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

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So, what made you decide to start home brewing? I think it all began swigging Lowenbrau with a high school friend under an overpass in Ocean City. Well, maybe that wasn't it but in the early 80's, a pair of dirty work jeans and a ball cap is all you needed in the way of ID. I was taught to cook by working parents out of necessity and all around me read that as two of the three houses on a country lane in the middle of Nowhere, Virginia brewed their own beverages. It's a busy community now with housing developments and parkways but back then you could ride your bike
down the middle of the road for a mile and never see a car. In hindsight it was the Warfields and Eggerts who inspired my interest in brewing early on.
Old Man Warfield had a tool shed and during the warm months there was always a pair of carboys in the window, complete with Pasture tubes, fermenting slowly with wine made from whatever fruit was in season. It was an all glass setup, stoppers, tubes and all, and me and his grandchildren would frequently stop and watch the bubbles. The CO2 floating upward through the colored liquid looked like magic. Lucky for him he kept the shed locked, we weren't interested in the wine but the axe and other tools were something a kid could use to tame the twenty acres of open land between the shed and the creek. The Eggerts made beer, lots of beer. They were a kind couple and left the door of the basement open so we could use their pool table. On more than one occasion we'd come in to a nasty smell which we later found out was due to the homebrew bottles blowing the caps off while conditioning. We weren't sure what it was at the time so we mopped the floor and swore we didn't do it. As I grew older and starting babysitting for them I learned a bit about the Eggerts home brewing.
hbt-brew-shed-1997.jpg

Brew shed image courtest of bhambrew
Fast forward about thirty-five years and I love craft beer but who doesn't. One of my neighbors holds an annual No-Bud party where everyone brings a beer to sample and the winner gets an award based on the beers name, how well the sponsor markets it, and taste. It's all about drinking beer, friends, and a good time so taste is last. Glenn, if you are reading this stop making crappy awards out of your kid's old soccer trophies.
Anyhow, one day I go to the fridge at work and in the door is a tube of liquid yeast. I inquire about the tube and now I've met a second person that homebrews. A conversation ensues and I imagine I'm back at the shed window staring at bubbles. So I go online to do some research and everyone says "read, read and read some more" and "don't start with grain, use malt extract first" so what did I do? I read and read and read on many sites, particularly HBT, and started with whole grain. Opinions are just that but take the advice about reading extensively it'll save you in the end. As I said earlier, I've been cooking from an early age and enjoy a challenge so why not start with the raw ingredients, it sounded wholesome.
My brother provided a Bayou Bay turkey fryer complete with burner so I was off and running. About two years earlier he gave me a stainless quarter keg someone turned into a crab cooker, I never trashed it so that is going to become a keggle at some point as I work towards joining the "Ugly Junk" club. My first beer, compliments of the staff at Maryland Homebrew in Columbia, was an English porter. I'd decided on the type of beer but had no idea about measuring or crushing the grain. Entering the grain room for the first time was exciting but why aren't the grain bins labeled exactly like grain listed in the recipe? How many pounds fit in a bag? Crap that was too much for
one bag...don't be afraid to ask for help, tip number one. It took half an hour to measure, crush and bag the ingredients for the porter. It took 90 minutes to complete my shopping list so if you are a first timer like I was plan on 2 hours, it is fun, take a list and don't rush. Make sure to buy a hydrometer to determine efficiency and alcohol content. After a year of brewing I'm still not concerned with efficiency yet as alcohol by volume (HBV) tells you if you are hitting the mark. If HBV deviates too much from expected results you've got an issue with your process.
After reading HBT extensively and gathering all the components and prepping the space, I sat down and created a script, tip number two. Think of it like a movie production with every scene/step, actor/ingredient and shoot/time listed. Follow it exactly. Download a timer for your smart phone they're available for free. Follow the script and you will succeed. I could drone on but it's up to you to read from the learned contributors of HBT as I did. Twenty-five handicappers don't give advice, more like encouragement, and I'm not much closer to being a brew master than when I lit the fire under my first batch.
Check back for follow-up articles and I'll share with you my brewing experiences from a novice's perspective. Hopefully you will be encouraged to start brewing if you aren't already.
The recipe for the inaugural porter was decent and I kept the recipe for fine tuning. Like cooking anything yourself, one of benefits of home brewing is you get make it taste exactly the way you want it.
7.00 lb. Pale Malt
0.50 lb. Brown Malt
0.50 lb. Crystal 60L
0.50 lb. Chocolate Malt
0.25 lb. Crystal 150L
0.12 lb. Roasted Barley
1.50 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 60 minutes
0.50 oz. Fuggle @ 60 minutes
0.50 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 10 minutes
WLP001 California Ale Yeast
The script used to keep the process in order is transposed below. Creating it was a useful exercise because it helped me better understand brewing terms and abbreviations. I'd never brewed before or seen it done except on YouTube so it was a confidence builder as well.
hbt-porter-1998.jpg

