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Is all grain ALOT better than extract?

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Pugilist

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I have been brewing extract with steeping grains recipes and always pay a little extra to get quality ingredients. I am very intrigued by all grain brewing as it seems like the traditional way to experience brewing.

I read the all grain section in Papazians book and it just seems so involved and difficult to me? Maybe I am looking too much into it. The thing that I really wonder about is whether or not an all grain beer would be that much better?
 

Sir Humpsalot

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Try partial mashing. Once you can partial mash, you know everything you need to know to go all grain and if you screw up a PM batch, you're no worse off than if you'd just steeped the grains.

IMHO, it's not that the beer is that much better, it's that you have FAR more control over your ingredients. Instead of having to choose between Extra Pale Extract and Pale Extract, Dry and Liquid (4 types), you have 6 manufacturers of basic 2-row, a couple manufacturers of 6-row, Maris Otter, Optic, Halcyon, 6 different pilsner malts, Mild malt, and maybe 8 or ten others that aren't jumping at me off the top of my head. That's about 30 different kinds of BASE MALTS... and I haven't even started talking about the hundred or so specialty malts we can choose from which would be the equivalent of amber or dark extracts...
 

Brewpastor

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All grain is not too crazy. It can be very simple. It is more involved but I like the control and the results. Of course it involves more equipment, but that can be part of the fun. Find somebody to walk you through the paces and give AG a crack.
 

Brewsmith

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Better is not the word. You can make great beer with extract. It's really controll over all parts of the process. Many styles don't lend themselves to extract as easily because of the ingredients they contain, so that is a benefit to all-grain. Difficulty is not really a problem. Like it was suggested, if you can do a partial mash, you can do all grain. There are plenty of little details that you can go crazy over, if you want to, but a simple recipe and process can be done with little additional equipment or worrying.
 

Poindexter

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I am hoping I get to time to brew this weekend. So far it is lookign good. I am going to use my basic $75 beginners kit from the LHBS, soem stuff out of my kitchen, and a $6.99 nylon mesh bag I also got at the LHBS.

I find that the more grain and less extract I use, the better I like my beer. Have you watched Yuri's video series a couple or three times? I am planning to not duplicate what he has already demonstrated.
 

missing link

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When I was doing extract, I felt more like I was making a TV dinner or something, not really making beer. Partial mash made me feel like I was actually doing something and it was a great intro into AG because I had to use a lot of the same steps as AG, but the extract addition helped cover up any mistakes I might have made. Now that I have done a few AG batches, everything makes so much more sense.

Go ahead and do a PM, get a feel for the steps involved, after 2 or 3 of those, try a simple AG. Something like a pilsner with a single temp infusion.
 

Funkenjaeger

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My first AG batch (EdWort's haus pale ale) completely blew away ALL of my past beers, including extract and even partial mashes, and I haven't bought an ounce of extract since. (well, except for starters...)

Clearly it's possible to make great beer with extract, as evidenced by winners in competitions, but that never really happened in my experience. Counterintuitively, although AG is more work, I found it easier to make better beer. And for that matter, AG really isn't THAT much more work. It may add a couple hours to the brewing process, but a lot of that is downtime while you wait for strike water to heat, wait during the mash, etc... So you can be doing other things.
 
OP
P

Pugilist

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Thanks for the input guys. Makes me a little less afraid of getting $50 of ingredients and ruining them :) Think the partial mash makes sense for a first, as you said it gives you a test without diving into a full AG batch.

Now I need a cooler with a built in spigot and a "phils lauter tun" from my LHBS? :tank:
 

LS_Grimmy

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I was a lot like you... I did the extract with special grains from time to time and the beer was pretty damn good. Then I moved on to All grain and I must admit my beers got worse for the first couple months. Now I must say after a year my beer is so awesome and better than my extract brews. It takes a little time to get to increase your knowledge and master the entire process.

Anyway best of luck
Grimmy
 

maltMonkey

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I dunno....a couple people have mentioned that doing a partial mash trains you for an all grain.....I guess it depends on your methods/equipment upgrades in between, but I felt like everything before AG was child's play.....

Went from Mr. Beer (1 batch) to extract kit (1 batch) to mini-mash (2 batches) to AG.

From my last mini-mash it took me 2 weeks to get all my equipment researched/picked out/bought/built, not to mention all the AG research I was doing....of course I'm a little OCD though....

