Brewing has long been more of an esoteric art, than it has a scientific process. But we have come a long way since harvesting and malting our own grain, herbs, and hops before praying for a tasty outcome. Now, instead of relying on luck, location, seasons, and your ancestor’s brew paddle, you have readily available brewing supply stores with pre-made homebrew recipes for your shiny stainless cauldrons and temperature controlled fermentation chambers (which beats a cave). So, think of all the success that kept brewing alive through the ages before we learned the exact science behind it all. What kept those brewers and brewsters going then, is exactly what it takes now. Practice and dedication. The more you have of both, the better you get at brewing at home.

 

So, like I said above, the brewing process and what happens during fermentation to create those wonderfully combined byproducts of alcohol and CO2 was considered more of a magical process for longer than it has been an exact science. Because it’s actually fairly simple. Sugar, water, yeast, flavoring agents. A simple set of ingredients that can be combined in uncountable ways to create new and interesting flavors. For most of the known 6000+ years humanity has been combining these things, we didn’t know the truth behind the natural process and it could truly be described as the art of brewing beer at home—or in the temple, or the communal barn, the monastery, or wherever. It was someone’s job and the better they were at it, the better their end product. But then came science and microbiology and the doorway was opened for the rest of us! Art became science as we learned the reasons behind the process and combination of ingredients.

 

Now, you can walk in to your local homebrew supply as a novice brewer and pick up everything you need for the process of home brewing beer in one location AND get all the information you need to get started without all the years of apprenticing. With your first steps, you open the door to the possibility of becoming the best homebrewer on your street, in your neighborhood, amongst your friends, or maybe even regionally or nationally. Because once you get started, it’s all about the practice. What you put in, you get back. You need to consume as much of the available information as possible to learn the science. Then temper it with patience, practice, and passion, so you can turn around and bring it back to being that practiced art form. But you really do have to work if you want to become das beer making machine. You have to earn it.

 

To get to the level of a well oiled machine that can produce the same beer over and over again with reliable efficiency, you have to:

 

1. Educate yourself
2. Gather and master your equipment
3. Brew, brew, and brew again 

Education
This is easiest and cheapest part of the path that leads to getting better. If you have a home brew store near you, then walk in and talk to them. We love to talk brewing and share the passion. If you have a local homebrew club, join them and see what you can get into. If you live in the middle of nowhere, get on the internet and see if there’s anyone else nearby or just read about all the experiences of those who came before you. Learn what makes for good extract homebrew recipes, then take it up to the next level with all grain beer recipes. And learn to tell the bad ones from the good ones by trying the ingredients and experimenting. You can read as much as you want, but it comes back to putting that knowledge into practice for you to get anywhere. 
 

Choosing and Mastering Equipment

You cannot brew without the right tools. It could be as simple as a pot, ingredients, a heat source, a bucket, bottles, caps, and a capper. It could be as complicated as a hand-crafted fully automated multi-vessel brewing system. Just get started with whatever you can get going with, then improve upon your process. Have a grasp on the extract homebrew recipes you’ve bought from the brewing supply store near you? Buy a cooler and move up to all grain. Or maybe just get a good mesh bag to use with that kettle you have. It may eventually turn into that fully automated system (or something like a Grainfather), but on the way to it you have to learn how each system works to get the most from it. You have learn all the quirks and best methods to master it. But when you do, you are one step closer to being better than you were.

 

Brew and Brew and Brew and ...

Finally comes the most obvious thing. You just have to brew. And rebrew. Then brew again. Practice your recipes until they are just right. Nail down all the elements, whether it’s equipment, ingredients, fermentation, or process. Find where the flaws are and fix them. And there will be flaws. You just have to work through those discouraging times, stay focused, and keep trying. You WILL get there. When you do, not only will you be able to revel in your finished products, you will have earned the respect of other brewers and impressed any of the beer lovers in your life.

 

An art is not always easily accessible, but a science is. Apply yourself to the science and it can become an art. Believe in yourself. Become a liquid artist. 

 

--Greg