We know how busy we were over the holiday season and that means there are a lot of you out there, staring at a classy (yes even brewing beer can be classy now) handmade pine box, filled with all the tools needed to brew up a one gallon batch of beer (wine, kombucha, cold brew coffee too), adorned with your family logo, the name of your home brewery or some other design that has meaning to you and you're wondering...now what?
Even though your Brew Station comes with reference materials, introducing you to each brewing tool that comes with it and step by step instructions with your first recipe (included), most are just not able to go for it and get brewing? Why is it so hard for us to jump in?
Simple...we like comfort.
Happily settled in our "comfort zone" we go on doing the same things day after day. We know what we're doing and we feel and exude confidence while doing these tasks. This makes us look and feel good...even if it doesn't challenge our minds or create a strong sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
When we begin to consider trying something new, fears begin to bubble up to the surface like..."what if I fail and make a crappy beer?" Well let me be the first to say, if you begin brewing you will definitely make a "bad" beer at some point...and with every bad beer, you're going to learn the most and better yet, you will learn what questions you need to ask to be able to brew a great beer.
It's like learning to play baseball...on day one you're not likely hitting home runs and making that double play that leaves the fans cheering in excitement...you're learning the rules, probably running when you shouldn't and not running when you should. And that's okay...that's how learning works.
Learning to brew beer (or anything else for that matter) is no different. On day one you'll feel a bit overwhelmed and even nervous on some level because the equipment is new and you don't quite know what you're doing. You will follow your directions as closely as possible and hope for the best. But on day 10 and beyond, not only know will you know more about what you're doing, but you will begin to start asking questions about how you can improve!
Until then, let me give you a few tips on getting over the fear of your first brew day so you can start enjoying your new found hobby:
1) Familiarize yourself with your new equipment before you start:
In every Brew Station is an information guide (only a few pages long) called, "The Brewing Basics". This very short read has some important information for you, the new brewer, including a brief description of each tool included in your brew station and a simple explanation of what it is used for. For someone brand new to brewing, knowing your tools will make your brew day much more enjoyable because you won't need to google every word in the brewing instructions!
Take your time, read each section and take out the corresponding piece of equipment it refers to. Look at it, consider how it will be used and place it aside until you've read and seen everything.
2) Read your recipe instructions from cover to cover:
Every Brew Station comes with your first All-Grain Recipe and we do this for a very good reason. We are not fans of extract brewing and we don't want you getting hooked on that first.
We ourselves have brewed "all grain" since day one and although we did brew one extract kit with friends, the experience left much to be desired.
Now let me clarify...I know there are some killer extract brewing kits out there that will result in a very tasty beer, but for us the process is as much the reward as the final product. It's not long ago, while talking with some newbie brewers that they too had realized that brewing an extract beer left them feeling a little shortchanged. One laughed as he recalled his realization that the Brew Master was "in the box" and that they were just heating water.
What we know and anyone hooked on all grain brewing knows, is that brewing a beer from the malted grain yourself is a rewarding process...you are the Brew Master of your home, and you can revel in the praise that comes with brewing a beer you and others love.
Anyway...I'll jump off my soapbox now and get to it...
Before you begin your first brew day (and any brew day in fact), it's important to read your recipe instructions all the way through. Each recipe we sell has a full set of instructions so that you are able to create the beer that was intended, from desired water temperatures, hop addition timing, how long to leave your beer ferment and when you can chill and serve it! Sometimes we offer an option to add a fresh ingredient like LIME zest into the boil (Lemon-Lime Hefeweizen recipe), as an alternative to dried lime or extract...this will be in your instructions and you will want to know to have it on hand.
Many of our recipes are the same process, however if you choose to jump up to our Epochal Dry Hopped Double IPA, you'll notice in the instructions that you are going to need an additional fermenter jug - one with a wide mouth top so you can dry hop. So bottom line here is...read your instructions first.
3) Get your ingredients ready and laid out in order of use.
When it's time to brew you will be heating water, sanitizing equipment, prepping yeast and gathering supplies!
Make the day easier on yourself by organizing your recipe ingredients in the order they will be used:
Add malted grains to your brew bag - first in line
Cut open all hop additions, Irish moss and any other additions and place them in order according to the recipe. Once you're done this, THEN start heating your water, sanitizing your gear, etc. because once your water is ready you'll want to get going!
4) Prepare your Brew Day Check List:
Each Brew Station comes with a laminated Brew Day Checklist and a washable pen so you can keep track of each step of the brewing process, checking each off as you go...you would be surprised how easy it is to forget if you have completed a step.
Read it over and add all of your recipe additions and the times you will be adding them.
5) Get a timer ready...use your phone, the stove timer...anything that you have that can time your steps.
Each part of the brewing process is measured for a reason whether its time or temperature...what you may not know yet is that the level of bitterness in your beer (IBUs) is dependent on the amount of time the hops are isomerized (boiled in hot water) so if you forget to add your bittering hops into the boil until 50 minutes in, you won't have the IPA you may have been hoping for because the bitterness will be significantly reduced and only the flavour and aroma of those hops will remain.
6) Determine if your oven is big enough to hold your brew (stock) pot but most importantly, can be used at as low of a temperature as your recipe requires.
We have found that placing your brew pot into the oven at a set temperature and checking every 10 minutes or so that it is maintaining that temperature, is the easiest way for new brewers to control this part of the process (the MASH).
If your oven cannot go low enough, don't worry, you can maintain the temperature on your stove top, it will just need you to keep a closer eye on it to ensure it doesn't exceed the temps that you need. This is because when your mash temperature is low or high, you can inadvertently change the desired characteristics of your beer.
For example, higher mash temps create a fuller bodied beer with a lot of "mouth feel" which will not be appreciated in a Pilsner where "crisp, smooth and refreshing" are the qualities being sought after. Lower mash temperatures than required can mean low conversion of the starches into fermentable sugars, leaving you with a very low ABV (alcohol by volume) beer and a sweetness you were not intending.
7) Finally...last piece of advice...plan to sit back and enjoy yourself. What you will realize is that although you're "brewing" there will be a fair amount of time to sit and wait...the Mash takes an hour and so does the Boil so grab a beer and find something to do that you will enjoy. Mark and I will play a few games of crib (enough to declare a clear winner hahaha) since it's fun but doesn't completely absorb our attention.
So, that's it...a handful of ideas on how to prepare for and organize your Brew Day so that you feel enough confidence to get in the kitchen and take the plunge. Remember, if you don't succeed at making the beer of your dreams on the first try, then join the club because WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE, but it will get better I assure you.
And as all of our customers know, we are always here to answer your questions, so if you're in the middle of your brew day, still in the planning phase or troubleshooting it after it's complete, text or call us (403-826-6864) and we can help you find the answers you need.
Want to understand even MORE about brewing? We are offering four Brew Day Classes in 2018, where you can participate in a 3-hr Brew Day with us! You will get to be a part of the entire brewing process while getting a ton of additional information and even a few fun surprises! Ask us for more information or go ahead and pick your class in our store online.