Beginner Homebrewer Must Haves
Posted on February 13, 2010 by mike
I’ve been homebrewing for about 5 months now and, like most people, jumped into it as cheaply as possible with little more than a recipe in my hand and a spoon in the other. I’ve made a couple of successful batches and I’ve learned a few things from experience along the way. However, I’ve always said, “Play hard or don’t play at all,” so I’ve been sitting in front of my computer and digging through the internet to find and meet new people, find new resources, and read great articles about homebrewing. I have found a few things out in the past 4 months that I would like to share with everyone.
Here is a list of 4 things that I have found to either make brewing easier or has been a great resource for information to make my beer better.
1. Subscription to the Brewing Network
I was trolling twitter and found someone asking about brewing podcasts…this sparked a thought in my mind. I had yet to even look for any podcasts on homebrewing. So I scrambled over to iTunes and found the Brewing Network.
The Brewing Network consists mainly of 3 shows, the Jamil Show, Brew Strong, and the Sunday Session all of which are FREE to download. The Jamil Show, hosted by award winning brewer and beer writer Jamil Zainasheff really breaks down styles of beer and the recipes that make them. I’ve listened to a couple of episodes and there is a ton of information about the history of the style, the ingredients, tips on brewing it and things to expect about one particular style of beer. If your looking to make a great Russian Imperial Stout, there is an episode dedicated to it. Jamil and his guests talk brew, give tasting tips, do live Q and A’s and so on. I’ll be listening to more of these for sure.
Brew Strong is another great show about homebrewing that really breaks down the different aspects of brewing, such as attenuation, carbonation, water, etc. Hosted again by Jamil Zainasheff and author of “How to Brew,” John Palmer. This show concentrates on one aspect of the homebrewing process and really tackles it with great information both practical and technical. They have guest brewers, live chats, email Q and A’s and an overall great dynamic that makes the show very entertaining. My iPod is filled with these currently.
The Sunday Session has been around for about 5 years. This show is dubbed as “the original” because it is the flagship show for the Brewing Network. This show is a bit more about general beer, brew, and homebrew topics. These shows are not as specific as the previous, but definitely have an entertainment value to them. Plus they help build your knowledge by bringing in masters, professionals and homebrewers to discuss a whole bunch of great topics about brew!
These shows can get a bit technical and can talk a lot about the chemistry behind brewing. If your not into a bit of vulgarity, such as swearing and perverted comments, these shows could wear on you. Regardless though, they are entertaining, and you will pick up some practical basic knowledge that you can implement into your brewing and tasting of brews. So I believe these are a must if you want to brew better beer and are totally worth your time.
2. An account on Homebrew Talk Forum Boards
I have spent a lot of time on the internet finding and communicating with a bunch of brewers and beer enthusiasts, but I have found Homebrew Talk to be one of the best sites for information about homebrewing. When you splash to the page and register you will probably be turned off because it is very 1990′s early 2000′s looking and functions the same way. It may look poor, but there is a ton of information there so don’t judge a book by its cover.
So what the heck do I use it for? Well, I use it to connect with people who like beer and brewing. I really like jumping into the “Beginner’s Brewing” thread to see if there is anyone that I can help. So many people have helped me, it is nice to give back ya know? Besides that, there is a search function that allows you to use google to search the forum and find good answers to your questions. It is much better than just searching the internet because it allows you to ask more questions if you need to. The site also has many other features, such as a wiki about homebrewing, product reviews, pictures, recipes, chats, and so on.
This is a great place to learn and interact with other people at the same skill level as you are, while getting questions answered and finding information to help you brew a better beer.
I have to mention this thing because I truly believe that it comes in extremely handy on brew days for me. I have mine in my belt so its always there, and I’ve ended up using it open bags, extract jugs, tighten screws on burners, cut cheese, and pop bottles open with the bottle opener. I’ve sat in on some batches that used more equipment than I’ve used, such as big extract boils and all grains and the tool comes in real handy for all of those pipe clamps, screws, ties, and so on.
Plus, this tool is also great going way beyond homebrewing. I used mine as a maintenance tech for 4 years. I got rid of a lot of tools off my tool belt just using this thing. The knife and pliers are so convenient to have it will blow your mind, and the screw driver portion will help ya in a pinch. I’ve actually pulled the scissors out on it to cut Christmas paper…PLUS. The Leatherman brand is guaranteed for life. If you break the blade or something malfunctions, you can fill out a little form on the internet, send it in, and they will replace it for free. That is quality. A co-worker of mine snapped his blade in half. He sent it in and got it back with a new blade on it in less than 2 weeks.
Brew day or not, this thing is awesome to have around.
4. Auto Siphon
Here is another tool that I didn’t have when I first started brewing. I did manual siphons for the first 3 batches and I have to say that is a huge pain in theass. I don’t know how many times I lost the flow and had to pull it out, rinse it off, fill it with water, dip it in sanitizer, start the siphon with sanitizer in it, hold it steady, spray it on the floor, and do it all over again just to start up another siphon…All the while my beer is open to the air. So I finally pitched in the $10 needed for one of these and I have to say it is completely worth it. With two strokes I’ve got a good solid siphon going. If the siphon stops, I adjust and two strokes later, I’ve got another siphon. What a time and quality saver for my beer. If you have any issues with siphoning or racking, pick up an Auto Siphon.
Good luck and happy brewing!