I'm NOT trying to scare you off AG, in fact I think you should go ahead and jump into it. Like other people have mentioned, I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I finish an AG batch, where as before it was a sense of having followed a short set of instructions (like putting together a $50 computer desk from Walmart).....

I like the reward of having done it myself.
 

BrianP

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If you include where you're from, you may be able to meet someone in your local area who does AG and you can observe.

If you do want to eventually do one, search for FlyGuy's MLT design in the DIY section under equipment. Many of us have built such a mash/lauter tun.
 

mew

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I would say that AG can be really easy and there is a lot of control over the final product. I'd take a good extract beer over a mediocre AG any day, but the level of involvement in AG makes it more fun for me. Other people just don't have the time for AG or are content to stick with extract batches, and that's fine. So neither is really better than the other. I would also like to point out that they aren't mutually exclusive. If I don't have much time but still want to make a good beer, I'll do an extract batch.
 

shafferpilot

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I do extract batches and all grain based on how much time I have to devote to brew day. The AG batches definitely always taste better in the end, but I can crank out the extract batches fast enough to keep the pipeline full. I've also started modifying extract batches into partial mashes to give those a little more complexity of flavor.

Here's how I see it:

Would a respectable chef make bisquits out of bisquick??? HELL NO. It's not that bisquick doesn't make good bisquits, because it does. It's just that making them from scratch makes them better and unique.
 

Brew-boy

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Let me ask you? is sex better with a girl than by yourself....lol Hell Yeah all grain is so much better.
 

Kevin Dean

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Pugilist said:
I read the all grain section in Papazians book and it just seems so involved and difficult to me?
Everyone here recommends Charlie's book like it's the bible. It's a GREAT book but it sure as hell is intimidating.

You do NOT need to know all that crap to make a good all-grain batch. Rather than thinking about all-grain in terms of beta and alpha enzymes and starch/sugar ratios, think of it as grain tea. :)

All-grain is simple if your goal is to create a good, drinkable beer.

The stuff in how to brew is crucial to making a reproducable beer. If you don't really care if batch #13 is indistinguishable from batch #56, then jump in and do what's fun for you.

For me, I couldn't tolerate extract very long. I loved the idea of making my own beer and using extract seemed like making CountyTime compared to growing, squeezing and swetinging my own lemonade. That, for me, was the biggest gain from all-grain. The beer was a bit better (extract only sucks, extract with steeping is about the biggest improvement in flavor, IMO) but the feeling that I'm actually making it myself was the BIGGEST gain. If that matters to you, all-grain is absolutely worth it.

Pugilist said:
The thing that I really wonder about is whether or not an all grain beer would be that much better?
If you take pride in the fact that you brew, yes. Using only my personal experience, the flavor didn't improve but the satisfaction with what I brewed jumped a hundred-fold.

Brewboy said:
Let me ask you? is sex better with a girl than by yourself
Yes, but that's assuming you value quality. If you want quantity, it's best to stick with...


BMC. :ban:
 

malkore

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my two cents: All grain brewing sounds extremely difficult...but its not. it is more steps, and a little more involved for sure. but once you go through it once, a lot of mysterious become simple and straight forward.

you can do AG with some basic equipment, and a simple single infusion batch sparge.

or you can add complexity as you see fit.

try a partial mash. AG is no different, just 'bigger'
 

TheDom

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I've recently made the jump to AG, and couldn't be happier with the results! I haven't read Charlie's book yet, but I can definately understand how AG can seem a bit daunting. I kept holding it up as some unattainable goal until someone (Biermuncher, I think) posted this:
http://cruisenews.net/brewing/infusion/index.php

Check that link out, and see if that doesn't make it seem WAY more do-able.
 

Kevin Dean

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TheDom said:
Check that link out, and see if that doesn't make it seem WAY more do-able.
That guy took a lot of pictures. :) It's really even simpler than that except that he took two pictures of the same step at different points. :)
 

Bernie Brewer

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Sir Humpsalot said:
Try partial mashing.


Ugh, I'll never understand that. You go and do all the research to learn how to mash and sparge, to get the liquid goodness that will eventually be beer. Then you go and buy and build all the equipment to mash, and sparge. Then you go and actually do it, you heat your water, mash your grains all the while watching temps so carefully and measuring out the sparge water, again very carefully.


Then you go and ADD EXTRACT!!!!??????


