Let’s admit it, homebrew has a bad reputation.
If you offer someone one of your lovingly crafted beers, chances are they won’t be keen.
The taste of a lousy homebrew sipped at a random BBQ years ago still lingers on their palate.
Bad homebrewers give bad homebrewing tips
Bad brewers are out there, making terrible beer and giving terrible advice.
Be kind. They don’t know any better.
You’ve probably got an uncle or a mate who is a dodgy homebrewer. They force a longneck into your hand at every given moment. Proud as punch. They genuinely think their beer is great and they want to share it with you.
The problem is bad homebrewers don’t know they are bad homebrewers.
This can be caused by a couple of reasons. Firstly, they made this, so it must be good.
Secondly, they only drink their own beer. As their beer quality hits new lows, their taste buds adjust (known as cellar-palate). Great for them. Bad for us.
Are you a bad brewer?
Before we read on, does this sound familiar?
You’ve managed to cut every homebrewing corner and expense.
You take pride in making 20 cent longnecks.
You entered a brewing competition years ago, but the judges ‘didn’t know what they were talking about’.
Nobody asks you for a second beer.
Nobody asks you to a second BBQ.
If you are nodding your head here, you may be the shoddy homebrewer. Seek help now.
For all you awesome beer makers let’s run through some of the gems I’ve been offered over the years…
1. Homebrew won’t give you a hangover
Not true sadly. Too much of a good thing will always leave you dusty the next day
Moderation is good. But on the odd occasion you over-indulge, it’s a case of ‘you do the crime, you do the time’.
2. Reuse caps
I was offered this advice at the start of my homebrewing journey. To be honest, I thought it was a bad idea even then.
A poor seal from a used cap will give you flat wasted beer. Microbial build up brings infections.
Homebrew caps cost a few cents each. If you are looking to save a few dollars and jeopardize your brewing, Team Homebrew is not for you. Spend a few extra dollars and make homebrew people will enjoy.
3. High brewing temperatures are fine
Fermentation temperature is one of the pillars of great homebrew. High fermentation temperatures will lead to fusel alcohols and bad flavors. Not only will your beer taste bad, it will give you a knock-out hangover too.
Control your brewing temperature and work at the lower end of your yeast’s fermenting range.
4. Beer judges don’t know what they are talking about
The trick with homebrewing is no-one you know will tell you your beer is bad. Your friends and family will say your beer is fine even while their eyes water, hands tremble and mouths pucker.
‘It’s interesting…’ is as close as loved ones will get to saying your beer is crap.
When bad brewers enter homebrew competitions, they put their beers in the hands of people who are generally qualified and objective enough to give honest and accurate feedback.
If they get negative feedback, it blows their mind. It’s like American Idol, but with beer.
Put your beers in competitions and listen to what the judges tell you.
5. Boiling water is the cure-all for sanitizing
If done properly, heat can be an excellent way to sanitize metal equipment.
But giving your fermenter a quick rinse with a few cups of boiled water won’t do much to protect you from infections. Heat is quickly lost and won’t be effective in destroying bacteria and wild yeast.
6. Don’t waste water when cleaning, just use a no-rinse sanitizer
A fellow once told me not to use much water when cleaning. That a good no-rinse sanitizer is really all you need.
Well intentioned, but still bad brewing advice.
Yes, no-rinse sanitizers are a must for homebrewing, but sanitizers need a clean workspace first. If you don’t clean your gear properly with hot water, cleaner and soft cloth, the microbes will have places to hide.
I save water in our home and homebrewery where I can, but not when cleaning my gear. Tipping out an infected batch is a far bigger waste.
7. Cheap homebrew tins are fine
My focus is always on quality. Saving five dollars to buy a cheap hopped extract tin will not give you great beer.
Sure, good brewing practice may give you a clean tasting beer. But I drink craft beer not bland, bubbly mega-swill.
Spend a few more dollars and buy quality ingredients. Enjoy your homebrew.
8. Want stronger beer? Add more sugar in the bottles
Bad, bad, bad. The sugar used to prime your bottles only contributes a negligible 0.05 per cent of alcohol.
Its single purpose is to carbonate your beer. Increasing priming sugar will increase carbonation far more than alcohol and is one of the leading causes of exploding bottles.
If you want a stronger beer, add in more fermentable ingredients (malt extract, treacle, dextrose, etc) when mixing your brew.
9. The kit yeast is fine, just throw it in
A standard 6 gallon (23 L) batch will need around 11 grams of healthy yeast. This gives you enough cells to cleanly ferment your beer.
The standard five-gram pack taped to the top of your homebrew tin is not big enough. It’s also been sitting in hot warehouses and trucks, so probably damaged.
This low yeast cell count means infectious microbes have a better chance of taking hold. Also, your yeast will have to work harder, causing off-flavors.
Buy a quality 11 gram brewing yeast and process it correctly so your beer can ferment strongly and cleanly.
The Team Homebrew brewing principles
Homebrew should not taste like homebrew. If you are a half-decent brewer, your beer should be comparable to commercial beer.
Ignore the shoddy homebrewers with big opinions and bad beer. Focus on these questions to build your homebrewing reputation:
Am I cleaning and sanitizing enough? Can I do more?
Am I using the highest quality ingredients I can get?
Am I using healthy yeast for a strong fermentation?
Am I brewing at the correct fermentation temperature and time?
My mission and your challenge today
I want to claim back homebrew’s reputation and I need your help.
Make really good beer. Share it and show people how beer is meant to taste.
That’s what Team Homebrew is all about.
Homebrewing With Kits—The Beginner’s Guide
To help you master homebrewing with kits, I’ve put together a guide based on my experiences over the last two decades.
This is the information I wish I had when I started brewing. I hope it helps you make awesome homebrew.