Best Way to Learn Advanced Brewing?

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

Nexus555

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2007
Messages
158
Reaction score
20
Location
Baton Rouge, LA
I am waiting to brew my first beer since 2007, and it will only be my third time. I am going to do an extract kit as before. Typically when I get into a hobby, I try to learn as much as possible.

Where do you begin to get better at brewing beer? Are there certain must-have books? Note taking? I'm sure experience is the number one priority as there are so many different yeasts, grains, specialty grains, hops, extracts and so forth.

Would it be best to brew a variety of beer with a variety of ingredients or stick to one style and brew variants to discover more aspects of each respective style? My ultimate goal is to at least brew acceptable beers using my own recipes.


Thanks!
 

wepeeler

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
May 31, 2018
Messages
1,300
Reaction score
2,474
Location
CT
Experience is the best answer, but a pre-made kit might be your next best friend. Get the process down again, and see how far you want to get into this hobby. Simple is key. I find my best beers are super simple grain bills. Keep it simple.

Cleaning. Sanitization. Repeat. Brewing is cleaning and keeping things clean.

I'd start with a simple recipe and try to get it to where you want it to be. It's hard jumping from style to style if you're not dialed in.
 
OP
OP
N

Nexus555

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2007
Messages
158
Reaction score
20
Location
Baton Rouge, LA
Experience is the best answer, but a pre-made kit might be your next best friend. Get the process down again, and see how far you want to get into this hobby. Simple is key. I find my best beers are super simple grain bills. Keep it simple.

Cleaning. Sanitization. Repeat. Brewing is cleaning and keeping things clean.

I'd start with a simple recipe and try to get it to where you want it to be. It's hard jumping from style to style if you're not dialed in.
Makes sense. I will try to stick to maybe two or three of my favorite styles and keep it simple.
 

Sam_92

A whimsical brewer.
Joined
Oct 7, 2021
Messages
295
Reaction score
673
Location
Spokane
When I was learning to brew I read How to Brew by John Palmer and spent hours on this site reading the collective experiences of people here. I would recommend brewing a recipe from a published source of a style you enjoy and maybe tweaking it in some small way. Mostly at this point though the important thing is to focus on learning the process and making it repeatable.
 

Alan Reginato

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2021
Messages
157
Reaction score
124
Location
Brazil
Not in forums, for sure...

Search sites, blogs and read a lot.
Get a software. BrewersFriend site also work well. Play with it until you get comfortable.

A very personal suggestion, if you're thinking in brew for years, make your own recipes, aiming experiment the ingredients. Start with 1 or 2 malts, single hops beers. Play with different yeast. No expectations, only flavours discovers. Keep it simple, at beginning at least.

That's it, good luck!
 

AlexKay

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 18, 2020
Messages
912
Reaction score
1,918
Location
South Bend
Take detailed notes, too. Copy down the recipe you’re using (including water). record any measurements (SG, pH, fermentation temperature, etc.), describe the process, and include tasting notes.

If your goal is to become an experienced brewer (as opposed to making a bit of beer), there’s something to be said for jumping right in to all-grain (BIAB.). You may have one or two more sub-par batches, but you’ll learn a ton.
 

McMullan

wort maker
HBT Supporter
Joined
Dec 22, 2015
Messages
1,662
Reaction score
2,038
Brew and observe. Keeping good records is fundamental. We need to know what we did to be able to make reasoned changes in the next batch or understand why we produced our best beer ever. Brewing smaller batches more often is a more efficient way to learn. Extract brewing is fine and very convenient. Moving to all-grain brewing is a step towards more advanced brewing, but wort making isn't going to translate into much without first nailing fermentation and packaging. This is where I'd focus in your case.
 

Beermeister32

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jul 20, 2013
Messages
1,235
Reaction score
2,023
Location
Southern California
Contact your local home brew shop. Many of these folks run beer brewing trainings out on the parking lot on weekends with 10 fellas hanging around watching, questioning and drinking beer. It is fun and educational to watch a batch brewed from start to finish, yeast added, oxygenated and then into the fermentation chamber.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
3,993
Reaction score
2,983
Location
_
I am waiting to brew my first beer since 2007, and it will only be my third time.
Why did you stop brewing the first time?




