So you want to be a home brewer?

I’ve been brewing for over ten years at this point in my life and I couldn’t be happier.  I started way back in high school by making different sodas and adding a small dash of yeast to carbonate each batch which ended up in lots of popped bottle tops and over fermented soda spilling all over my teacher’s apartment floor (sorry Alice) and accidentally making alcoholic root beer (sorry class of 2004?) which was more delicious than it should have been.  I’ve made a lot of good batches of beer and I’ve seen batches go bad in front of my eyes (Melissa, you know what I’m talking about).  Now you all get to take some great wisdom away from my success and misfortune because mistakes are only useful if you learn from them.


-Think of brewing as a battleground, your troops are yeast and your enemies are bacteria, other yeast, and fungus.  You want to give your troops the best advantage by clearing the field (fermenters and bottles) of the enemy.

-Learn how to sanitize and do it.  A lot. 

-Have a significant other who doesn’t like to brew but wants alcohol?  Have them supervise the process and remind you to stay sanitized.

-Boiling water is not a sanitizing option.

-Bleach is acceptable to sanitize your equipment, but spend the money and get a big bottle of Star San from the brew shop.  Totally worth it and your hands won’t smell like chemical death after sanitizing.

-Canned malt is a great starter, but all grain is so much more fun…also cheaper in the long run.

-Expect to spend $200 on your first set-up, but here is some math to help ease the pain.  5 gallons (standard batch size) is 53 12 oz. bottles of beer.  1 case of beer is 24 bottles so 2 cases are 48 bottles.  One six pack of craft beer is around $10 so a case of craft beer is exactly $89,000 while a batch of beer is around $30-$50 depending on the style you’re making so you’re saving $88,950-$88,970 per batch.  Look at those savings!

-Kegs are proof that the Beer Gods in the sky are pleased with brewing.

-Bottles are annoying to clean.

-NEVER ask all of your friends for empty beer bottles, you will get cases and cases of dirty, empty beer bottles for months after your initial request.  Secretly collect empties at parties and hoard them in your car.  You might look crazy, but at least you won’t be buried under a pile of empty bottles.

-Cascade hops sound amazing and exotic, but you’ll find they’re the cheap ramen noodle of the brewing world.

-Read all you can about brewing from as many different sources just cause it’s fun.  Start with the Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian and go from there.

-Yes, you can make beer on the stove, no you don’t need a propane turkey cooker…but it helps a lot.

-Digital candy thermometer.  Buy it, use it, never be confused about temperatures again.

-Record your process for every batch, no really, do this.

-Get a brewing calendar and plot out when you need to change batches, bottle brews and other such stuff.

-Immersion wort chillers are amazing.  Buy one or make one from copper tubes, just remember to make sure the outflow doesn’t over flow onto the floor, through the walls, and into the downstairs apartment.

-Plastic milk cartons are great tools to hold bottles and hold fermenters on when you’re changing out a batch.

-Spend the money and get a pump siphon.  It might be more expensive than a plastic tube, but is sooo worth it.

-Organize your equipment or it will take over the entire house.

-Learn from your own mistakes and build on  your own successes.  Experiment, get messy, and have fun doing it.


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