Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Back to Basics - Small batches to perfect your skills.

Ok, here's the deal.  I have preached and preached about common sense in home brewing.   I have shouted from the counter top.  I have ranted I have raved about not spending too much.  I have tried to show you all that you can make great beer with out spending thousands of dollars on a wort production machine.  So today.  I will be giving you some guidelines to follow and remember about home brewing.   Some hard and fast "rules" that can guide your home brewing career.

  • Small batch home brewing is the best way to brew often, and improve your skills
    • You can brew small batch in your kitchen. 
    • 1 to 3 gallons can easily be brewed in a 5 gallon pot with a paint strainer bag as your brew bag.  
    • You can easily "keg" These batches in "tap a draft" or in 5 liter kegs for a minimal investment.   
      • You can also use 1 or 2 liter soda bottles.  
  • There is nothing more important than cleaning and sanitation
    • If you bought something that is hard to clean... you screwed up
    • If you do not spend adequate time cleaning... you screwed up
  • Wort production is less important than fermentation
    • The best wort you can make will never be the very best beer if you can't control temperatures
    • If you cant control fermentation temperature then focus on Belgian style beers and forgiving yeast.  Fermentis US05, is a great choice. Danstar Nottingham is also a great choice.  For Belgian Ales try Fermentis Abbaye (BE 256), for Saison try Danstar Belle Saison
    • You can make a world class lager at 58-60 F.   But not at 72 F.  
      • Don't believe me?  try Fermentis 34/70 at 58 F in a 1.050 wort for 3 weeks.  Freaking amazing.  
  • You can make world class wort with a picnic cooler, a spoon, and a pitcher
    • There is nothing magical about a pump, or insulated stainless steel.
    • Heck you can make world class beer with brew in a bag on your stove top.  
  • Learn to be a wort whisperer
    • Taste your freaking wort.  Learn what it should taste like.   Learn how it should look.  
    • Taste your freaking grains.   Make sure they aren't stale.  Learn what they should taste like.   Consider adjusting the amounts based on the taste.
      • You can even make adjustments during the mash if you need to.
      • That is why our beer is so good,  we taste it during production.
  • Always remember your focus should be a delicious wort and healthy environment for your yeast.
    • Brewers make wort, yeast makes beer.
  • There is a reason certain hops are used with certain beers.
My hope is that we get back to excellence in beer making as a craft.  Now I say get back to because right now it seems like the focus is on finding a magical combination of ingredients.   As if what we do is potion making or alchemy.  The truth is the hobby we love is really more about learning. Learning proven processes and methods for producing excellent beer at home. Learning what quality ingredients should taste like.   My best advice is to focus on a couple of beer styles you love, and make them over and over until you can make them flawlessly and repeatedly.   You might consider smaller batches for this.   And brew a lot.  Every week, twice a week.  Yes you'll have more beer than you know what to do with.   Yes, bottling can be a pain.  But I'll let you in on a little secret.   I often "bottle" small batch in 1 liter bottles.   Why?  Why not?  They work fine and impart no flavor.  For my every day non competition beers.  It is so much faster and easier.  I also own loads of Mr. Beer plastic bottles.  They are also fantastic for home brew.

Another Couple of tips for fermentation.   Mini refrigerators are perfect for fermenting small batches. And the square tall frosting buckets from Walmart and Sam's club fit perfectly in a mini fridge.  All you need is a temperature controller and you are in great shape.  

So brew a lot, and brew small batch, work on your craft.  That is how you become great.   


  1. I am a long time homebrewer and plan on brewing 1 gallon beers this winter. I have my old Williams mash tun I bought back in 1998. It is a plastic bucket with a plastic false bottom with an insulated cover with handles. It has a hole under the false bottom with a simple vinyl hose and a cheap valve. Works great. I am going to buy 4 one gallon growlers and use different kinds of liquid yeast. I should be able to brew once a week. Some may be high gravity and some won't. Haven't decided yet, but am looking forward to it.

    1. We have a blast with small batch. It is really so much fun to hang out with friends, brewing beer, sampling beer and talking. We generally do 3.5 gallon batches on the stove top, because we can, and we are so rich with grains from our amazing sponsors. We make one off beers, weird things like french country ales... not biere de garde... clean yeast, and rich as chocolate cake. So much fun.