It (only) took 5 batches, but, I made a beer that I REALLY want to drink - an IPA w/ Challenger Hops finished w/ Amarillo for dryhopping.
The reasons (thanks to HBT.com) it all came together are as follows:
*Sufficiently Sanitized Everything (Spray Bottle full of Starsan is a must)
*Maintained steady steeping temp
*Chilled the wort quickly to the proper pitching temp
*Good aeration (shake the sh!t out of the fermentor)
*Maintained ideal temps fermention temps.
Mostly, I'd like to share this with other fellow-newbs who, like me, are struggling.
I put my brew-tools together on a shoestring - wife bought my basic kit and I found my turkey frier, pot and freezer on Craigslist (all for >$100). I honestly feel like I can make beer that rivals what I can buy in the store. Obviously, I have an enormous amount to learn and many mistakes to make, but, I can rest assured tonight knowing that the beer in my brew closet (that I made) is damn good.