Typically when I get into a hobby, I try to learn as much as possible. [...] Where do you begin to get better at brewing beer?
There are a number of things one must do right to make good beer. How to Brew, 4e lists five:
  1. sanitation
  2. fermentation temperature control
  3. proper yeast management
  4. a proper boil
  5. a solid recipe
There are a couple of others that make good beer better
  • proper water (and water adjustments)
  • oxygen management
  • ...
but if a batch fails due to bad sanitation, water adjustments don't matter.




so many different yeasts, grains, specialty grains, hops, extracts and so forth.
Understanding beer styles can help. Consider this from an earlier edition of How To Brew:

... here is a rough approximation of the recipes for the common ale styles:​
Pale Ale - base malt plus a half pound of caramel malt,​
Amber Ale - pale ale plus a half pound of dark caramel malt,​
Brown Ale - pale ale plus a half pound of chocolate malt​
Porter - amber ale plus a half pound of chocolate malt,​
Stout - porter plus a half pound of roast barley.​

Flavor wheels are easy to find in the 2020s.

Malt providers offer advice for tasting malts individually. Hop suppliers often categorize hops by flavor(s) or by style. Yeast labs and suppliers often categorize yeast the same way.



There's a lot more that can (and will) be said.

I am waiting to brew my first beer since 2007, and it will only be my third time.
Why did you stop brewing the first time?

If you stopped brewing in 2007 because the hobby took too much time, it still takes a lot of time.

Techniques and recipes are available to shorten the brew day to 1-2 hours (extract) or 2-3 hours (BIAB). Often those techniques move some of the work to the previous day (preparation) or next day (clean up).
 
OP
OP
N

Nexus555

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2007
Messages
158
Reaction score
20
Location
Baton Rouge, LA
Not in forums, for sure...

Search sites, blogs and read a lot.
Get a software. BrewersFriend site also work well. Play with it until you get comfortable.

A very personal suggestion, if you're thinking in brew for years, make your own recipes, aiming experiment the ingredients. Start with 1 or 2 malts, single hops beers. Play with different yeast. No expectations, only flavours discovers. Keep it simple, at beginning at least.

That's it, good luck!

I've seen some here using software. I will look into that more too.
 
OP
OP
N

Nexus555

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2007
Messages
158
Reaction score
20
Location
Baton Rouge, LA
Why did you stop brewing the first time?





There are a number of things one must do right to make good beer. How to Brew, 4e lists five:
  1. sanitation
  2. fermentation temperature control
  3. proper yeast management
  4. a proper boil
  5. a solid recipe
There are a couple of others that make good beer better
  • proper water (and water adjustments)
  • oxygen management
  • ...
but if a batch fails due to bad sanitation, water adjustments don't matter.





Understanding beer styles can help. Consider this from an earlier edition of How To Brew:

... here is a rough approximation of the recipes for the common ale styles:​
Pale Ale - base malt plus a half pound of caramel malt,​
Amber Ale - pale ale plus a half pound of dark caramel malt,​
Brown Ale - pale ale plus a half pound of chocolate malt​
Porter - amber ale plus a half pound of chocolate malt,​
Stout - porter plus a half pound of roast barley.​

Flavor wheels are easy to find in the 2020s.

Malt providers offer advice for tasting malts individually. Hop suppliers often categorize hops by flavor(s) or by style. Yeast labs and suppliers often categorize yeast the same way.



There's a lot more that can (and will) be said.


Why did you stop brewing the first time?

If you stopped brewing in 2007 because the hobby took too much time, it still takes a lot of time.

Techniques and recipes are available to shorten the brew day to 1-2 hours (extract) or 2-3 hours (BIAB). Often those techniques move some of the work to the previous day (preparation) or next day (clean up).
I think I quit brewing because I got a new job which required a lot of nights and weekends. I never really had a good schedule where I could plan a week or two ahead. I have a little more time to myself now. Also, thanks for all of this other information. It will come in handy :D
 

CascadesBrewer

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2013
Messages
2,219
Reaction score
2,078
Location
VA, USA
When I was learning to brew I read How to Brew by John Palmer

Personally, I feel that if one person's only source was "How to Brew" and they spent 2-3 years working through each chapter in progressing, and brewing the majority of recipes in the book, they would come out the other end in the top 5% of brewers. One could debate about some of John's methods, but he is a very good brewer that is good at teaching. The book "How to Brew" covers the vast majority of the topics that matter to homebrewing. (It might be a little dated if you want to make NEIPAs and Smoothie Sour "beers" though.)

Where do you begin to get better at brewing beer?

I will say that I improved as a brewer when I started to limit the styles that I brewed. I brew mostly Pale Ale, IPAs, Saisons, and Trappist styles, with a few Porters/Stouts in the mix. In years past I would jump from recipe to recipe and style to style. I made a mix of good beers and mediocre beers, but did not really understand why they were good or mediocre. You might learn more about your process and ingredients after brewing 6 batches of an Irish Stout, or Special Bitter, than with picking up 6 different recipe kits.