A porter. Image courtesy of Pelikan.
1. Take the yeast out of the fridge to warm up.
2. 3.5 gallon mash, 152 degrees for 60 minutes, make mash water 167 degrees before adding to grain, check mash temperature has to be at 152
3. Put 3.5 gallons of water in cooler, add grain, stir for 3 minutes
4. After 60 minutes, recirculate
5. Drain to boil kettle
6. Sparge, need 4 to 4.5 gallons at 170 degree, let rest 10 minutes, need pre-boil volume to be 6 to 6.5 gallons
7. Start boil, add 1.50 Golding and 0.50 Fuggle
8. Add 0.50 Golding after boiling for 50 minutes
9. Chill to 78 degrees
10. Transfer to fermenter
11. Pitch yeast
12. Cover + airlock
This porter is dark, somewhat smooth and easily consumed by the liter. Well I only had liter bottles, just saying. Thanks to the "Beginners Beer Brewing Forum", and member posting from Biermuncher (yes, your junk is ugly), Braufessor and a host of other contributors on HBT for helping me to not just understand how to brew but how to enjoy brewing. Making beer is a short journey and it's true that getting there is half the fun.

Enjoy!
hbt-porter-1998.jpg
 

bbohanon

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My journey started with a Mr Beer kit that my wife gave me as a gag gift a few years back for Christmas. At this point and well over $10k into the hobby(brew shed and e-buildout), its the only gift she wishes she would have never given me at all. Guess the joke ended up being on her.
:)
 

sboyajian

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I think we'll see a common thread here. My first beer with a Pale Ale kit from Mr. Beer that a friend and I got from woot.com on the cheap.
It made ok beer. Honestly, I didn't think it was terrible compared to what I've heard about Mr. Beer.
Didn't brew for another year and decided to take it up again. Now I'm a machine.. a machine with kegs.
 

pdm1982

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Mine was a Cooper's kit, of all things. I made one batch with it that tasted like a fart smells. I didn't attempt brewing again for a few years. That was a long time ago and I've since replaced absolutely everything, as I now brew all grain. The plastic fermenter is used to store my stuff.
 

unionrdr

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I talked about this in my interview. But it was about 4 years ago when I decided to take up fermenting again, only this time beer. Wine & liquor making go way back in my family. I started with the Cooper's Micro Brew kit. I now do pb/pm biab, enjoying making rRE OR extinct beers. Over & above IPA's, etc. Taking good notes allowed me to write a book about my home brewing experiences, the 2nd of which is being written now.
 

gratefulfloyd

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Girlfriend's stepdad gave us all of his old brewing equipment: Bottling bucket, glass carboys, caps, bottles. We started off with an extract batch on the stove top, next batch we had purchased a kettle and burner and did a partial, by the third batch we had moved to AG and have not looked back since we started at the turn of the year. On batch #10 right now and have made a few ciders along with beers. Eventually I would like to move in to getting a fermentation chamber and a keezer, but for now this will do.
 

unionrdr

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I always did like true-life stories! That's why I said yes to the Brew & A series. Like the OP, I like telling or hearing these stories.
 

SFC Rudy

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I got stationed in Germany in 2001. Drank some German beer and realized American beer sucked! I ordered a started kit and recipe from Midwest supplies and have been brewing ever since!
 

kaffeenjunkie

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Got started while living in Portland back in 91/92. The microbrew revolution was just beginning to really take off back then. Found a used copy of Papazian's book from Powells books for cooks and got basic supplies from Steinbart and began.
Moved back to Michigan in 93 and was buying HB supplies from Bells. Life got in the way and just kind of stopped and put everything on a shelf. Last fall we mistakenly bought a batch of apple cider that was unpasteurized. Couldn't sell it in our restaurant so we dusted off the carboy and read up on how to make hard cider. That turned out pretty good. Did a couple batches of extract from kits and now have about 10 batches of all grain BIAB under my belt and its very drinkable! Still have that copy of Charlie's book on my shelf and added Palmers book to it.
 

allentwnguy

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I've wanted to brew since the late '70's but there was just nothing out there. The push... I like beer... I retired in 2007 (fixed income), good beer costs $12.99 a six and six bucks on tap out. I bought several good books and read. I knew I didn't want to use extract at all and I knew I didn't want to bottle. So over a year I collected and made my gear. The big break was when I found 5 ball-locks for $35 each in 2013 and that was it. I brewed my first beer within a month and it was go big or go home. I brewed an all grain double IPA I called First Try IIPA. 17 lb grain bill, 1.079 OG and 100.2 IBUs. I've changed it a little since 18.5 lbs, 1.086 and 103 IBUs. But that was it, hook, line and sinker! Budget??? Well lets say I have my gear now! And I think it has paid for itself. Today I cold crashed my Yellow Jacket IPA and made a 2.5l starter for a Bohemian pilsner, DIBT Pils. Best hobby ever!
 

CheerfulHeart

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Great article! My interest in brewing began in 1998 when I was hired as a bartender for a brewery. A coworker with a lot of patience allowed me to help him with producing batches of his special ale creations. After I married and moved, I stopped home brewing until last year when I came across the recipe for Pappy's Pub Cider. That small success has helped get me started again. :)
 

psymonkey

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@bbohanon - yep, same here. The gift was a gag, and the beer was way closer to the real thing than I expected. I guess the rest is history...10 years on.
As an aside, my sister-in-law bought me a Mr. Beer hat for christmas. She had no idea what it was, just thinks of me as Mr. Beer. I wear it with pride. Next year I'm getting her an Easy-bake oven apron!
 

