My first brew. Expectations vs. results.

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Loup

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Back when I boiled up my first batch (it was the Brewer's Best Red Ale kit) I expected to make beer. I didn't think I would make some outstanding beer that would blow my mind, but I at least hoped it would be drinkable.

While reading these forums and looking at the reactions of the other first time brewers I somehow got this idea that my first brew would be outstanding, that I would somehow be overcome with how great it is.

Now, some 6 weeks I've actually had what I think of as my first really bottle from the batch (I've had a few bottles throughout the whole fermentation and conditioning process to see what it tastes like at different points.)

The beer is good, but at first I was a little disappointed because it didn't live up to the over-inflated expectations that I got from reading other first time brewers' reactions. Now, after a little thought, I realize that the beer definitely lives up to my original expectations, and maybe even passes it. Yes, I've had much better beer, but I've also had much, much worse.

This beer is drinkable, I enjoy drinking it and would definitely choose it over the bmc that somehow ends up in my refrigerator after my parties (which usually ends up being used to cook brats or make bread.)

I actually wonder about the other first brews that the people making it rave about. Is their beer really so spectacular, or is it just their first time having a decent beer.

Oh well, guess it's time to start thinking about my next batch.
 

carnevoodoo

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In a place like this, you have people all over the beer drinking spectrum. There have only been a handful of beers I've made that I would consider great, but I am a total beer snob. My drinking of really good beer is sort of great in a way though, because I strive to make something I'm really proud of.

That said, I still think I am making decent beer and I don't expect anything out of it. I really think it all depends on what you were drinking before you started.
 

Madbrewer

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I think that most people that brew for the first time are just happy with something that tastes like a beer. So when they succeed they like to say how awsome it is. And besides Your own beer is like your own kids. Your own kids are always better than other peoples kids, you know what I mean. It took me about 3-4 batches of beer when I firs started to be able to say that it was truly a good beer. It is always much better to see what your friends have to say about your beer also. Use them as your sounding block. BUT make sure that they know a little about beer before you really take what they have to say to heart. :rockin: Good luck brewing, and remember you are always your own worst critic; if you are like me a perfectionist.
 
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I actually wonder about the other first brews that the people making it rave about. Is their beer really so spectacular, or is it just their first time having a decent beer.
I am man enough to fess to the fact that if I hadn't already started my second batch before I tasted the first one, my brewing careerer would have ended with the second or third beer I tasted from that batch. It was an "American Ale" kit...not good at all....and back then I didn't have all you guys around that keep pushing and prodding and forcing me into meaner leaner more interesting things.
 

StunnedMonkey

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The beer is good, but at first I was a little disappointed because it didn't live up to the over-inflated expectations that I got from reading other first time brewers' reactions.
Do you have any friends whose kid is taking clarinet lessons? And they rave about what a talented player the kids is? And then one day your hear the kid play and he/she sorta stinks?

Homebrew just might be a little like that. Everyone probably has a higher opinion of their own than someone else might. Now I'm sure that there are some really talented homebrewers making some seriously good homebrew. But I have to admit that I've NEVER tasted a homebrew that I'd mistake for a Three Floyds Alpha King or a Two-Hearted Ale. There's always something a little off that to me says homebrew.

Now my first batch in 12 years is 3 weeks in the fermenter and I'm thinking of kegging it and giving it a week to carbonate. I'm anxious to taste it, but honestly I'm not expecting a Stone IPA. I'm expecting something that I can enjoy drinking (because it's mine after all) and that maybe a good friend would drink if he was in a polite mood. Any better than that will be icing.
 

TwoHeadsBrewing

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I cannot speak for everyone else, but my first batch was not a kit but a recipe recommended by the LHBS owner. It was a very simple Extract + Steeping Grains Pale Ale. I think the really good taste of my first batch had to be attributed to the steeping grains, and the freshness of the extract. I don't want to knock kits, because I'm sure there are good ones out there, but sometimes I wonder about the freshness of these kits that sit on shelves or in warehouses for months...or longer. In addition, if you don't use steeping grains you're not going to get as much of that malty/grainy taste that you get with commercial micro brews.
 

