So the year is almost over and i think it would be cool to share important things we learned in 2012, this is homebrewtalk so i guess pertaining specifically to brewing. I started brewing this past february, so im going on almost a year, however i took on way too much way too fast. That being said ive learned a lot, my top 3 would be
3) Measure your kettle boil off. I guess if youre doing partial boil extract batches this doesnt matter too much because of top up but for full boil i think this is vital. Not all kettles are the same and will boil off water at different rates. I took 8 gallons, boiled it for an hour, measured what was left with my brewers best bucket, and discovered that i boil off 1.8 gallons in my kettle. Ever since i did that all of my SG's come out within a point or two of my designed recipe.
2) Yeast starters are important. After more than a few under attenuated batches i realized that all were pitched straight from a new WLP container. Ive gotten away with smack packs, possibly because they are already somewhat started and the temps were higher in the summer.
1) You cant tell the beer when to be done, it will tell you. I started off following an arbitrary schedule, 2 week primary/2 week secondary/2 week bottles. When i followed that my results were less than stellar. Primary might only need less than 2 weeks, might need more, unless it was an intense fermentation a stable FG should be good enough. secondary, thats a whole debate in itself, i just use it for flavor infusings and clarity. To date i haven't had any bottles carbed and ready to go in 2 weeks, for me more like a month+, which is why i love kegging (which had its own unexpected challenges...)