Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Improve Your Life by Making Beer: Top 5 Newbie Mistakes, part 1

The old saying "you learn more from your failures than you do from your successes" is surely true in all things. What cook hasn't had to endure a blackened (i.e. on fire) pork chop, cuts, or burns? After things like that you sure learn not to cook bacon naked, try to cut broccoli with a switchblade, or watch "just one more" episode of 30 Rock with pork chops in the oven. What's true for cooking is also true for beer-making. Here's my idea for what constitutes some of the major "gotchas" in your first brewing experience.

5. Not Having the Right Equipment

Just a picture of a cactus,
nothing to see here.
This euphemism for being stupid is dead on. If you buy a kit you're probably alright but you need to check, re-check, then check again before starting the brewing process. Read through all the directions and make sure you're never thinking "wtf is that thing?" at any point in time. Just like any new relationship you're going to go through 5 weeks of jumping through hoops before anything settles down. If you don't have the right equipment once it's time to "get your brew on" (ahem. we're still talking about beer) then you're out of luck.

Just a picture of a crystal,
nothing to see here.
Some newbies will attempt to use kitchen equipment to substitute for brewing equipment. While this isn't always a bad idea, you don't want to use 6" spoon to stir your wort. Also, kitchen equipment might be scratched up and harboring bacteria, so sanitizing it can be an issue. Trust me and read through all the steps in your chosen directions. If you don't have something, go buy it now.

4. Selecting Too Difficult a Kit

Read the difficulty rating on a kit before you buy it. Some beer types (like Lager) require special temperatures for fermentation that might not be available where you live. Don't just think "I like lager, I'll make it" when you live in Florida (without a dedicated fridge.) The same is true if you aren't ready to tackle something with more steps than usual. On your first batch you're probably not ready to be adding fruit extracts or blending two batches together. Start with something simple like an American Ale.

Since this is getting so long, we'll cover the rest next week!

Got any guesses for my top 3 reasons? Post in the comments below!


  1. Helpful information here! Is another mistake "Not carefully reading the directions?" I can see myself making that one :)

  2. Mistake #1- Bad sanitization.
    #2- Boilover
    #3- Bad Sanitization

  3. How about "don't push the plug all the way through the carboy top?" I'm just sayin'...

  4. That's always a bad idea, I'll make sure I mention it

  5. Bad sanitization is a great guess, of course it's in my top 3!

  6. I'm not sure how you would push the top all the way through, but that def sounds bad. How did you ever get it back out?