How to start homebrewing

I brought up the idea of homebrewing to my father-in-law a couple of months ago. He’s one of those guys who says “People are already doing it, so why should we.” I’ve been fascinated with the idea of creating the beverage I love so much since I started drinking it, so I ignored him.

After a couple of random interviews with various brewers, they all asked if I brewed myself. I always told them I do a lot of reading, but I could never make the investment and figured I would be like my father-in-law and leave it to the pros.

That’s when a couple of them told me that if they thought like I did, we wouldn’t be sharing a pint right now.

I hopped on craigslist and found a guy who had just had a kid who was getting rid of all of his brewing equipment. Included in the kit:

5 gallon brew kettle
6.5 gallon plastic fermenter
5 gallon glass carboy
Bag of caps
Graduated cylinder
Auto syphon
Syphon tube
Bayou Classic propane cooker
Near-full propane tank
Bottle Capper
Cleaning snake

All of that for $120. I kid you not.

I took that as a sign to go for it.

I went to The Brew Shop in Bend and grabbed some StarSan, a brewer starter kit, and a couple other miscellaneous things and got started.

Here are my recommendations to first-time brewers:

1) I hate how much Charlie Papazian says it, but relax. I “messed up” my first batch terribly. I threw every ingredient the shop gave me into 3 gallons of boiling water (including my milled grains and 2 oz of hops) and somehow came out with a citrusy pale ale. Make it fun. After your first batch, you learn what to do better next time and start to understand what each ingredient does.

2) Buy Charlie Papzian’s book “The Joy of Homebrewing.”  The book could legitimately be 200 pages shorter if he took out “Relax, have a homebrew” and all the stupid illustrations, but the guy knows his stuff and will make the process WAY easier for you. It’s all about beer education. (Also, if you’ve got an iPad/Kindle, don’t get it there. You’ll be missing out on half of the [important parts] of the book).

3) Continue your education. Brewing beer isn’t just about a cheap alternative to buying your weekly allowance of 22s (although it is cheaper…my first batch was about $1.45 a 22), but it’s about understanding and appreciating beer. You start to figure out what goes into beer and how it changes with each additional ingredient. The smells linger with you and the next time you walk into a brewery, you’ll be able to discern the hops and malt that the brewer used for your favorite IPA.

4) Just do it. Feel like a mad scientist. You’re going to tell yourself 1,000,000 reasons why you shouldn’t brew and each of them will likely be legitimate, but you need to tell yourself that they aren’t and just do it. The taste of a beer you brewed on your own will be a fantastic feeling.

So relax, have a homebrew, and get brewing already.


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