A4J

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I wasn't expecting much from my first homebrew and maybe that's why I was quite shocked at how good it was. Looking back, I know it wasn't that good - there were fusel alcohol, but I was quite proud because I made it with my own hands.
 

Yooper

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I think my first batch was really good. It wasn't great- but it was really good. I liked kind of "blah" beers then, though, and my first was an English Brown ale. (I'm totally not counting the Beer Machine beers!) I only made one batch I didn't like and that was from a recipe here that I found and some people bragged about so I tried it. It was definitely not my style of beer! I gave it to my friend, and she drank it.
After a while, though, I learned to make much better beers and I've also become more open to different styles. I can honestly say that my beer probably isn't great, but I like it better than about 80% of the commercial beers I could buy.
 

Saccharomyces

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I have two bottles of my first batch I've been saving... a PM kit I picked up along with the starter kit at Austin Homebrew. It was one of my best so far, actually, despite an incredible chill haze.

Come to think of it, now that I've done 12 of 'em I should go back and re-do the first one (AG now instead of a PM) and see how it comes out.
 

Grinder12000

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I'm pouring my first brew down the drain. My 2nd brew is OK for me and I bottleed my 3rd brew last night and it tasted GREAT out of the bottling bucket!

1st brew I new would need a miracle which did not happen. LHBS gave me a bad "tip" and ruined it with burning and scorching. 2nd brew I over corrected on the boil and I feel is a little weak and 3rd brew was the first of my last 3 do be done perfectly.
 

postman

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If your first brew is drinkable, then you have success. If it is really drinkable, congrats on good sanitation and methods. Since yours was a success, try to take notes so that you could reproduce it again. Ex. steep time & temp, yeast pitching temp, water source..... I just rebrewed my first brew again, 1 yr later, and it is still delicious. I remember the first one tasting a little better, but who knows, I was just shocked to make good beer right off the bat. You'll produce beers all over the spectrum of quality. Sample different suppliers, Northern Brewer, Austin Homebrew....and educate yourself on this forum and Palmer's book.

Best Wishes & Save some of that beer to try in 6 mos. Peace.
 

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible

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I cannot speak for everyone else, but my first batch was not a kit but a recipe recommended by the LHBS owner. It was a very simple Extract + Steeping Grains Pale Ale. I think the really good taste of my first batch had to be attributed to the steeping grains, and the freshness of the extract. I don't want to knock kits, because I'm sure there are good ones out there, but sometimes I wonder about the freshness of these kits that sit on shelves or in warehouses for months...or longer. In addition, if you don't use steeping grains you're not going to get as much of that malty/grainy taste that you get with commercial micro brews.
Your experience is parallel to mine. My first brew was an extract recipefrom a book. I had to make hop substitutions based on total noob guesswork, but it still surpassed later kit brews. Until I go AG I have now reverted back to extract recipes. They seem to end up cleaner, clearer and better tasting somehow.
 

Boerderij_Kabouter

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This beer is drinkable, I enjoy drinking it and would definitely choose it over the bmc that somehow ends up in my refrigerator after my parties (which usually ends up being used to cook brats or make bread.)
There have only been a handful of beers I've made that I would consider great, but I am a total beer snob.
This is really the heart of the hobby IMO. If you are a relatively inexperienced beer drinker, then it is much, much, much easier to make a great beer. This is not a bad thing, but because of this you do have to take opinions and advise in general (no offense, but especially on an online forum) with a grain of salt. If brewing great beer was easy enough to do for your average Jo Blow with a $25 beer kit and some extract, I don't think the world of commercial beers would be what it is. People often have an overinflated idea of their beer, and there friends go along with it because it IS very cool that you made your own beer. That said, I have made exactly one beer to date that was great (smoked porter), one that was very good (raspberry wheat), and many that were uber quaffable and everyone generally liked. I have also made quite a few batches that were very meh, either because the recipe was not what it could have been, my technique was growing, or I screwed something up.

Keep brewing and the beers will improve, try to make each batch a little better and improve your technique. Keep reading here as the wealth of knowledge is incredible and WILL make your beer better by association.

And btw, congrats on making a drinkable first batch!
 

