You want to brew a new batch of beer. That decision is step one of the process. The next step – and arguably the most important – is what to brew. Generally you have a ton of options to choose from – pilsner, IPA, porter, stout, etc. Once a decision is made, one has to think about when they are going to brew their beer. Timing is often key when it comes to brewing beer, especially if you want to produce a seasonal batch in keeping with the season. In other words, don’t wait until winter to brew a winter beer. It might not be ready to drink until spring or early summer, depending on what it is and how long it needs to ferment and condition.
Many home brewers often find themselves wanting to emulate their favorite breweries by downloading clone recipes of their favorite beers. For the average home brewer, it’s all about trying something new and expanding your vocabulary, so to speak. I myself started back in my college days with a fraternity buddy of mine and a batch of something from Mr. Beer. It really doesn’t matter what it was, it wasn’t all that memorable. The point I make is that you start somewhere and upon each step you take, you seek to improve upon your previous offering. So here’s what you need to do when considering a beer to brew:
- Most important – Have you tasted this type of beer before? Does/will your palette recognize any off flavors if such an occurrence should take place?
- Have you brewed this type of beer before? Do you know what to expect on brew day and days there after during fermentation?
- What is your time frame for this beer? What is the turn-around time from grain to glass? (This is where you have to be careful, especially if you want to brew seasonals)
- Are you brewing alone or with someone else? What can they offer to the equation?
When dealing with clone recipes or anything else you wish to use in order to simulate a beer that you have previously had, be sure to stick to the script. In other words, save the experimentation for your next batch. If this one ends up nicely, you can always tweak it at another time. Getting a small brew kit (maybe 1 or 2 gallons) for that type of experimental work would be best. It will save you plenty of heartache (and stomach ache) from having to drink 2 cases worth of bad beer if brewing a 5 gallon batch. All that being said, remember one thing. ALWAYS TAKE NOTES! Record your data when you brew. OG (original gravity), mash-in temp, strike temp, hop addition schedule, FG (final gravity), etc.
If you can collaborate with a friend to brew your batch, that’s great. If you have a place to do it, even better. If not, don’t fret. There are almost always local venues that allow you to brew on the premises. Give that a look up if you don’t already know of one in your area. Finally, set aside the time you need to do the batch right the first time out. I can promise you, once it’s tasting time, you will understand the meaning behind the words “you reap what you sow.” Good luck fellow brewer. Cheers…