If you’re a beer enthusiast, have you ever considered home brewing? Our home brewing expert, Jared Kovacs, shares all the information you need to know to start producing your own great beer. This month Jared ends his series with some key tips to help you go from brewing beginner to brewmaster.
Here we are, at the end of this series on home brewing essentials. With any new hobby, there’s a learning curve. We all have to start somewhere, and I hope this overview of home brewing has served as an excellent introduction to the hobby.
For many who begin, you’ll discover how simple it is to brew good beer. It isn’t difficult so long as you have the basics down, which, I hope, I've helped you with on my articles on sanitization, equipment, ingredients (malt, hops and yeast) and understanding brewing terms.
How do we master our homebrews, how do we go from beginner to brewmaster?
The thing about brewing — maybe the most frustrating part — is making great beer consistently, and making the same recipe taste the same every time. There are so many variables that can go wrong in the brewing and fermentation process that going from making good to great beer is challenging.
The question is, how do we master our homebrews, how do we go from beginner to brewmaster? In this post, I hope to answer that question.
Home Brewing Motivators: Art vs. Science
In my previous articles, I’ve talked about two different motivators behind home brewing.
Some people are attracted by the art of brewing and others find themselves drawn to the science of it. And as hard it is for me to admit this because I’m positively driven by the art of home brewing, making excellent homebrew has everything to with the science of it. It’s because making great homebrew requires you to have an incredible amount of control over your brewing equipment, brewing temperatures, time and fermentation environments.
The Value of Experience
You know you're on track to making great beer when your brew turns out the same way every single time, with little or no variation in flavour, smell, colour and mouthfeel.
Ultimately this comes down to experience. If you want to get good at making beer, then you have to brew a lot. And not only that, but you have to make the same recipe over and over again. You'll notice slight variations in flavour, smell, and even colour if you haven't followed the recipe exactly every time. Until you’re achieving the same result time and time again, I wouldn't recommend moving onto a different recipe.
This is why, in my very first article, Home Brewing: Make What You Love, I suggested that you brew your favourite commercial beer — because you could be drinking gallons of it. Trust me, you'll want something you know you don't tire of easily.
Inevitably, this means that you have to record everything on your brew days and the conditions during fermentation. And when I say record everything, I do mean record everything.
From your sanitation procedures to the ingredients used, mash temperatures, boil times, hop additions, how long it took for your flameout, and keeping track of your fermentation temperatures, all has to be recorded.
Remember, every step of the brewing process and how precise you are has a part to play in taking your beer from bad to good to great.
Every mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow as you become the brewmaster of your very own home brewery.
The good news is there are print brew journals, computer programs and home brewing apps to help you track every step of your brew day.
If you’re like me, and like using free things, the computer program BrewTarget will be indispensable. It’s available on Windows and Mac and has been the single most significant help to me. I highly recommend it.
There are, of course, other computer programs and mobile apps you can use to keep track of your brews, but for a price.
Whatever you settle on, be consistent recording your brew days. Over time this information will be invaluable to you. Just remember that every mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow as you become the brewmaster of your very own home brewery.
Control Your Fermentation Temperatures
I can’t stress enough how important it is to control your fermentation temperatures. I covered this in Home Brewing Essentials: Understanding Yeast, but it would be foolish of me not to reiterate how important it is to keep your yeast happy.
From my experience, this is the most critical aspect of making great beer. If you treat your yeast well and give them the temperatures they need to thrive, they’ll be kind to you. Treat ‘em nice!
The Key to Mastering Homebrew: Do It!
Finally, the only way to get good at something is to do it and do it a lot — 10,000 hours, right? You can’t master something if you don’t actually do it. I mean, we all know that watching a “how to” video doesn’t mean we know “how to” do anything (I’m looking at you, my fellow millennials). The only way to master homebrew is by doing it. So do it and let me know how it goes!
May the brew gods look down on you with favour. Brew on my friends.
- Home Brewing Essentials: Brewing Terminology
- Home Brewing Essentials: Understanding Malt
- Home Brewing Essentials: Understanding Hops
Home Brewing is written by Jared Kovacs. Jared comes from a long line of food and drink connoisseurs. His father was a chef, his grandparents owned a diner, his grandfather is a home brewer, and his great-great-great-grandfather was a brewmaster in Germany. He loves sharing good food, beer (especially home brews), and cider with friends and family. You can follow him at The Hesitant Chef or on social media at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.