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3 Tips to Get You Started as a Homebrewer

There’s no magic recipe to brewing the perfect beer. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned brewer looking to expand your horizons, there’s one thing to remember: homebrewing is not an exact science and experimenting is key to growing and discovering your own unique style of brewing.

That said, there are some basic rules to keep in mind to help brew the best beer in town.

Think Beyond Kits
As a beginner brewer, you might be tempted to start with a basic brewing kit, but that’s not always a good idea. Why? Because many inexpensive kits contain bad ingredients, old yeast, and, basically, don’t make very good beer, according to Don Welsh, Head of Research of Swem Library at the College of William and Mary and an avid homebrewer.

The answer? Take some time to research your options and build your own kit using fresh ingredients bought from reputable sellers and local homebrew stores. “Beginners will get the best first-brew experience if they find a local homebrew shop and purchase a beginners kit that was put together by the shop owner,” says Welsh. “These days, you can get most any ingredients you want at a good home brew store or you can get it in the mail in a couple days.”

Photo © 2009 J. Ronald Lee (http://jronaldlee.com)

Photo © 2009 J. Ronald Lee (http://jronaldlee.com)

Keep It Simple
While spices and flavorings are great for experimenting, beginners brewers are better off starting with simple recipes until they figure out how to brew a great basic beer. “Brewers need to learn basic brewing and how to get a good base beer before they start experimenting,” explains Welsh. “It is too easy to get too much or too little of a spice or to get some unexpected off flavors.”

You can make the brewing process fun by brewing with friends or joining a local home brew club. “Don’t be shy if you are just a beginner,” Welsh says. “If you don’t have any of you own beers to share, you can always bring a unique commercial beer for everyone to try.”

Keep Things Clean
Here’s a very important tip to remember: brewing equipment that hasn’t been properly sanitized can affect the taste of your batch. “Wort, the brewing term for unfermented beer, is the perfect medium to grow bacteria,” Welsh says.

The good news is that the bacteria is unlikely to make you sick. The bad news? Your beer is likely to taste pretty bad.

The solution: clean everything after every batch. That means not only the boiling equipment, but also the fermenting vessel, racking cane and even bottles.