I blame my wife.*
As a father of four daughters (three at the time, our fourth on the way), she felt that it would be a good idea for me to have a creative outlet…a hobby, if you will…to keep me busy, especially once the teenage years rolled around. So for my birthday a few years back, she surprised me with a trip to an unassuming strip mall tucked away in the suburbs. While that in itself may not sound very exciting, this particular strip mall is home to Beer Crazy, one of the area’s best home brew supply and bottle shops.
An hour later we walked away with recipe kit and everything I needed to make my own beer, plus a make-your-own six pack to enjoy throughout the process, natch.
That’s how it all began, and I’ve been at it ever since.
Thanks to my constant sharing (oversharing?) through social media, friends frequently ask not only how I got into home brewing, but how they could get into it themselves. While I’m far from being an expert on the subject, I’ve at least been able to get them heading in the right direction by offering a few simple tips.
Get the Gear
Brewing beer will require some up-front investment, but probably not as much as you may be thinking. You might even have most of what you need in your kitchen already! Granted, there are some really nice set-ups out there if you’re willing to spend the extra cash, but they won’t guarantee your brew will taste better. You can spend a lot of money and still make bad beer.
That said, you will still need to pick up some home brew specific essentials. Seek out a specialty store in your area; here in Des Moines head on over to Beer Crazy and they’ll set you up with everything you’ll need to get started.You’ll also want to pick up a recipe kit which comes with all the ingredients you’ll need to brew and ferment your first batch. Start with something simple like a hefeweizen or an amber ale.[If your area doesn’t have a specialty store, there multiple online options to choose from. I’d recommend checking out Northern Brewer’s Essential Starter Kit (“Brewery in a Box”).]
Once you have your gear and your ingredients kit, you’ll be tempted to crack open the box and dive right in. However, I’d suggest that it would probably in your best interest to slow down and do some research. That may not sound fun, but trust me: your efforts up front will be rewarded in the end.
Lay out your brew day in advance. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time it takes just by reading the recipe, so expect to spend at least two to three hours in the kitchen. Plan accordingly…you won’t need your bottles for at least two more weeks, so save yourself the trouble of sanitizing them too soon!
To every person that’s asked me how to get started home brewing, without fail I’ve recommended that they purchase a copy of John Palmer’s How to Brew. From brewing techniques, to step-by-step guides, to even developing your own recipes, it is the quintessential brewing bible that every home brewer should own. There is a free version available online, but I can’t tell you how handy having a hard copy next to me for quick reference on brew day has been.
Plus it’s a good way to pass the time while you’re waiting for the wort to boil!
Brewing your own beer can be intimating. DIY Books, websites, and even online community forums filled with guys flaunting pictures of their expert rigs and award-winning recipes might be enough to turn anyone off before they even attempt their first batch. Remember, you’re doing this for you. Take your time and enjoy the process. Grab some friends and get them involved! It’s a fun and rewarding experience that will really make you appreciate the next time you hear the word “craft” in craft beer.
I’ve wasted plenty of time stressing out over proper sanitation, missing mash temperatures, and lower than expected original gravities, but each time the brew has turned great in the end. Like anything, don’t sweat the small stuff. If you do, just relax and have a beer!
I hope this helps, and good luck with all your brewing endeavors. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Cheers!
*No, I don’t actually blame my wife for anything. I should be thanking her for turning me on to home brewing in the first place and supporting me as I continually stink up the kitchen with my creations. I’m grateful to have someone who enjoys craft beer as much as I do. Thank you, Missy…you rock!