Even if you’re extract-only!
When brewers try their first batch, they’re inevitably excited – and surprised – that they actually, you know, made beer (unless batch #1 got infected, in which case they weep in the fetal position for hours). After a couple brews, however, that initial excitement wears off, and it’s time to step up your game. How can you move past making beer into make good, interesting beer?
- Show it off. If you have access to a homebrew club, this might be the most important step in improving your beer. Those who have been homebrewing for a long time can be fountains of knowledge. If something’s wrong with your beer, they’ll know what (and probably why). If there’s a specific taste you want explained, they’ll probably know what it is. If you’re looking to try something new and exciting, they’ll be able to tell you if it’s a good idea, and how to go about doing it.
- Don’t use a kit. Even if you’re still extract brewing, buy your ingredients a la carte, if possible. You can even just buy the exact items that are in a kit (and they’ll probably be cheaper individually). Buying piece-by-piece will help you understand why they’re in the recipe, and what purpose each ingredient serves. This also makes it much easier to change up recipes ever-so-slightly.
- Try to make a clone. This step is especially fun, because it means you get to try a bunch of commercial beers. Find something you like, and look for a recipe online. “Shorts Bellaire Brown recipe,” for example, would be a good place to start your googling.
- Go outside your comfort zone. This pertains to both drinking and brewing. Don’t have a lot of IPAs? Try one. It might inspire you to try something new in your brewing. You can also try brewing a style that you haven’t tried yet, or don’t typically drink a lot of. This will help you learn more about different styles of beer, and expand your brewing horizons.
- Try something crazy. If there’s a weird flavor you want to put in a beer, or you wake up in a cold sweat with a great idea, try it out. This is how we ended up with one of our better brews, the Charlie Pear-Shaped Weisen. The most important part of homebrewing is having fun. You’ll have fun, learn something new, and figure out what you can and can’t do in the future.
There are many other ways to improve your brewing with simple steps. Of course, moving to all-grain (or partial-mash) brewing is a big one, but I wanted to stay simple to start it off. What would you suggest?