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Enjoying Your First Homebrew Sessions

A Guide for the Newbie Homebrewer
Homebrewing October 17, 2002      
Written by VA Homebrewer

Portsmouth, VIRGINIA -

<P>I was writing another article for RateBeer the other day about my first batch of homebrew when I realized that three common pitfalls inhibited the full development and enjoyment of that beer. It occurred to me that other newbie homebrewers might find a little advice about dealing with "first-time jitters" helpful. To that end, here’s what to watch out for (and how not to feel) with your first batch of precious homebrew.</P>

<P>1) The first batch causes all normally intelligent and rational people to begin acting like paranoid, over-protective parents. I, along with every first time homebrewer, read about how important it is for everything to be completely sanitized and became suddenly consumed with an urgent need to wipe my entire kitchen down with bleach water prior to brewing. Obviously, this was unnecessary. It does, however, illustrate the paranoia the typical first time homebrewer will face, and that paranoia is likely to pop up in any number of homebrewing procedures. You will come to think of that first batch as you would a young child – constantly checking on it and uncomfortable with the brew being left alone for more than two seconds. Thankfully, this feeling diminishes into manageable paranoia over the next few batches.</P>

<P>2) You’re so anxious you begin acting like you’re five years old whose birthday is only a week away. You honestly believe you will die if you have to wait another day for your brew to finish in the kettle, in the fermenter, and conditioning in the bottle. So, now we have an anxious and paranoid newbie homebrewer that literally wishes he or she could sit and watch the beer ferment all day long for seven consecutive days while seriously contemplating drinking the fermenting beer directly from the carboy through a straw. The newbie will check on the brew once every fifteen minutes when they are home all the while doing a "pee-pee dance" in anticipation of their first sip of glorious homebrew. Once the brew is in the bottle, the anticipation grows even stronger because there is no action to watch like there was while the beer was in the fermenter. This condition results in the brew being rushed into drinkability without allowing it to properly develop. My first batch went from brew kettle to beer glass in two weeks. I shouldn’t have cracked a single bottle for at least another two weeks.</P>

<P>3) Your first batch will mean the world to you and your expectations for it will be way too high. You’ll likely set yourself up for some disappointment when it comes time to taste your homebrew. On that first sip you’ll realize it doesn’t taste just like Beer X as you intended. The fact of the matter is that it’s your first batch. That’s right, you are a beginner and your first beer isn’t going to taste like Victory Hop Devil or even Sierra Nevada Pale Ale! However, what it will taste like is about 1,000 times better than any macroswill out there. Give yourself some credit for taking the plunge and deciding to make great beer all by yourself. It’ll get better. I promise.</P>

<P>My advice for dealing with these emotional problems caused by your precious homebrew? Charlie Papazian, widely recognized as the father of the homebrewing movement in America, said it best when he calmed frustrated homebrewers with the motto "Relax, don’t worry; have a homebrew." Obviously, the first-timer won’t have any homebrew. Fortunately, high quality commercial brew is a great substitute. </P>

<P>If possible, I’d also recommend trying to find an experienced homebrewer to supervise you during those first few batches. You’ll be less likely to go haywire when a minor problem arises, and they do during almost every session. If you don’t know any homebrewers in your area you might seek out a homebrewing club. Almost any decent brewpub will have information on at least one club in your area – just ask the brewmaster or an assistant. If all else fails, RateBeer has many members who are experienced homebrewers willing to answer your posts on the Homebrew Forum. </P>

<P>The bottom line is that you’ll end up with a massive headache if you get too serious about homebrewing. I spent hours online during my first few brew sessions trying to solve problems that weren’t really there or weren’t worth worrying about. Don’t get caught in my trap. Just chill out a little, and take pride in being one of the few who are adventurous enough to take up this hobby.</P></FONT>



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