If you going through all that trouble, just go bigger and to hell with the extract. If you make any mistakes, so what??? It will still be beer, and will probably be very good beer.
 

sirsloop

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Ive made tons of great tasting and very drinkable extract beers that you could not tell were made from extract. I've made a variety of beers from super pale IPA's... down around 6-8 SRM, to big 10.5% belgian dark ales, to coffee stouts. They are pretty flexible if you use the right kind and add in appropriate amounts of specialty grains.
 

TheDom

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Kevin Dean said:
That guy took a lot of pictures. :) It's really even simpler than that except that he took two pictures of the same step at different points. :)
Don't know where I'd be without "Getting Ready to Sparge" on page 3. ;)

Bernie:
I couldn't agree with you more. Unless you're completely prohibited for one reason or another from doing a full boil, I don't get why people do partial mashes as a ramp-up to AG. You can spend just about the same getting equipment that'll work for both PM and 10gal AG batches.
 

Kevin Dean

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TheDom and echoed by Bernie Brewer said:
I don't get why people do partial mashes as a ramp-up to AG. You can spend just about the same getting equipment that'll work for both PM and 10gal AG batches.
I only do 5 gallon batched but that's my choice. I'm with you there though. To me, the ONLY reason to go partial mash is because you don't have the space to go all-grain. It's SO much more work for very little gain and so very little from getting a good, all-grain batch into a fermenter.
 

Cookiebaggs

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Bernie Brewer said:
Ugh, I'll never understand that. You go and do all the research to learn how to mash and sparge, to get the liquid goodness that will eventually be beer. Then you go and buy and build all the equipment to mash, and sparge. Then you go and actually do it, you heat your water, mash your grains all the while watching temps so carefully and measuring out the sparge water, again very carefully.


Then you go and ADD EXTRACT!!!!??????


If you going through all that trouble, just go bigger and to hell with the extract. If you make any mistakes, so what??? It will still be beer, and will probably be very good beer.


+1 Bernie!!

As was stated, unless you don't have the equipment to boil the entire volume for AG, partial mash is really selling yourself short IMHO. Your so close to just going AG.
 

tgrier

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I wish I had some extract brews to compare to my AG so I "knew" for sure they were better.

For me... AG is better. I enjoy it more. The cooking analogy is a good one. I enjoy the process.
Other observations:
Recipes: I have enjoyed messing with Ed's Pale Ale and adding and subtracting and tasting to get what I want to have as my House Ale. Extract... I cannot see doing that.
Color: The Color of the AG batches are amazing to me compared to what I remember from my extract batches.
Taste: Again I have not done side by side. But when I did a Stone IPA AG. People thought it was a great beer... some people that did not know I brewed asked which IPA it was ... ie what keg did I buy

As a guy that started brewing in Oct 07 and went AG by Christmas 07 ... I would skip the PM if it were me. I agree with the why? I went from 5gal extract right to AG 10gal batches. and I am glad I spent the extra $ to be able to do 10gal. not that much more and it make the time investment worth it ..when you wind up with 10gals.

I read the how to brew, this forum, and Charlies book. to learn.
Charlies book is really good once you get your brain around what you are doing. But it is not very good at first.... as it does not provide a nice basic context for what you are trying to do.
I went the cooler (10 gal drink cooler) route. 2 of them .. and I use one as a HLT and the other as a mash. and I popped for the the false bottom and a sparge arm - both are more $ and not really needed.. but I liked it... I like the sparge arm for fly sparging. personally .. not for all the "it is better" reason... I just get the idea and do not mind the time.

In general....it is going to cost you $ ... I spent like 400-500 extra to get to AG but I got a barley crusher and such... and I think in about a year or 2 I might MIGHT! have save $ in bulk grain purchase to gather that $ back... but for me it is my hobby and I wanted to do it... so if you got the space and the time and the $.. DO IT! :)

 

Beertk

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Don't delay. All grain is very good beer. And well, it is more fun. anyone can dilute syrup and add hops. All grain just takes it to an all out new level of fun. I feel like I was cheating to say that I was a brewer before I made the move to AG. Really, I don't think most pros are "regularly" using extract. It is what to do when you feel like doing things fast or you need to boost things up.

There is a certain amount of pride to brewing beer. I made this beer from scratch. Not from a box mix. Just add eggs and water isn't for me. With an extract kit you are not in control of as much. Extract makes good beer but so do I- from scratch.
 

Sir Humpsalot

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I was in the "why do partial mashing" camp... before I got comfortable with All Grain brewing. Now that I am, I'm less of an EAC about it.

