to experiment - just note what you did somewhere to give a reference point to make future adjustments.

#3: Drinking beer before it is ready. This one is the sneaky one. Many don't realize they have this problem until they have "the moment". The moment is when you taste your beer at its peak, and it's usually the last one or two. I never recommend a fast force carbonation method for this reason. Beer is "green" at packaging and needs some time to settle and come together as it is conditioning. IPAs can be very unpleasant to drink young and are much, much better after 2-3 weeks of conditioning. Lighter styles benefit from longer cold conditioning. Roasty and dark malty beers need at least a month. Stronger brews will need extra time to mellow out the alcohol burn. 

It's great to put a few aside and taste them at regular intervals. When you find your favorite, then you know when the beer is at its best, and you can condition the next batch for that amount of time. We're not talking months for most but the difference between a 3 week old beer and a 5 week old beer can be significant. 

Stick to these guides and you'll make some strides in your hobby. The faster you get better, the faster you can brew that double Rocky Road Caramel Macchiato Stout you have been dreaming about. You can start by perfecting that base stout recipe. 


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