GregR

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all I was shooting for on my first batch (ha, all the batches really) was drinkability. I've only made a handful of beers but they are progressively getting better. I have high hopes for my current batch thanks in a very large part to the advice and techniques discussed here.

congratulations on making a drinkable beer. you have to admit it tastes better just knowing that you made it rather than going out and buying it.
 
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I haven't made anything I'd call great, but they have all been given good reviews by my beer snob friends, so that's good enough for me at this point. My only goal has been to always improve the process and learn as much as possible, which is why I come here a million times a day.

What I make won't blow anyone away, including me. But then I remember the 2 Coors Lights and one Corona sitting in my dorm fridge, courtesy of my sister-in-law, that have been sitting there for at least 3 years. I won't touch them, ever. Mine far exceeds those.
 

Grinder12000

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I've only made a handful of beers but they are progressively getting better
+1 on that. It seems every brew I add some little tweak that I WISH I had known before the last batch.
 

TwoHeadsBrewing

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As far as making "great" beer, I'd say these are the pieces of equipment that helped me make better beer. Listed in order of importance:

1. Wort chiller - enables cold break, and minimizes chance of wild yeast infection
2. Big kettle for full boils - I got a turkey fryer which came with a 7.5g pot.
3. Temperature control - Being able to control the fermentation is huge IMHO. Especially with touchy yeasts like Hefes, a couple degrees F can make a lot of difference in the end product.
4. All grain setup - the first couple batches weren't that great due to my AG newbness, but the last few have been amazing.
 

TheFlatline

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Ironically, the american amber I started out with got worse IMHO the longer it aged. There are 2 or 3 bottles left, and the bitterness has stood out from what was originally, after a month or so, a really nicely balanced beer. I'm sure if I let it age for a few more months the bitterness would fade back into the balance again, but it won't live that long.

The Hefe was probably average to above average. Not a fantastic hefe but still better than Pyramid IMHO (I liked the tastes, and the hop balance was spot on). The Irish Red, while a little light on the hops bitterness even for the style, went over swimmingly with my father for his birthday. I tasted one the other night, and it's got a nice, surprisingly gentle malt flavor with a nice little kick towards the end, but with a predominant malt character.

The stout tastes exactly like my 3rd bottle of Guinness extra stout tastes like, and next up is a Belgium trippel.

My next major endeavor is to really be able to control fermentation temps. I need to build son of fermentation chiller (I have everything but the insulation, which is a pain in the ass to find around here for some reason) and then I need to get a bucket and submersible pump for my IC.
 

Danek

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My first beer, if I'm honest, sucked dog balls. But I think every beer I've made since then has been better than the one that preceded it, to the point now where I'm pretty confident that I can make stuff that's better than any mass-produced commercial beer available, and comparable to some independent brews. Stick with it. You'll get heaps better, and before long I bet you'll be genuinely impressed with yourself.

A side-effect of brewing that I didn't expect is that as I become more familiar with specific ingredients I've brewed with, I've got to the stage of beer geekdom where I can now recognise the flavors of some individual malts or hops when I taste them in a beer. I'm sure the more you brew, the higher your standards get.
 

Bobby_M

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My first two batches were drinkable but just barely. I drank it mostly when I ran out of commercial beer. There are about 20 little process nuances that you miss no matter how many times you read Palmer's "How to Brew". You fix a couple of them at a time and then start brewing good beer... maybe.
 

GIusedtoBe

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My first was a kit and not bad. Second was a "Red Tail" clone that tasted like the South side of a Norhtbound mule! It called for toasted crystal baked for 30 minutes at 350 F and I think thet is what ruined it but I also grossly underpitched.

The difference is that I had had very good beer before and knew mine was not so great. All of my batches since then have been good to very good IMO with the exception of a SNPA clone that I fermented way too hot and even its drinkable but weird.

Still waiting on my first AG which is in primary. I have high hopes for that one.

Regards,
Al
 

lminor72

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My neighbor and I have been tackling the homebrew hobby together. Both of us have an appreciation for great beer, so we keep eachother in check.

My first batch: I liked it. I knew it was lacking in a few areas...I shorted the batch, so instead of being an American Amber Ale it was more of an Imperial American Amber Ale. You could almost taste the ABV level, like a shot of whisky. I still wanted feedback, so I gave away 75 % of the batch to people who I thought had taste in beer. They gave mixed reviews...

