7 tips for the beginner beer brewer to think about before they start brewing
If you're about to take the plunge and brew your first batch of home brew beer, good on you!
If you take the time to do it right, you will be rewarded with a refreshingly good beverage. A good start to your 'brewing campaign' will give you the confidence that brewing home brew is actually easy and you might continue with it as a hobby.
There's certainly a lot to learn, so if you are a first time beer brewer, you might want to have a read of these tips and tricks.
1. That starter beer kit your wife gave your for Christmas is not enough
While the beer kit you were given for Christmas by your loving wife will help you on your way to making a good home brew beer, you can do better.
Kits that only come with a sugar or dextrose alone will contribute to a beer that's weak in the sense that it will seem thin in terms of its 'mouth feel'.
Think of mouth feel as that sense of 'full heartiness' that you get from that first mouthful of a well deserved beer. In response to this need, the home brewer should consider adding more malt - either liquid or dry malt.
For the dry malt, a 'brew enhancer' pack is what you need.
In this writer's experience, making a home brew beer kit without the enhancer most definitely results in a weak beer, so make sure your start kit comes with it or at the least, head to your local brew shop and grab a packet. It shouldn't cost more than ten bucks.
2. You'd best best to brew an ale than a lager
The truth is that the darker the beer, the more forgiving it will be in the home brewing process. It's very easy to make a mistake with your first home brew so a beer style that's good to drink and is also easy to take care of is the brew you are after.
While you should feel free to start with a lager, and yes, many beer kits do come with lagers, bear in mind that lagers need to be cooled rather more quickly than an ale and they also require a bit more yeast in the fermentation process.
We love brewing Nut Brown Ales.
3. In the cold cold, night.Fermentation is a process that requires just the right kind of temperatures and the right kind of times.
Different temperatures brew different kinds of beers.
A constant temperature is also very important as the yeast can react to a temperature variance in ways that are not good for tasty beer! So when doing your first brews, make sure it can be done in a warmish area and one that's going to keep that temperature.
A very rough guide is that you should aim to brew lagers between 10-14 degrees, and get those ales done between 18-21 degrees.
You got that White Stripes reference right?
4. You don't need to bottle straight away, just because the fermentation bottle has stopped bubbling
If the bubbles in the airlock have stopped completely, this is not necessarily a sign that the fermentation process has completed. It's quite likely that there's still some fermentation quietly happening in the drum.
So let that play out a bit longer. It could be that you let your beer rest longer than the written instructions that came with your beer kit. Then bottle away.
5. Don't bottle to early as well!
Simply put, don't bottle too early. This is basically point four repeated. If you bottle before fermentation has completed too early, you could be in for some trouble.
Did you ever see that Breaking Bad episode where Hank woke up in the night thinking he was being shot at but in reality it was just his home brew exploding?
That's what happens if you bottle your beer to early. Don't be like Hank, let your beer mellow just a bit longer. Chances are it will taste better too!
6. Using a hydrometer will help you develop your home brewer's 'Sixth Sense' about how your brew is going.
A hydrometer, correctly used will help you to determine if your batch has finished fermenting. If you get the same reading twice in a row, the fermentation process has finished - but leave it just a little bit longer before you bottle.
Trust us on this one.
You can also use the hydrometer to work out the alcohol content of your beer.
7. Good things come to those who wait
Once you've managed to get your precious liquid gold into your well sterilized bottles we can only imagine how keen you are to sample your efforts. You're going to have to wait.
The instructions in your beer kit may suggest you need to wait two or three weeks.
Believe them. Or not.
Let your beer have time to make those bubbles.
You will be rewarded with a better tasting beer. If you can't wait, get yourself busy with a second brew and at the very least, give your equipment a good clean.
So that's plenty of things to think about. Once you've done that, get brewing!
Beer image courtesy James Palinsad by way of Creative Commons licence.