Ok so I've been rabidly downloading all of Jamil's podcasts and listening to them in my sleep, driving, and drinking (not at the same time). After going all grain I have tasted the "potential" for my beer to be awesome, but not what I wanted. Basically I gathered three important themes that I would like to pass on so that hopefully someone won't go through 30 plus batches to come to this epiphany. Fermentation control is king. I live in the south and have always used the wet tee shirt method but my all grain usually came out sweet and full of weird ass esters that tasted better than some of the extract (twang) I did but still not to the microbrew quality that I strive for and read about from some of the great brewers in this forum. Another problem that I that I feel was from the sweetness was that I was mashing too high at 158. I came to this temp from the brewsmith full body default. One of the themes that I heard in Jamil's show was that this is a really hot mash and I think he only used that temp on a low gravity scottish ale, which is another reason why my beer was coming out sweet. Thirdly is starters which I have always avoided like that plague and have even posted about not using them. I did a experiment that used all three of these by using two activators of 1056, fermented at 62 degrees(bought a chest freezer and temp controller) and mashed at 150. I brewed a blonde with only american two row and one willimatte hop addition at 60 min to go totally naked and let all the flaws hang out. After a week it went from 1.045 to 1.009 and tasted completely awesome with no carbonation yet!!!
Tons of malt character without the sweetness. For anyone who hasn't listened to his show I highly recommend it, brewstrong.