Doing a PM gives you a lot of flexibility. It allows you to dial in the SG precisely. More importantly, it can turn your 5gal set up into a 10 or 15 gal set up. Boil your wort, chill it and divide it into multiple fermentors. Then boil up some extract and water to make up your desired volume into however many fermentors are filling.

Also, even if you can boil 20 gallons of wort, it's not always fun to do when it's 10 below zero. Partial mashing can usually be done on a stove top.

Finally, if you don't have a dedicated brew sculpture, then forget about doing large batches of AG. Ever try to carry 10 gallons of hot wort into your tub to chill it? Forget about it!!!!

I'm not trying to suggest that PM is better than AG. Far from it! What I am trying to say though is that most of the reasons to not use any Extract are pretty EAC excuses when you get right down to it. I mean, really, a couple pounds of DME in a 5 gallon batch won't really be noticed.

Go ahead and get the biggest cooler/MLT and brew kettle you can get! But don't be afraid to start out with smaller amounts of grain and a little bit of extract. There's nothing wrong with that.
 

Short Drive

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To answer your title question, in my experience, yes. All the extract kits I did tasted the same and looked the same. Brown with a caramel/molasses taste. I realize I didn't do full boils and that would account for some of that, but after a while I didn't like the beer any more. I still have a case and a half in the basement that I might not ever drink. But the jump to AG was not difficult at all. I won a gold metal with just my second ever AG. Just research here and look at the links provided. Its not rocket science, its a hobby. A fun hobby with great rewards. (better than collecting stuff)
 

Bobby_M

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There's already a good "why PM" thread going but I think it's reasonable for some people because it's an individual thing.

The progression from extract to AG can go two ways.

You can start ramping up for a direct jump by getting a big pot, a wort chiller (maybe forced into an outdoor burner at this point) and practice handling all that liquid. The jump to all grain from there is just a matter of getting an MLT and learning a bit about mashing.

The second way to progress is to keep your scale exactly the same as extract (2-3 gallon boils) and simply aquire your MLT sooner. Your total volume from mashing and sparging would be the same 2-3 gallons you're used to working with. You learn can learn about the science of mashing and the actual process without having to upgrade your pot, buy a chiller, etc. If you live in a condo or appt building with not outdoor space, this is probably a reasonable thing to do.

At a high level I'd say keep progressing. Extract can make good beer and it's easy enough, but eventually getting to all grain just makes sense if you want to keep the hobby exciting for yourself.
 

Boerderij_Kabouter

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I am an admitted beer snob and was deep into drinking beer and analyzing beers way before I started brewing (my beer wall includes ~1500 import and microbrews). That being said, I have never had an extract beer that threw my hair back. My extract beers and others I tried were good and more than drinkable, but definitely missing that special something that makes a beer great. This was the same with any other extract beers I have tried. Now I am sure that everyone will argue and I know that extract beers have won competitions, but I have NEVER had one I would vote to win anything.

When I switched to all grain, my beers instantly became much more unique and better all round. Malt profile is infinitely better, hops come through more delicately, bittering has better balance, subtle tastes and aroma come through and all the standard beer qualities are just straight up better.

My BMC friends can't tell the difference, but my other beer geeks friend definitely do. We just did a tasting of my recent Smoked Porter and spent about 3 hours analyzing all the intricacies and complexities of this beer. It is my crowning achievement.

SWITCH TO ALL-GRAIN!!!! It WILL make you better beer!
 

Soulive

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I'm not going to bad mouth extract because it has its place. I won't even rant about why I love AG brewing. I will say that an undeniable advantage to AG brewing is being able to control the fermentability of your wort. Every single AG batch I've made has been better than all the previous extract batches. I attribute that mostly to the fermentability...
 

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sirsloop said:
Ive made tons of great tasting and very drinkable extract beers that you could not tell were made from extract. I've made a variety of beers from super pale IPA's... down around 6-8 SRM, to big 10.5% belgian dark ales, to coffee stouts. They are pretty flexible if you use the right kind and add in appropriate amounts of specialty grains.
Your beer is pretty awesome. I always wondered.... Do you do full wort boils?
 

njnear76

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Taste-wise AG will be roughly on par with steeping grains plus extract. This of course assumes that if you are using liquid extract, it is extremely fresh.

