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Tristan Griffith
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Looks like you've got tons of great advice already and by now you're probably well aware just how helpful the homebrew community is. I'm late to the party it seems (thanks to a long weekend AFK), but I wanted to throw my 2 cents in. Remember that beer is hard to screw up (as long as you sanitize like you've got the OC disorder). You may make a beer that isn't what you wanted, you may not make a fantastic beer every time, but you're almost always going to surprise yourself with how good your beer is. You'll probably find yourself wondering at times, "is this normal?" Pretty much every first time homebrewer freaks out at the gunk on top of the beer after a couple of days when most of the krausen has subsided. "It's infected! I suck!" you'll exclaim. Relax, this is normal (the gunk, anyway). The beer is not infected (unless you didn't sanitize, but that would be silly). Let the beer hang out for a couple more weeks and it will go away. I'm not sure if the recipe you are currently brewing is a mini-mash (a.k.a. partial-extract) recipe, but if not, I highly recommend moving to mini-mash with your next recipe. It will give your beer so much more character and make it taste more like a "real" beer. There isn't a lot of variety when it comes to extracts so after drinking all-extract homebrews for a while they kind of start to taste the same. It's not much more difficult than all-extract; instead of steeping a small amount of adjunct grains you actually mash roughly 2-6 pounds worth of grains. In other words, there are more actual grains and you have to "steep" them at a specific temperature (~150-160F). With adjuncts you are just extracting the "essence" of the grains to try to give the beer some semblance of character; you're not really gaining any fermentables. With a mini-mash, the grains actually provide a significant portion of your fermentables and beer character. Ok, last tip, I swear. (Like many homebrewers, I am passionate about my hobby and can ramble on for hours about it.) Anyway, get your procedure down before you start formulating recipes. Otherwise, if your beer doesn't turn out quite right you won't know if it's because of your procedure or because of your recipe. Brew several batches using recipes/kits from your local homebrew store and once you're confident that you can produce a great beer from those then move to making your own recipes. When you do start making your own recipes, it's important to understand the characteristics of different malts, hops, and yeast, and how they contribute to beer and different styles of beer. "Designing Great Beers" (http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Great-Beers-Ultimate-Brewing/dp/0937381500/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b) would be a good book to pick up to help you with this. Also, brewing software like Beersmith (www.beersmith.com) or websites like www.hopville.com are great because they do pretty much all the calculations for you. Homebrewing can be messy and involves a lot of cleaning, but when you take a sip of that first homebrew and go, "wow!", it all becomes worthwhile and you can't wait to get started on your next batch. Welcome to the hobby and I look forward to reading about your experiences!
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+1 on mead. It's easier to make than beer, you just have to be way more patient. It's also delicious and'll get yer drunk!
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Jul 14, 2011