Blake Daniels is the newest contributor to GrillGrrrl.com. Beer and Grilled food go hand in hand and Blake will be sharing his knowledge on homebrewing and craft beer, read more about him on our contributor page…
In addition to being a very fruitful hobby, home brewing is also a science and an art form.
And like most interests worth pursuing, there is a substantial investment involved. I’m not just talking financially, either. Sure, you have to buy the kits and equipment but you’ll also need commitment, dedication, free time, available space, and patience.
I know several people who like beer and have liked the idea of being a home brewer. Now, I used the past tense there because once they received a home brewing kit as a gift and realized how much time and effort goes into every batch, they lost interest and decided to go back to paying someone else to make their beverage of choice.
That being said, I think that the first step in getting started as a home brewer is deciding whether or not you really want to be a home brewer.
Make Sure You Want to Home Brew
Read homebrewing books. Ask yourself, honestly, if you want to put in the time and effort it takes to plan, brew, and bottle or keg each batch. Decide whether or not your thirst for knowledge and good beer will motivate you to consistently improve. Ask a friend who already brews if you can join them for their next brew day. Dare yourself to learn everything that you can about other peoples’ beers. Challenge yourself to want to brew better ones. If after all of that, you still want to brew – by all means, go out and get yourself a starter kit.
Start Small & Use Extract
There’s no reason to try to be a home brew hero when you make your first batch. Or even the tenth! Brewing one gallon at a time is always a smart idea when you’re just getting started, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using an extract kit. Pick up a one gallon brew kit (and some other beer-related goodies while you’re at it) and make the best extract beer your friends have ever tasted. Then, and only then, make the switch to larger scale batches, and if you’re ready all-grain brewing.
Choose the Right Equipment
Once you’re ready to move up to bigger batches of home brew, the friendly folks at your local home brew shop should be able to hook you up with a good five gallon starter kit. Sure you can find these kits online, but making friends with the fellow brewers at the local store will definitely pay off down the road. Having a go-to resource that you can rely on for brewing questions or to alleviate a brew-day emergency is well worth the extra couple of dollars you might spend by purchasing something locally.
Chances are that your kit won’t include a brew pot, so you’ll need to purchase one separately. If there’s one thing you shouldn’t skimp on, it’s the pot. Consider going with something in the eight to ten gallon range, as it may serve you better in the long term. Once you switch to five gallon batches, your beer will taste better when you’re able to do a “full boil” and the larger pot makes your batches less prone to boil-overs.
Join a Home Brew Club
Beer friends are the best friends – and when you’re a home brewer they certainly come in handy. Whether you have questions, need an opinion on a recipe, or just want to talk to people who actually understand what you’re saying about yeast and wort, home brew clubs are an exceptional resource.
Home brew clubs are also a great way to get involved with home brew competitions. Entering the beer you’ve made to be judged is a great way to obtain extremely qualified feedback from certified beer judges and with any luck, you just might gain some well-deserved recognition for your efforts. You’ll meet great people, learn a ton, and become a better brewer by getting involved. As an added benefit, the meetings and educational events are a whole lot of fun.
While the above are all very useful points, some might argue that the most important thing you can do to get started as a home brewer, is to brew. And then brew again. And then brew some more. It’s true! The more you do it, the better you’ll get – and a little bit of passion goes a long way.