If you got the money, like the hobby, and have the storage space; I would invest in the equipment to do AG. I've done 2 of them already and it is extremely fun and easy.

I would read the AG section in howtobrew.com to get started. You can then try my directions if you like (modeled after howtobrew.com with advice from many users here).
 

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Pugilist said:
I have been brewing extract with steeping grains recipes and always pay a little extra to get quality ingredients. I am very intrigued by all grain brewing as it seems like the traditional way to experience brewing.

I read the all grain section in Papazians book and it just seems so involved and difficult to me? Maybe I am looking too much into it. The thing that I really wonder about is whether or not an all grain beer would be that much better?
Plenty of extract brewers make great beer, and plenty of AG brewers make crappy beer.

The main things that contribute to good beer are the same with extract and AG: Good sanitation, quality ingredients, proper aeration, proper yeast pitching rates, and fermentation temperature control. If you can do all those things with your extract beers, you will be making beer that is every bit as good as AG.

I think most AGers say their AG beers are better than extract beers. But I think this has more to do with the learning process than any inherent superiority of AG over extract. Most of us start out with extract. We often don't make very good beer because we are still learning about the all the things I listed above. By the time we are ready to go on to AG, we've started to figure out how to brew well. We drink our first AG beers and say "wow, this is so much better than my extract beers." Is it really the AG or is it that your brewing processes have improved at the same time?

I brew both AG and extract. I like them both. The main thing I like about AG is that it allows greater control over the recipe and wort characteristics than extract. Some recipes and styles are definately much better suited to AG than extract. The main thing I like about extract that I can do it inside on the stove on a weeknight, so its quicker and more convenient than AG.

Ditch the Papazian book and read "How to Brew". Palmer gives an easy, simple example of an AG brew day.
 

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My best beer ever was a Caramel Marzen PM with 6 lbs of dme. A close second was my AG Route 66 IPA.

The PM is the first recipe that was so farging good I am repeating it ingredient for ingredient.

AG is a pain in the butt. I have 3 young kids. I am not one of those jerks who comes home to my wife who has had a hard day with 3 kids and says "Honey, I am going to be busy for the next 4 hours. Watch the kids."

I don't have time for AG, and my PM beat out any of the AG's I've done. Easy choice until my kids grow up some more.
 

Soulive

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cheezydemon said:
My best beer ever was a Caramel Marzen PM with 6 lbs of dme. A close second was my AG Route 66 IPA.

The PM is the first recipe that was so farging good I am repeating it ingredient for ingredient.

AG is a pain in the butt. I have 3 young kids. I am not one of those jerks who comes home to my wife who has had a hard day with 3 kids and says "Honey, I am going to be busy for the next 4 hours. Watch the kids."

I don't have time for AG, and my PM beat out any of the AG's I've done. Easy choice until my kids grow up some more.
In my experience, PM brewing took maybe 30 minutes less than AG. How long does PM take you?
 

ohiobrewtus

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I my opinion, there is certainly a taste difference between extract and AG. That's not to say that one can't make good beers using extract. I just know that my beers taste a whole lot better since I made the move to AG.
 

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Hi, I started with pure extract batches (2) then did a steep+extract (1) and now I'm doing partial mashes (5-6 batches so far). I find the taste of the PMs far superior to the earlier batches, but given that my whole technique has improved since then, could be a factor.

I wasn't planning to go AG until I can get a 10gallon setup, but someone picked up a small turkey fryer for me that they saw on clearance - so I'm going to have a go probably this weekend. Yet again my well-reasoned purchase of equipment (a 2gallon cooler for PMs) has proved a waste of money (luckily only $10) as I'll need to step it up for AG.

Oh, that and 20+lbs of LME in the fridge. I think there'll be a few partial mashes in my future after all!
 

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Pugilist said:
The thing that I really wonder about is whether or not an all grain beer would be that much better?
In my experience: Yes, it really will. Go for it! It's much easier than it sounds.:)
 

BierMuncher

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Yes.

Like fresh squeezed orange juice is better than tang.
Like home made marinara sauce from home grown tomatoes is better than Ragu.
Like your Grandmas homemade chocolate chip cookies are better than Chips Ahoy.

It is not as difficult as you think. There is just a veil of the unknown right now. Read more. Learn more. Immerse yourself in all-grain. Be the grain.

Otherwise, there ain't no way in hell you're gonna get a beer to look like this:

HappyFri_4.jpg

And believe me, it tastes even better... :D
 
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