My second batch: I loved it. I took a few bottles to a party, and people were pissed when there wasn't any more to drink. It was a variation of the "The Sun has left on time" recipe in Chuck P's "Joy of HB" I used Cry Havoc yeast in an effort to get a lager taste using ale fermenting temps.

Right now, I have a coffee stout and a blueberry ale conditioning and fermenting. I'm excited to see how they turn out, but like many have already said...both will be my creations, which is the greatest aspect of this hobby.

LM
 

StunnedMonkey

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Today I had my first official sample of my first brew. It's admittedly young at 3 weeks in the fermenter and only 4 days in the keg, but I tried it anyway. I'd give it a solid...OK.

It's all grain, and not made from any official recipe. I just used 10 pounds American 2-row, and a pound of 60L crystal. 1.5 oz Perle for bittering, and 1 oz kent golding for flavor and aroma. The brewing process went smoothly, though I only ended up with 4.5 gallons, at 1.060. IBU's calculated at 47 or so. I used White Labs 002 (English Ale) and fermentation started quickly. After 3 weeks it was 1.011, and I kegged at 11 psi 4 days ago.

So it's not really fully carbed yet, but it does have some reasonable carbonation. It actually doesn't have any particular off flavors. No sourness or excessive fruitiness or anything like that. It just tastes like beer. I say it's just OK because it seems to lack the mouthfeel that I'd want. Some of that may be the recipe (or lack thereof) and some may be the still weak carbonation. It also has a tinge of harshness in the finish. Not over powering, but noticable in a side by side with a commercial craft brew. Perhaps that'll mellow out as time passes. As I said, it's only 3.5 weeks old. I'm not actually drinking it yet, by the way. I just sampled it. ;)

All in all I'm pleased. it's not an award winner, but as a first effort (especially being all grain) it's plently close enough to a nice beer to keep me going. And it's already plenty good enough that I know I'll be drinking the whole batch without having to force it down.
 

TheFlatline

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The harshness could be any number of different things, but my first guess, if it's like tea bag harsh, is that you cooked your grains a little too hot. It might mellow out, it might not. The flavor comes through I'm sure due to how simple the recipe is. There's tons of stuff you can do to improve mouthfeel, and you can get fancier, but jumping in AG is to be commended.

I'm building a mash tun this weekend so that I can go AG after the next two batches are brewed. Should save me a pretty penny in the long run.
 

StunnedMonkey

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The harshness could be any number of different things, but my first guess, if it's like tea bag harsh, is that you cooked your grains a little too hot. It might mellow out, it might not. The flavor comes through I'm sure due to how simple the recipe is.
I tried it again today due to a little mishap, and I found that the perceived harshness was significantly reduced. The additional carbonation also helped give it some extra body. I thought it was actually quite good today, but I'm not going to start really drinking it for a little while longer.

...but jumping in AG is to be commended.
To be fair, it's not technically my first brew. I brewed extracts years ago, but this is the first in 12 years. I'm sort of considering it my first brew since it's been so long and I'm using all new equipment and procedures. But strictly speaking, it's not really my first beer I guess.

I'm building a mash tun this weekend so that I can go AG after the next two batches are brewed. Should save me a pretty penny in the long run.
You think? :rolleyes:
 

farmbrewernw

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Compared to what I thought a homebrewer was capable of doing at the time (my dad made some MrBeer kits) I thought my first batch was great, in retrospect I made a lot of batches after that for a couple of years that where kind of meh. I make good beer most of the time now but sometimes you still have a batch that is so so. It's all a learning process just keep plugging away at is and before you know it you'll be making some great beer.
 

gimmebeer

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I think Loup makes a good point. I, too, was kind of disappointed with my first batch (actually my first three). Part of it was reading about other people's superbeers on their first time out, and part of it was some bad advice from the LHBS (squeezing the grain bag is actually a very bad idea).

Anyhow, working through some earlier problems can make you more realistic and more appreciative when you start to nail some stuff. I'm now drinking my eighth batch and pretty darned impressed with what I've come up with just winging it on a recipe for Amarillo Ale.
 

