A guide for new brewers
There are a lot of things to learn in a new hobby, some more challenging to pick up than others. One I noticed when I first started brewing was this annoying acronym being spread around, 'RDWHAHB'. I mean you can't even say it out loud properly, though it's a fun way to test someone's sobriety. Yet it really is the core of the homebrewing hobby and something that makes the community that much better. 'Relax, Don't Worry, and Have A HomeBrew' is almost a philosophy at my home that I should really have it as a plaque.
Sign I have above my keezer. Can't remember what it says...
What's the big deal?
There is one key difference between homebrewing and other hobbies I have picked up over the years, and that is Time. Some like Diving takes training and preparation but the activity only lasts a few hours. While the slow process that is fermentation leaves us in the dark for weeks if not longer if doing aging. Sure we aren't actively performing any actions but in human nature waiting is one of the hardest things for us to do. Minds wonder and worry about the mistakes we have made or even if there were none, that damn brain likes making them up. The first time brewing provides many of those as everything is so alien to what we normally do.
There are many real mistakes that can be made during the brewing process. We put in time, money and some elbow grease to get a brew day done. There are so many factors that can change the flavor that comes out that it's impossible to learn on the first go. Two years in and I am still learning and making mistakes along the way. This is where the saying comes into play as you shouldn't worry about what happened. Most of those mistakes will still give you Beer. Yaaay Beer!
Our Mascot looking excited for beer.
So there isn't anything to worry about?
Well...there is one thing, having to dump your beer. There is nothing more disheartening than having to pour out your batch after so much effort and waiting. It's the only real failure in this hobby beyond some hurt egos over low BJCP scores (it was in style, I swear). Yet at the same time this saying holds true for both those. Once they happen there is little you can do to change it, just don't give up!
There are a couple simple concepts though that will prevent this from happening. Sanitization, Happy Yeast and Sanitization. Wort is the primordial soup which microorganisms thrive and it's our job that only the right ones do. Hops help as a natural anti-bacterial but they only act as a deterrent as other bugs can get their foothold in your fermenter. There is nothing you can do to reverse this once it occurs. This is why sanitization is such a big deal for us brewers and why StarSan is our best friend, yes even better than you Glen.
Once you are past that first hurdle then it just comes down to making your yeast happy. Generally these little buggers are fairly resistant to most the abuse I give them. But even they have a breaking point if I start getting too mad scientist. Temperature sure changes flavor for some yeasts but really just keep it out of any 'kill' or 'stall' zones of too high or too low. A healthy pitch will chug away at your beer, even if it decides to finish early.
And lastly, just because it's that important, Sanitization. Don't think your home free after fermentation finishes as there are some un-fermentable sugars that can still make a home for other bugs. More so if you add sugar for bottle carbonation. Just imagine tasting the best beer you have ever made yet and finding it a week later smelling like feet. It just isn't worth the risk so crack that bottle of StarSan and cover all the things.
Sexy Sexy StarSan
Is that all?
If you have those three bases rounded you already can get to the home plate. There might be something off with the flavor, color, or mouthfeel but hey, you have some drinkable beer. It's just a matter of trial and error and maybe a little help from the homebrewing community to get to that magical beer in your mind. Start out with a solid recipe and brewing plan then try to stick it as best you can. To avoid mistakes from before make sure to document everything that goes on during a brew day that deviates from your plan. Sometimes those mistakes can bring out a some of the tastiest beer you have ever made so recording how you made it is key to making more.
That seems like a lot to remember...
There is a reason why the homebrew community like to use RDWHAHB so much. It really is too difficult to cover everything in a simple comment on forums or reddit where most questions are asked. So what better way than to remind people just what a hobby is all about. Something to enjoy, find interest and even have passion for. There is enough to worry about outside our free time that it isn't worth taking on the extra stress. So try to plan ahead, cover your bases and track what you do and everything else will work itself out. Then you can just Relax, Don't Worry and Have A Homebrew.
Tags for this post: Guide, New Brewer, New Homebrewer, RDWHAHB