Everyone has to start somewhere.
And when you get started, the details can be overwhelming, no matter what the subject. It’s definitely that way for the first time brewer. And can still be that way for the experienced or even professional brewer. No one can know everything, nor do they need to know everything to be good at something.So, what does that mean for you as a novice brewer? Well, it means that you need to combine your sources and learn how to separate fact from opinion and/or fiction—you’ll need to study, compare, and discuss ideas and methods. And most of all, you’ll need to try those methods. Again and again. So, how do you get started? The easiest way is to get a book or five, a beginner’s equipment kit (and don’t forget a good kettle for boiling), a pre-made recipe kit, and hopefully an ability to wade through all the crap to find the reliable information on the web. And maybe make friends with a more experienced brewer to help guide you along on your first brew. Then put those things together and brew! It basically comes down to the following two options and one general idea worth remembering: Sanitization. Always keep your brew and fermentation gear clean and sanitize anything the beer touches after the boil or you risk an infection. An infected beer is drinkable, but most likely not enjoyable. So always brew with best practices in mind.
Option 1: If you know someone with experience, ask to brew with them. Get an invitation to a brew day that allows you to split a batch, then do your best to pay attention and help with the process. This means taking it easy on the homebrews, asking questions, and getting your hands dirty, or at the least, staying out of the way. You let them handle the recipe and you pitch in on the ingredients and brew tasks to take a share home. Before the brew day, purchase a starter kit with the tools you’ll need (a primary fermenter, stopper, airlock, siphon, etc.) and a dry yeast based on the style you are brewing. Be prepared. Have a great time learning, sampling, asking questions, and helping, then take home your first batch of beer to ferment in a cool place in your home. Then, purchase bottles, caps, and priming sugar/carbonation drops so you can package your first beer when its ready. Once packaged, you’ll have about three weeks until you have your own cold, refreshing goodness in your hand. This option allows you to learn and take part in the process so that you have both experience and a final product to enjoy without as much risk. At the end, you have beer to drink, equipment to work with on your next brew, and experience with brewing and fermenting that you can apply to your first solo batch. Just remember, everyone is nervous about their first few batches and everyone eventually gets a handle on what they are doing.
Option 2: This is the option for the bold. This time you will dive right in and make a brew of your own. Scary? No. Why? You can do this! Start by purchasing a starter kit, a kettle that can hold and boil at least 4 gallons, filtered water, and a pre-packaged ingredient kit. These few things and a stable, cool, dark fermentation space quickly leads to a tasty cold homebrew in your hand. The starter kit contains everything you need on the hot and cold side of brewing other than the brew kettle. With an ingredient kit for an ale style, followed eventually by bottles, caps, and priming sugar/carbonation drops, you CAN brew a fine beer on your own. All you have to do is follow the instructions in the kit. The ingredients are listed and the appropriate timing is described in easy to follow steps. Start with one kit, then buy a second primary fermenter and another kit that catches your interest so you can have another beer fermented and ready not long after your first. This option allows you to jump right in and immediately start building your confidence as a brewer and—the more often you brew—your home beer selection. It’s really not as difficult as it might seem. You’ll get better with every brew, make fewer mistakes, quickly be enjoying better beer, and soon be asking different questions. It’s that simple. If you follow either of these options, you can brew your own. It all breaks down to practice, knowledge, and patience. So don’t be afraid, even if you make mistakes you’ll still have a drinkable end product that you can call your own. This and any lessons learned will build your confidence. With that, you can then take your next steps with equipment, methods, kegging/storage, or recipe “cloning” of some favorite commercial beer or beer style. You only have to get started!
Brew Better Beer: Don’t have a cool enough place to ferment an ale in the 64-68F range? Put the fermenter in a tub of water with a wet towel wrapped around it and a small stand fan next to it to keep air flowing across the towel. Yeast create heat while they do their thing and can quickly raise the temperature of your wort several degrees, possibly causing off flavors if you get too hot. Using this tub and towel method creates an evaporative effect that pulls that heat away from the fermenter. Put it in a room with a temperature between 70-74F and your fermenting beer should be in the mid to upper 60s.
Brew Better Beer: Look into John Palmer, Charlie Papazian, and Jamil Zainasheff. They are widely known authorities who created solid learning material for all levels of brewers. We carry their books at Texas Brewing Inc. and highly recommend them! Examples include: How to Brew, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, and Brewing Classic Styles. Items of Interest: Texas Brewing Starter Equipment Kit Texas Brewing Recipe Kits Brewer’s Best Recipe Kits Yeast (Dry and Liquid) Fermenters Brewing Kettles Bottles and Caps Books Kegging