1fastsedan

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My interest began in high school. I grew up in a very rural area and our school had a great agriculture program that taught some high level science (tissue culturing, DNA analysis/gene splicing, etc.) There was a terrific glass condenser in the lab that never got used. I decided to do a project on brewing and distillation so I could use the condenser. At the end of my project, my teacher was convinced that I had not made alcohol...so I lit some in a petri dish. :)

When I went to college, I was too young to buy beer, but not ingredients. So, I figured I'd just make some. I found a homebrew store in the next town over and started brewing extract batches on the stove in my first apartment. Went to all-grain 5 gallon batches the year after that. That was almost 20 years and countless batches ago.
 

mxrob

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I got involved with Microbrew beer in 2006 by becoming a member at a local micro brewery. My TIG welding, fabrication and skilled trades machinery repair skills peaked my interest in the brewery goings on. After getting my first tour of the brewery's 20 barrel system I was completely enamoured with the operating side of making beer. Since that time I've been involved in may rework and upgrade projects within the brewery.
It wasn't until 2011 that my son-in-law and myself decided to become homebrewers. The knowledge I gained helping out the brewery made entering into homebrewing that much easier and my fabrication skills have made developing and building equipment for our hobby very rewarding.
So the first two brews were Brewers Best Robust Porter and IPA on a turkey cooker with the aluminum pot. A few months later it was our first all-grain using a fly sparging 3 level gravity system. We now brew on a gas fired RIMS 1/2 barrel flat rack system. :)
 

corkybstewart

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Back in the late 80's I started buying a few beers with pry off caps every payday, then I'd clean and stack the empties in my shed. When we moved to a bigger house my wife demanded I either start brewing or leave those crates of bottles behind. As soon as we were in the new house she gave me a complete starter kit for Christmas. The first beers were 1 can of hopped extract, a pound of sugar and that crappy yeast pack on the extract can. 24 years later the beer is much better. She had no clue what direction our lives would take as a result of that first plastic bucket.
 

PC509

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Like many, I enjoy a good beer. Went out of my way to find the 'good' ones with better flavor. Started to become a beer snob... So, I wanted to brew my own. Damn, it can get expensive, what if I don't like it? Mr. Beer for $20? Sure. Not a lot lost if I don't like it. Tasted decent. Not great beer, not bad beer. Two batches of Mr. Beer later, it tastes better. Well, 2 gallon batches using these canned extracts isn't going to go very far. I enjoy it, so it's time to start putting more money and effort into it. Was going to order a kit, but decided against it. Bought a few things at the LHBS and a few from Amazon. DIY for other stuff.
I still like a good beer. Now, I can make my own and it tastes pretty good. Still working on making an excellent beer, though. That will come. :)
 

VegasBrew1

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@corkybstewart Nice to read a statement where SWMBO is the initial inspiration. Perhaps I'm kinda new here, but I just don't see that much. Cheers.
 

MrVix

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My introduction to homebrewing came over 45 years ago. My Grandfather decided that I was old enough to help him with the seasonal brewing of his Pilsner. He taught me every aspect of brewing. He was a wonderful man and I miss him dearly. I still brew his Pilsner every year, just as he did. I well up with emotion each time I open a bottle. Thanks for a great story!
 

BrewsterFish

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I won a kit in a raffle. Had no desire to brew, but decided to try it out with a friend of mine. Haven't stopped since.
 

poorboy5

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I was introduced to homebrewing in 2013 by a friend who had shoulder surgery and needed help lifting kettles, stirring, etc. It seemed like a good excuse to hang out, drink some beer and have fun. It still is, but that's beside the story! About a month later, I bought a Bayou Classic burner, 8 gallon kettle, and a Brewer's Best beginner's kit and after reading a bunch, set out to brew beer. I've added some things, like a 10 gallon Rubbermaid cooler for a MLT, a copper chiller and a grain mill but the essentials have stayed the same. I've got my oldest son interested in the hobby so hopefully he'll take it up some day. Friends don't let friends drink bad beer!
 

FARoad

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@unionrdr
Thanks much. It was fun putting it down on paper. Will work on the next one. We all have these stories as the progression is the similar. I like how people make their own gear instead of going out and spending hundreds, not because they can't but because they choose not to, so it's part brewing art and engineering ingenuity. Fun all around.
 

Bengalsatman

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For me, My CIO brought me a homebrew of his own - An IPA - and while I am not an IPA lover the craft flavor was there and his his visible pride of the production got me hooked! My first was the Caribou Slobber Kit from NB. Followed the instructs to the T, read all the forums and kept religious notes! First bottle after two weeks, adequate but not impressive...improved each bottle as days rolled on......that last bottle after 3 months - Liquid gold rolling into a gorgeous almost black body with a 2 inch head of pure heaven! The flavors had matured and there is no turning back after that. Have challenged the process a few times now and got my father hooked as well! Go Forth and Brew!
 
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