Matt Up North

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My *first ever* beer I never once took a drink of...ever. It is still in a keg in the garage "bulk aging".

My first beer that I made and drank was an AG cream ale using a recipe that I got at the HBS. I tried it along the process and let me agree that I was happy that I made beer, however it was not close to the standards which I hold myself to.

My second beer (which I am drinking now) I messed up on a bunch of aspects and it still turned out a great tasting mild brown that has 4% abv. So I look at it as a massive improvement.

Along the line of what Big Kahuna said, if I hadn't made four beers before really having a drink of my first one, I might have done very little beer in the future.

Just keep making beer people, you will make it better. Like making toast, if it is too dark set at six, then set it at 5 and try that :D you'll get there.
 

Malticulous

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I brewed some hoped extract kits fifteen years ago. None were great, but they all got drank before really coming of age. :tank:

Now I have two kits fermenting and they should be much better since they had steeping grains and hops. I've learned a lot and have a much better brewery now. That Irish Ale smelled so good-I wish my house always smelled like a brewery. I can hardly wait to get my first taste of home brew in many years.

I don't plan on winning any awards, just drinking beer. As long as it tastes better than Pabst I'll be happy. :)
 

Zeno

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In a place like this, you have people all over the beer drinking spectrum. There have only been a handful of beers I've made that I would consider great, but I am a total beer snob. My drinking of really good beer is sort of great in a way though, because I strive to make something I'm really proud of.

I really think it all depends on what you were drinking before you started.
Ditto. I consider myself a beer snob as well. I kept hearing all these people that made "awesome" beer from their Mr. Beer kit and figured I would do one better and get myself a beginner rig at the LHBS. My expectations were so high that my 1st born beer was doomed to never live up to my expectations. It was "okay" at best.

I think it was my beer snobary (word?) that pushed me to do more homebrews. I knew I could do better then that. I learned to curb my expectations, be daring and try doing stuff that scared me.

I'm still new at this, but every beer tastes better then the last.
 

HomelessWook

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I just chilled and opened a bottle after spending 12 days in conditioning at approximately 73 degrees - it spent 21 days in primary

anyhow, this may sound dumb but it doesnt taste like i imagined - it taste more hoppy/bitter and im not sure if it is because of a sanitation **** up, not being conditioned long enough, or if its how it is supposed to taste...

i know a home brewer who is a lot older then i am and has a ton of experience so i am going to pass him one in about a week and see what he says.

idk, it seems sort of off....
 

R2-D2

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HomelessWook, as hard as it may be to resist try letting it sit untouched for another month or even longer if possible. After a year of homebrewing, I've done 10 now. My first brew was an Irish Stout and I swear I used to check in on that every week for 2-3 months before it shed that extreme bitter finish.

Being in Chicago, I'll let my bottles carb up for 2-3 weeks inside the house at 69 degrees and then move them to the garage where it's probably 40-50 degrees. Two beers I brewed in early October, an Irish Red and an XMas Ale, have definitely improved just sitting there in the garage. The Xmas Ale has gone from a "near dump" to very interesting and pleasant.

The one thing I have noticed with homebrewing and bottle conditioning is that some bottles really do taste better than others. 22oz's taste different at different times than 12oz's. Some weeks the 22oz pours taste better, the next week it's the 12oz. It's just weird.

As I mentioned earlier I've done 10 brews:

BEST
Belgian Blonde - very comparable to Leffe.

GOOD
Surly Furios IPA - I ran out of priming sugar and bottled with raw cane sugar. Gushers, but damn good. Nothing like Furious to be honest, just a good IPA.
Oatmeal Stout - just coming into it's own. big oat nose on it.
Hefeweissen - just bottled a week ago and it may move up into that top category.

OK
Xmas Ale - it's been constantly improving over the last 2 months.
Irish Stout - My first brew

Ehhh
Irish Red - it's ok but not what I expected
Belgian Wit - my 2nd brew and last extract. Terribly unbalanced. But I discovered that a lemon slice really helped it out.

Jury's Out
Dunkel - Actually, this is still in primary so I can't evaluate
Scottish Ale - not bad for a 4% ABV beer. Missing that roasted malty profile i expected.
 

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