Hello from Venice, CA.
My buddy and I started brewing in early August, he bought an equipment kit and we went to a class, where they demo'd how to brew a partial grain from start to finish.
Our first effort was a Belgian Mad Monk recipe (kind of a "single," lowish alcohol for the first batch) that they had at the store (great place, by the way, on Supulveda just south of Culver http://www.brewsupply.com/ ). We did OK, except we pitched the yeast without diluting, so rushed back to the store and repitched with a slightly different Belgian strain. Despite a heat wave and a hot garage, it fermented very slowly, so we left it in the primary for two weeks, then two weeks in secondary/carboy, bottled with priming sugar and waited three weeks. We have a hydrometer but didn't use it yet, just kind of going slow and trusting the process.
We had our first bottles last night. They were absolutely delicious. We could definitely taste the Belgian yeast, it was nice and malty and not too hoppy, perfectly carbonated. If I had it at a gastropub, I would definitely have ordered a second.
This process seems very forgiving. I think we'll slowly advance to actually taking readings and all-grain, but we're having too much fun and so far the results are pretty good to make this any more complicated for now.
There's a carboy of doppelbock lagering in a dedicated beer fridge my friend had for wine storage that he wasn't using, we tasted it as we racked to the secondary and it was pretty good then. We figure it will be ready for Thanksgiving. We also have a dubbel Belgian in the primary that we're going to rack tomorrow, similar to our first Belgian but with dark candi sugar and a half-recipe amount of sweet orange peel and coriander. This one blew the airlock off the primary, thanks for this forum to help me talk my buddy out of pitching the whole batch. We'll start something else in the primary then, possibly an American-style IPA.
Brewing is a lot of fun.