First Time Homebrewer – Ali K

Posted on January 28, 2011 by

Mike’s Brew Review brings you real life stories of first time homebrewers in an effort to help those thinking of getting started brewing to brew that first batch of beer.

BACKGROUND

What is your name?

Ali K

Where do you live?

Los Angeles, CA

Tell us a little about yourself. (married, children, pets, education, career, whatever you want to tell us)

I’m in my late 30s and am married. We have a little house and 2 not-so-little dogs. My husband works in the film business and I’m in the music business.

Do you have a blog? Tell us about it. (ex. name of it, why you decided to start it, what’s the blogs goal)

I have a WordPress blog called “My Life In Suds”. I started it because various friends were interested in my brewing exploits and there’s only so much one can put in a status update on Facebook or twitter.

What is your favorite style of beer?

That’s really hard to say. I’ve always been a heffeweizen fan, but the more I brew, the more styles I learn about, so my horizons are expanding.

There is almost always a story behind why you get started homebrewing. What’s your story?

My father once said that there are three things you have to do in life as a man. 1. Raise a family. 2. Build a house. 3. Brew beer. I’m a woman, so I’ll never be a man, but I feel like I can at least take care of 2 dogs (family), fix stuff around the house (“build”) and I know I can brew beer.

FOR THE PROSPECTIVE BREWER

If there was one piece of advice you’d like to pass on to a prospective homebrewer, what would it be?

The same advise my brother-in-law (who also brews) gave me. Buy local. There are brew shops all over the place and it’s so easy to find supplies on the web, but the friendships you can make with the folks at the local brew shop are invaluable. They have lots of knowledge and are happy to answer questions because they want you to succeed and enjoy making great beer.

Before you started brewing where did you look for information in regards to your questions about brewing? (websites, books, clubs, friends, etc)

I just knew I wanted to brew. I tried searching online to figure out what I needed to brew and got so frustrated. I emailed my brother-in-law who lives in MA if there was a website he would recommend. He said “Buy local” and sent me a link for the Home Beer Wine and Cheese Making Shop in Woodland Hills, CA.

Did you start with a starter equipment kit or did you put something together yourself?

The shop sells starter kits with everything you need to brew your first batch of beer. An “ale pail” with lid, a carboy, siphon and tubing, bottling cane, thermometer, hydrometer, capper, caps, stopper and airlock, a book on how to brew, sanitizer (both San-Clean and TSP) and a kit of ingredients. I brewed their “Wet & Wild Wheat” first.

Was there anything unique about your initial equipment setup?

Not really. I didn’t buy a brew kettle from them since I thought I had a big enough stock pot. I ended up having to go buy a bigger one. I went to a restaurant supply shop and spent probably twice as much for it, but it’s been used enough to justify it.

YOUR FIRST BREW DAY

What was your first recipe? (Extract, partial mash or all grain)

“Wet & Wild Wheat” It was a partial mash.

Describe your first brew day, as much as you can remember. Were you nervous, did things go right, horribly wrong, forget something?

I kept telling myself “I won’t be intimidated by the wort.” The actual brewing process wasn’t so bad, although I was a bit neurotic about it and hovered around the kitchen the entire time. I cook a lot and follow recipes all the time. Brewing really isn’t all that different.

Did your yeast start right of way or was it lazy, making you a nervous wreck?

I was happy that the airlock was bubbling away the next morning.

Did you know what that hydrometer do-hicky did and how to use it?

I was fortunate that the woman who helped me at the brew shop took the time to explain what everything was and how to use it.

YOUR FIRST BOTTLING DAY

What did you use to siphon your beer? Did it work?

I used my husband. LOL. Totally not the most sanitary method, but it worked and the beer didn’t suffer. What can I say, he’s got lung power!

Describe your first bottling or kegging day. Everything go as planned?

So, we started bottling and the siphon moved SO slow. There were air bubble in the line and I think it took us at least 2 hours to get all 5 gallons into the bottles and capped. Oy! We started talking about kegging that afternoon. That was in September 2009. We still have yet to keg a batch of beer. We managed to master the siphon and bottling now takes us about an hour.

Finally, Your BEER!

How long were you actually able to wait before you decided to open a beer and drink it?

We waited two weeks.

Was that beer good?

It was good, although we found that it was actually better after another week of bottle conditioning.

How did it make you feel to taste a beer that you brewed for the first time?

I was really excited and proud. Heck, I was thrilled when I heard the CO2 escape when I opened the first bottle.

Will you make beer again and what would you do differently?

I’ve been brewing regularly ever since. I actually have a spreadsheet detailing every beer I’ve made. I’ve brewed a few multiple times and I’m curious to know why there is such variation in the ABVs. I’m not sure if I’ve just read the hydrometer wrong, or if I somehow did something so different.

What will be the first “toy” you’ll be adding to your brewing equipment setup?

I think I’ll get a wort chiller one of these days. I’m not in a rush for it though. The kitchen sink full of ice seems to do the trick just fine.

Do you already have dreams about taking your homebrewing beyond a hobby or are you satisfied with just making yourself some tasty brews?

My husband and I are enamored with the idea of opening a brewpub. It’s a fun idea that I’ve already started to research. There’s so much more to it that I realized, but who knows. Maybe one day we’ll make it happen. Until then, I’ll keep brewing in the kitchen and stocking the fruits of my labors in the guest room until there is space in the fridge for more beer.

Do you have a beard? (Just taking a survey!)

Nope. My husband doesn’t either, but he can grow one.

I’d like to personally thank Ali for participating in the First Time Homebrewer questionnaire! Thanks Ali!

Also, remember you can Get Started Brewing Extract Beer, just by following the link!

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  • http://freshbeereveryfriday.blogspot.com Jez

    Neat. Ali – you bottle your beer directly from the fermenter using a siphon? I know you’re looking into getting a chiller one day, but um, a bottling bucket, length of hose and a beer wand will probably run you about $15-16…

    I’m just sayin’…

  • http://freshbeereveryfriday.blogspot.com Jez

    Also, dig how you guys upend the empty bottles until you fill them. I think I might have to try that!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve just started using a bottle tree and a spray bottle with sanitizer in it. I’ve found that to be a really good way to keep stuff out of my beer before bottling. First batch using it seems ok!

    I do want to get to kegging though. Bottling takes up to much room for the hassle compared to kegging. Even though, keeping lines clean sucks..

    Mike

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