Ramble On

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"Relax, and Have a Home Brew" - Advice for Beginner Brewers

Three or four times now I've been asked by friends and acquaintances for advice about how to get started home brewing.  Now, I've only been doing this myself for four years, so I'm still very much a newbie - but I'm humbled by the requests, and glad to offer my insights to help get other enthusiasts started.  So today's post is a snippet of the advice I typically give on the topic.

My journey started with sitting sidesaddle with a couple of more experienced brewers - namely neighbor Dan and my friends Brendan and Stan.  After watching them, and helping them, with a batch each, I moved on to doing a series of one-gallon small batches, with the goal of progressing through all the steps on my own so I would know if I liked it well enough to progress to larger batches.

Here's a page with one gallon kits, as an example:

One Gallon Beer Kits

I ended up doing five one gallon batches (mostly from Brooklyn Brew Shop, which is represented on the page above along with others), so I really began to understand the process.  It underscored the importance of cleaning an sanitation, which should be drilled into everyone's head as often as possible when starting out.  Also, in reality, one gallon ends up taking the same amount of time as five gallons due to the accessory chores, which is another reason it's good to start small.

From there, I moved up to a five gallon set up.  I bought mine at a local home brew shop in Falls Church, Virginia, but there are tons of other resources for this, including two vendors I often use for ingredients:

http://www.northernbrewer.com (I tend to go to this one first)

Both of these have starter sets of all the equipment you need for a 5 gallon brew.

As a home brewer builds experience, there are two additional things he or she can look into: joining a local home brew club, and investing in some recipe books.  On the local home brew club, I'm a member of Blue Ridge Brewers Association, which meets in Luray (there's a link to the blog in my blog list on the right).  We meet three or four times a year to exchange information of interest to the brewers, to share recipes, and to do tastings of whatever new batches that our brewers bring along.

For recipe books, there are several I can recommend - with Amazon links below:

  • Anything by Charlie Papazian is a good read.  I quoted him in the title of this post - "Relax, and have a home brew." You can find older editions with plenty of references to the 1970's, which are a hoot, but here's a more recent one: 

The Complete Joy of Homebrewing Fourth Edition: Fully Revised and Updated

  • Also, there are tons of good recipe books, such as "Designing Great Beers" by Ray Daniels, or Dave Miller's "Homebrewing Guide."

  • Finally, if the hobby leads you to totally geek out, as it has for me, now that I am starting Hawksbill Hop Yards, you can dig into specific ingredients by checking out books like "For the Love of Hops" by Stan Hieronymus.  Obviously this is the direction I'm headed now...

I hope this info is useful to those getting started.  I'm happy to answer any additional questions via the comments to this post.  Happy Home Brewing!

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