If you’re jonesing to take your homebrewing game to new heights or want to help your resident brewer achieve advanced brewer status, you’ve come to the right place. We have some solid quick and dirties on how to make it happen. There’s plenty to learn and master when it comes to brewing—mostly because a quality brew is a steady mixture of both science and art. So throw on your lab coat and break out your palette, we’ve got brew business to tend to.
ALL GRAIN BREWING
Advanced brewers are typically all-grainers because it adds a considerable amount of freedom to the craft. Malt extract is completely fine (and has won many a homebrew contest), but the fact remains that all-grain is the tried and true path to next leveling.
Unlike extract brews that typically take three hours from start to finish, all-grain brew days can last from five to eight hours depending on how you lauter, how long you mash and if the beer has an extended boil. But just like Aunt Gertrude always said, good things come to those who wait.
All you really have to know to get you started are the basics behind mashing—not every last thing about enzymes. Soak the crushed grains in hot water, drain the wort, rinse the grain bed. Nailed it. Knowing how to properly soak grains in hot water is a lot less intimidating than buying the hype that all-grain brewing is ridiculously complex. It’s not. It’s like learning to ride a bike—in the middle of the ocean. No big deal.
GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH RAW MATERIALS
Knowing the difference between malts, yeasts and hops, and how things like the brewing process, color and flavor affect your brew is key. Malt is a great example. The name of the game is uncovering the nuances and subtleties of different flavors so you can play with them in your masterpieces. Malts are typically the deciding factor in particular flavors that make your taste buds do the cha cha.
The same deal applies for hops. Know them and you can easily swap one out for another when devising your latest and greatest. The smell and taste of the malts, hops or other raw ingredients will be your tip off for what and how much to use to get your desired flavors. At that point, your signature brew is at your fingertips. And as a general aside, having the right equipment will make your experience approximately 897x more enjoyable.
NO MORE RECIPES
We didn’t want to strike fear into your heart by dropping this tip first or even second, but you’re ready for it now. There’s obviously considerable skill and technique to crafting an incredible brew, but just like cooking, there’s an art to the whole thing. Use all the guidelines you want, but in order to channel the guru behind that microbrewery down the street, now’s the time to get bold and trust your gut.
Experiment with the ratios of your specialty malts, hopping schedule, and mash profile and then develop your own mashing, fermenting, sparging and aging methods—it won’t affect your brewing process! Do, however, educate yourself on the beer’s flavor compounds during fermentation. This knowledge alone will help launch you to the next brew level. It’ll also ensure you can wipe the floor with the newbs. Which you once were. Don’t get cocky.
Your home brewing badassery is about to outdo itself. Have fun with it, experiment and if you come up with something truly gnarly, give it to your neighbor whose dog keeps dumping on your lawn as a “gift.” All’s fair in love and brew.