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Diving into Home Brewing

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Old 01-01-2015, 06:30 PM   #1
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Diving into Home Brewing

Happy new year everybody!

For the last few years I have been enjoying local beers from all these local breweries that have begun to pop up around my area. There have been 4 or 5 that have popped up at the in the last two years in the Portland Maine area that have done real well for themselves and are brewing some stellar beers. I have been inspired by this and all these awesome beers I've tried, I decided I want to try brewing my own at home. It's always been something I wanted to do but never thought I had the space, time, and honestly I've been a little intimidated by it. I have been reading, researching, and even visited several local breweries to soak in some information and inspiration and I'm gearing up to take the plunge.

I wanted to reach out to the collective knowledge base here on the forms and ask for some advice or just simple tips from folks who have done it before. Should I start out with just getting a homebrew kit from an outfit like Austin Homebrew Supply and buy the ingredients separately? Or maybe just buy a complete kit for my first batch to feel it out?

The space I have to work with is very limited as we have a very small house. We do have a small crawlspace downstairs but it's not exactly livable space and its mostly used for storage. Can I use the crawlspace basement that's not the most ideal climate for the fermentation process? Also, it's the dead of winter here in Maine too so I will have to keep my outdoor boiling activities to nice sunny days as I don't have a garage either. Should I be worried about colder temperatures or just wait for nicer weather?

Any tips, advice, online suppliers, or just general words of wisdom are appreciated as I take the plunge into what I'm guessing might become my new favorite hobby!

Thanks in advance and cheers!
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Old 01-01-2015, 06:49 PM   #2
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I have about 15 home brews under my belt so far. If you're just starting out I would suggest one of the all in one brewing kits from northern brewer or Austin homebrew supply. It will include everything you need to start brewing (minus a kettle). Tubing, sanitizer, capper, fermenter, bottling bucket etc. A small stainless steel kettle will do the trick (about 4 gallons). As for a beer kit, start off with one of their basic kits to get the feel of how the brewing process works. I'd actually suggest using several of those kits before deciding on making your first custom brew. My first was a basic IPA and it's still one of my favorite brews I've made. Ale fermentation needs to take place at a constant 68-72 degrees. I wouldn't suggest putting anything in your crawl space. Putting a 5 gallon fermenter in a closet has always worked well for me. Basically anywhere that's dark and keeps a constant 70 degree temperature. Lagers are a completely different story because they utilize cold fermentation. I wouldn't attempt those unless you had proper equipment.
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Old 01-02-2015, 03:04 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply! I appreciate it! Sounds like I might be better off waiting for the spring and warmer weather to roll around before I jump in. The temp of our house fluctuates from 62 to 70 during the winter months and that doesn't sound conducive to fermentation. I think I will read up and shop around and at least get all my equipment and supplies lined up during the winter months. That way I can hit the ground running come the thaw!
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Old 01-02-2015, 03:19 PM   #4
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I agree with getting a "Beginners Kit" for equipment that'll have most of the hardware you need. Retailers that I use often include Northern Brewer and Midwest Supplies -- both often have deals on such kits.

For your first brew... maybe your first dozen... I'd also recommend an "extract" ingredient kit from same suppliers. All the ingredients for a proven recipe in one box that you can do on a stovetop. Extract kits use... wait for it... malt extract, which is in syrup or powder form. It's an alternative to "full grain" kits where you get a bag of malted grain and need to mash it yourself. A worthy experience for sure, but not for beginners -- and it needs a lot more equipment.

Three tips I often give new brewers:
1) Clean, clean, clean, sanitize... then clean some more and sanitize again.

2) Don't be disappointed if your first batch needs to go down the drain due to nastiness, it happens, learn from it.

3) When you open that last bottle from your first drinkable batch... it's time to open the first one. Very easy to be over-anxious and start "sampling" before it's quite ready. That last bottle will likely be the best one!

OH! One last thing... I've an uncle in Mass. who got into brewing thru a local supply shop who did group brewing. Wasn't so much a class, as a group event where you can go brew, and learn, and use the shop's equipment. Something to look into before laying out a pile of cash for gear.

Good luck!
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Old 01-02-2015, 03:30 PM   #5
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Its a ton of fun. Th wife and I use to brew together all the time then kids happened.

Like stated earlier, besure to clean everything very very well.

watch your fermentation temps and don't take shortcuts. You will taste it. I know people that have skipped the step of checking the gravity before and after and sometimes, the beer is not done, even though it has "stopped burping".

Have fun and experiment. Your pallet will grow as you start to understand how small changes in the brew, make big changes in the taste.
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Old 01-14-2015, 08:44 PM   #6
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Once you start brewing your own you won't look back! a bit redundant at this point, but yes; I'd recommend a starter kit and start with 2-3 gallon extract boils and a brew bucket, then step it up from there as you get more interest and love for the hobby. as far as space goes, don't worry! I'm doing 5-10 gallon all grain batches in a 2 bedroom apartment haha. and if you have trouble with steady ferment temps, just wrap your fermenter in a sweater, jacket or wet towel to help regulate temps.

oh and check out The Brewing Network, an amazing resource for homebrewing! good luck and keep us updated
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