The evolution of a home brew system
22 Oct 2014
Home brewers are a funny lot, particular, obsessive and always thinking about beer. And not in a contemplative sort of way but an all encompassing, bat shit crazy kind of way. It usually goes one of two ways: Either on a lark you come to dabble, get fed up with the amount of cleaning involved and give it away. Or you completely give your self to the hobby and never look back. So what if your first beer tasted like paint thinner and nail polish remover you are so in awe of the all powerful yeast and its magical properties that not even flavor clouds your feeble judgment. Convinced you are god and your sacrament is the holy grail of good times..... Well, maybe a little overboard but after a few bottles of paint thinner the mind does what it does!
Thats about the point when you decide to start brewing all grain and figuring out the nuts and bolts, art and science of making beer. You will probably continue to make average tasting beer batch after batch but every so often there will be a lightbulb moment when all the pieces come into balance and you make a beverage that far exceeds your expectations. Of course the problem with this is that you have instantly raised the bar in terms of your own perceptions and expectations and the never ending cycle of betterment continues, always seeking that next high point of perfection, peace and understanding. 'ohhhhhhhhhhhhhm'
But seriously... Its not hard to make good beer. Its difficult to make exceptional beer but with a few pots and a bag of grain you can follow some basic guidelines and be on your way. I started with an all in one kit and made some rough tasting alcohol that made me feel invincible after a bottle, and tortured in the morning! I was drinking local brews from all the heads; Liberty, Epic, 8 Wire... and I could tell what it SHOULD taste like, I knew mine wasn't close so I started reading and listening to everything I could get my hands on to do with brewing. I started buying grains and building my own recipes using Beersmith. I picked up an esky and put a braided hose in the bottom of it to lauter my mash, got a stainless pot to boil in, a grunty burner, hoses, fittings... Then a tea urn to heat water. Gear lust had taken hold and no empty cupboard space in my house was safe!
I spent every hour I could find listening to podcasts from The Brewing Network. And as a testament to the amount of knowledge that is locked up in that station, within a year I had learnt enough to pick up a gold medal at The National Homebrew Competition in 2012. Brewing is all about avoiding little mistakes. You'll make your fair share of them every single brew day while your learning. But listening to The Brewing Network every day will fast track your progress immensely and I highly recommend subscribing to their podcasts.