So many things I've learned in the past year about brewing beer. So many mistakes and so many lessons learned. Here are a few of the key notes I have taken away that other's can learn from.
1. Cleanliness is next to beer godliness: I have yet to lose a batch to bacteria or contamination (I just knocked on two different woods to be safe). I have not been the most stringent about my sterilization of equipment, but I have sterilized everything that came in contact with my wort after boil and in transfer. I know sometimes it's luck of the draw, but so far I've been very lucky.
2. Experimentation is good, but not great: At least in the first year. When you are a novice and think you
can manipulate the process, it can back fire. I let my friend Will do the wacky brews and I did my best to stay to the recipe or normal so I could better understand what did what and why. His brews nearly always came out great, but I learned the most from my simple brews. It was a control so that I could troubleshoot the off flavors I was getting. However I was only able to do that cause I relied on Will to pave the creative way, otherwise I would have ventured down the same path. Thanks Will!
3. Take readings even if you don't care about the ABV: Cause even if you do not, others do and you can never go back and get that info.
4. Half extract at beginning is the best way to go: Adding half the extract at the beginning and the rest of the extract in the last 10 minutes makes for the best tasting brew. Other wise the sugar will caramelize and some of the sugar will be too complex to break down. Plus you don't get the most from your hops because the higher the gravity the less alpha acids will absorb into the beer.
5. Yeast starter, yeast starter, yeast starter: You will almost always get an off flavor if you do not use a yeast starter. Do a yeast starter and your beer potential will increase 1000%.
6. Water is important but not too important: Spring water works great. I recently discovered that spring water with your boil and distilled water as the cold add is the best combination. The reason being is that the distilled water is like a sponge that attaches to flavors. This is why distilled or revere osmosis water is used for coffee and espresso. It immediately attaches to the coffee oils.
7. Homebrewing and hombrews is always better shared with friends: You don't need a friend to start brewing and you should not let the lack of beer buddies deter you from exploring this art. But you will learn more and appreciate better your final product then if you brew with someone else or have friends that appreciate good craft beer.
8. Start small and end big: I started doing hopped extract brews to all grain brews in just over a year. I started out spending less than $50 to get started. Over the year I've spent over $500 to get where I am at with my ability. I only got here because that first hopped extract brew kicked up my passion.
9. Don't be beer snob, just enjoy good beer: That pretty much speaks for itself.
My brew count for 2011:
1. Australian Pale Ale
2. Rolling Rock Clone
3. Mr. Brew Vienna Lager (don't judge me, I bought a package deal that included the kit so I gave it a whirl)
4. Irish American Red Ale
5. Amber Mexican Lager
6. 99 minutes in Paradise
7. Trash Oatmeal Stout
8. Spaten Optimator Clone
9. Caliexican Miller Ale
10. Newcastle Clone
11. Cheater's Oatmeal Irish Stout
12. Amber Deutschland 'ya? Ale
13. Amber Deutschland 'ya? Lager
14. Pumpkin Stout
Completed the following Beer Projects:
Converted a Chest Freezer to a Beer Box
Build a portable keg cooler/dispenser
Constructed a Mash Tun