Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Improve Your Life by Making Beer: Top 5 Newbie Mistakes, part 2

Last week I posted my bottom two newbie mistakes in beer making. I'll save your mouse batteries here and ruin the amnesia-induced-suspense by reminding you what they were:

5. Not Having the Right Equipment

4. Selecting Too Difficult a Kit

I threw the question out there for what you all think my top three reasons are and I was pleasantly surprised.

JayZeis guessed:
Mistake #1- Bad sanitization.
#2- Boilover
#3- Bad Sanitization
Turling shared this painful experience:
How about "don't push the plug all the way through the carboy top?" I'm just sayin'..
My response to that is, "how do you get the plug back out?" It must be like a ship in a bottle!

The Wise Take could beat Watson with this one:
 "Not carefully reading the directions?"

These were all great guesses but I hope you'll agree that the sheer number of ways you can screw up a batch of beer can't be counted on the fingers of everybody in Pennsylvania. Either they are terrible counters or that's a boat load of fingers! Without any further ado, let's put this list to bed!

3. Contamination

Whatever name you choose to call this, keeping things clean is very important. Beer requires a cleanliness well beyond that of your local McDonald's, Hotel Sheets, or Subway Restroom. If your little super-spreader runny-nosed toddler has their fingers all over your stuff, you can pretty well bet your batch is going to have some major diaper rash.

If you drop your spoon, wash it. The five second rule doesn't apply here unless you are standing in a kiddie pool filled with bleach.

2. Improper Storage

I don't think this would occur to most new brewers but where you store your beer has a huge impact on how well it will ferment. Even if you do all the other steps perfectly, leaving your beer in the garage (where it could freeze) could end up ruining the whole thing. Conversely, leaving it on your radiator could be a bad idea for many reasons. Follow the storage directions or you'll have a batch of light-struck skunked beer that is only marginally better than Rolling Rock.

Sometimes you'll have a lucky accident (like European Bock style ale that was found in a broken barrel frozen in snow) but most of the time you'll just have glass to clean up and a stinky undrinkable mess (that you'll probably still drink anyway.)

So what's the number one newbie mistake?

1. Being a Dumbass

I'm sure we all have stories about really dumb mistakes we've made while brewing beer. Almost all the problems I have had can be chalked up to being a dumbass about it. Not reading directions is a stupid thing to do. Trying to bottle by yourself without a bottle filler is a stupid thing to do. Trying to lift your glass carboy onto the counter without having a carboy holder (especially with wet hands) is a stupid thing to do.

All the horror stories about boil-overs, broken carboys, and strange mold can usually be traced back to one bad decision.

So how is this preventable? It's not. Experience will keep this to a minimum, but next time you're thinking "I bet if I just do this..." and it sounds kind of dumb, it is and don't do it.

Have a story of your own that you'd like to share? Post it in the comments below!

Also, we're running our first ever contest for free t-shirts! If you'd like to win yourself a sweet New Castle Brown Ale shirt, simply check this post for more information!

1 comment:

  1. I think I've done what is diagrammed in that image. There's nothing worse than racking your beer into your bottling bucket (or worse, pouring hot wort into it) and finding out a bit too late that the spigot is open.

    We also had an issue with our spigot not sealing well. It would leak and make a mess, so we ended up having to get a new spigot. Still doesn't prevent beer from pouring out when you leave the spigot open…