It is also more of a journey than a destination. I am about 1 month away from my 29th anniversary of my first brew. There are a LOT of malts, hops and yeast that I have never tried. There are more styles in the BJCP listing that I have not brewed than I have brewed, and there are maybe 15 styles that I feel I really understand. That said, I am sure I could pick up a recipe for a Kölsch or Rauchbier and make a decent example of that style.
 

AlexKay

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 18, 2020
Messages
912
Reaction score
1,918
Location
South Bend
I will say that I improved as a brewer when I started to limit the styles that I brewed. I brew mostly Pale Ale, IPAs, Saisons, and Trappist styles, with a few Porters/Stouts in the mix. In years past I would jump from recipe to recipe and style to style. I made a mix of good beers and mediocre beers, but did not really understand why they were good or mediocre. You might learn more about your process and ingredients after brewing 6 batches of an Irish Stout, or Special Bitter, than with picking up 6 different recipe kits.

It is also more of a journey than a destination. I am about 1 month away from my 29th anniversary of my first brew. There are a LOT of malts, hops and yeast that I have never tried. There are more styles in the BJCP listing that I have not brewed than I have brewed, and there are maybe 15 styles that I feel I really understand. That said, I am sure I could pick up a recipe for a Kölsch or Rauchbier and make a decent example of that style.
I agree with everything you've said here, and I've taken the opposite approach and been pretty happy with it. I'm a little more than 3 years in. There are probably still a lot of malts, hops, and yeast I haven't used, but an awful lot I have (for example, I counted more than 40 different hop varieties used in my recipes so far.) I've bought malts and hops first and then tried to develop recipes that would make good use of them.

I agree with the recommendation of Josh Weikert's "Make your best ..." -- I've read all or most of them, and have tried a lot of weird things (Lichtenhainer?) I might not have otherwise. (Btw, Weikert's articles are fun to read, but from a recipe standpoint not too useful if you're brewing extract.) I've brewed 54 of the 95-or-so non-specialty BJCP styles. I'm ticking them off as I go.

Does all of this make me a better brewer? I might well learn more if I stuck to a handful of styles and tried to master them, but this does give me breadth that I wouldn't get otherwise (helpful on the BJCP exam!), and it keeps me entertained, and I end up with some really interesting stuff on tap.
 

CascadesBrewer

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2013
Messages
2,219
Reaction score
2,078
Location
VA, USA
I agree with everything you've said here, and I've taken the opposite approach and been pretty happy with it. I'm a little more than 3 years in.

Yeah, I am sure both have merits. The Homebrew Challenge brewed through 99 styles of beer in a 2 year time frame. I have to imagine that it forced him to use a ton of new ingredients and to learn a lot along the way.

I would say it also helps to be brewing beers you enjoy brewing. I am sure I could be happy with brewing Single Hop Pale Ales for every batch. I could brew a Saison all the time as well, making a tweak or two to the recipe for each batch. I am sure every batch would be something I would enjoy drinking, even if some were better than others. I am not sure I would be happy if every beer I made was just to try out a new ingredient. At some point you have to put that knowledge toward making that wonderful Stout/Pilsner/IPA/etc that you are proud to share with your friends.
 

Jim R

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 21, 2020
Messages
358
Reaction score
351
Location
Wisconsin
Everyone has their own style of learning that works best for them. I started brewing the same way I would have approached a college course. I got the 2-3 best books (starting with John Palmers) and studied them thoroughly taking extensive notes. Then I very carefully put together a flowchart with my step by step directions for the brewing process. I then and only then spent money buying my equipment.

Then I went right to all grain brewing and kegging and my first beers turned out great. Over the next several beers I kept detailed records and fine tuned my flowcharts as I learned from my mistakes and experiences. I have now brewed almost every style of beer and don't think I have ever had a bad one. Within a few beers I was doing pressure fermentations, closed transfers, yeast starters more complex beers, etc.. It really isn't rocket science if one takes the time to educate yourself.
 

Bobby_M

Vendor and Brewer
HBT Sponsor
Joined
Aug 3, 2006
Messages
26,277
Reaction score
6,118
Location
Whitehouse Station
Join a local homebrew club if you have one. Great way to expand your scope of experience.
Everyone has their own path for sure but this recommendation is the one that I feel helps the most people, and quite quickly. If you're tasting 20 people's different beers at the meetings and find someone that is consistently making the beers you like, make friends with them. Ask questions. Let people try your beer and ask more questions.
 

