Whether you’re new to homebrewing or it has long been a passion of yours, our head brewer Rob takes us through how he got into the art of brewing and shares some useful tips with us.
So, where did my passion for homebrewing come from? It all started when I was 18, and at home, I’d decided to create my own brewing kit and of course, tried to brew that perfect beer. I mean don’t get me wrong, there were mistakes, tears, beers down the drain, but I learnt so much from brew to brew that there were also some superb pints, which myself and my friends enjoyed. And some of the techniques I learnt, I still use in the brewery.
With our 2019 Homebrew Competition open for entries, I wanted to share with you some of my ‘eureka’ moments, when I finally nailed a technique and realised what a big improvement it made to my beers.
Don’t go too complicated too soon. Beer recipes can be as simple or as complex as you make them. I made some fantastic SMASH (Single mat and single hop) beers. Using less varied ingredients to begin with can also give you a good idea of the types of flavours certain malts and hops bring to the beer, enabling you to see what you like and dislike.
Don’t change things too much. When tweaking a recipe, do it bit by bit. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to replicate a batch of beer, but change too many things at once, otherwise, you may not figure out exactly what’s changing what.
Don’t over think it. Brewing at home is great because if it’s slightly off spec to what’s planned, you don’t have anyone complaining. You can just go with it, and you may just find it’s made the best beer so far. I made some very tasty mistakes in the past at home.
Write everything down. Always make notes, and measure the gravity, temperatures, and volumes throughout. The worst thing is opening a bottle of fantastic beer and having absolutely no record of how you made it.
Do what works for you. Everyone’s set-up is different, and everyone’s techniques differ. People are incredibly helpful with advice, but remember there is no single correct way to brew.
Control that fermentation! The biggest difference in quality came when I could keep fermentation at a stable temperature. I used an old fridge with a temperature controller, but many many ideas are floating around now that people use. Yes, you can make beer leaving it in the airing cupboard, but getting that control over temperature will allow you to control flavours given off by the yeast.
Don’t go water mad. Brewing water is a huge subject, and it can completely overwhelm someone who is just starting out. Adjusting your water profile can’t make bad beer good, it can only make good beer better. Even in the brewery now, our water additions are quite basic. There are countless resources and test kits out there when it comes to water, so if you’re struggling to find what next to look into to get to that perfect point, get researching! The book ‘Water’ in the Brewing Elements series is a wealth of knowledge, but a hard read!
Use fresh ingredients. Yes you can store malt, especially un-crushed, for some time, but hops and speciality grains always bring more flavour the fresher they are. Gone are the days where you’d buy a pack of hops that have sat in a loose bag in the sun in a Homebrew shop for months, so this isn’t too much of an issue anymore.
Don’t take criticism to heart. Friends and drinkers alike will always want to give their opinion on your beer. You know if it’s good or not, so don’t take it too much to heart when people don’t like it.
Experiment. Try whatever you like, however crazy it sounds. The beauty of homebrew is you can create anything. There are no limits to your imagination.
So, whether you’ve already started brewing or are yet to begin, why not enter our 2019 Homebrew Competition? After all, you could get to brew your creation in our microbrewery and even see it sold on tap behind our bar. There really is no better feeling than watching someone enjoying a beer that you’ve created.
Find out how to enter here.