SRJHops

Why did the rabbit like NEIPA's so much?
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
Messages
602
Reaction score
210
Location
Minneapolis
The best advice I ever got was to subscribe to brewing magazines, read as many brewing books as you can, and brew brew brew. The only way to become good is to brew as often as you can.

Personally, I brewed the same style over and over again for two years until I was satisfied it was as good or better than most commercial examples. That might be excessive, but I was dialing in my process, with a focus on trying to eliminate cold side oxygen.

Of course, you also have to drink a lot of other people's beers, so you can compare them. I think the difference between a decent brewer and a really good one is knowing when to be satisfied with the final product.

I often drink a beer and wonder how the brewer could ever think it was a great representation of the style. Sure, it could be the first one they released, but sometimes I drink the same beer again the following year and it's still not very good. How can they be satisfied with it? Have they never actually had a great version of the style?
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jul 24, 2018
Messages
1,581
Reaction score
3,955
Location
Torrance
Excellent advice all the way around, but my $0.02-if you think it's clean, spray it with StarSan one more time. The worst thing that can happen is putting in a day's work, knowing you can't do it again for at least a week (sometimes longer) and then having a batch get infected. Sanitation is #1 on the journey; nothing else works without it (unless wild fermentations are what you are shooting for :D).
 

kissmurphy

New Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2021
Messages
1
Reaction score
2
Location
Australia
You've received some good advice here.
Something else I've found useful is having an stable target to hit. Pick a commercial beer you're very familiar with and, over time, try to brew a beer as close to it as you can. Use side by side comparison tests and also picking the odd one out of three.
 

WESBREW

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jun 28, 2018
Messages
748
Reaction score
841
Location
The Free South
Mash PH. Get a water report kit from Ward labs. if you're not using a brewing software to calculate it, a ph meter too. some phosphoric or lactic Acid. Big improvement to eliminate astringency from an alkaline mash. next would be brewing software to play around with recipies and stay within style guidelines. Beersmith, Brewers Friend, Brewfather
 

Sam_92

A whimsical brewer.
Joined
Oct 7, 2021
Messages
295
Reaction score
673
Location
Spokane
Excellent advice all the way around, but my $0.02-if you think it's clean, spray it with StarSan one more time. The worst thing that can happen is putting in a day's work, knowing you can't do it again for at least a week (sometimes longer) and then having a batch get infected. Sanitation is #1 on the journey; nothing else works without it (unless wild fermentations are what you are shooting for :D).
I'd like to follow this up with, if you're having a problem ask for some help. I was having some issues with gusher bottles and getting very frustrated until I talked to the local homebrew shop proprietor and he told me exactly what my problem is. The brewing community is an immensely helpful and collaborative one so don't be afraid to seek sage advice.
 

bwible

I drink, and I know things
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 31, 2017
Messages
2,016
Reaction score
3,718
Location
Oxford, PA
When I was learning to brew I read How to Brew by John Palmer and spent hours on this site reading the collective experiences of people here. I would recommend brewing a recipe from a published source of a style you enjoy and maybe tweaking it in some small way. Mostly at this point though the important thing is to focus on learning the process and making it repeatable.
When I started, John Palmer hadn’t written a book yet. We had Charlie Papazian’s “New Complete Joy of Homebrewing” and books from Dave Miller, Al Kozonos (sp?) and a couple others. John Palmer’s book is pretty much the standard now. Ray Daniels “Designing Great Beers” is probably the book I got the most out of. My first copy was falling apart from use. I bought a second copy. This has not happened with any other brewing book I own.

The AHA has some good introductory resources. I subscribe to the AHA and get Zymurgy magazine and I also get BYO magazine. Today there is also more on the internet than there ever was when I was starting out. Lots of resources out there.

As others have said, see if there’s a club in your area. Having a brewing buddy or just people to talk to. And of course, you get that here too.
 
Last edited:

bwible

I drink, and I know things
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 31, 2017
Messages
2,016
Reaction score
3,718
Location
Oxford, PA
There is a restaurant chain called Bennigan’s that is not in our area now. But was around the time I started or a little before that. They had a program then and a menu with “100 beers from around the world.” You got a card and they tracked the beers you drank. When you got 100, they gave you a gold pint glass. I have 3 of them. And still have one of the old menus tacked on the wall in my little home bar.
 

DonT

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 3, 2016
Messages
162
Reaction score
126
Location
Dublin, Ca.
There is a ton of great advice here, and I wanted to emphasize a couple of things that were mentioned. First thing is proper temp control. Some kind of an enclosure with heat and cooling being held to within a degree or two. Your yeast will thank you and award you with good beer. Next is just plain old process control. Get to know your equipment and how it reacts. And read, read read.
Welcome to the addiction.
 
Top