By Dave Dahl – Lo Rez Brewing
You have all your equipment and now you’re ready to dive in and make the best tasting beer in the world. Take a step back and learn the basics. The first step on most home brewer’s journey is the extract kit.
What do you want to brew? If you’ve read this far you already know what you want to brew. And I’ll bet it’s a “double-stuffed extra dry-hopped quad”. For some reason beginning homebrewers always want to start big. I know I did. If that’s what you want to brew, go nuts. But promise me, at some point, you’ll want to brew something lighter or more subtle. You can hide lots of mistakes playing a loud electric guitar, but when you play acoustic guitar, there’s nothing to hide behind – it’s exactly the same with beer. So pick a style. My only recommendation is to start with some type of ale. All beer is either an ale or a lager (click here for a cool visualization of beer styles), and brewing lagers is much trickier.
So you have the hardware, and you know what you want to brew. Let’s get the ingredients.
Making beer is like making chicken soup. You can make good chicken soup using chicken stock, or you can make killer chicken soup by making your own stock. In this analogy chicken stock is “extract brewing” and making your own stock is “all-grain brewing.” Since we’re talking 101, let’s keep it simple and focus on an scoring an extract recipe kit.
You’ve already made a trip to your local homebrew store for equipment, so pick up your ingredients there too. They’ll likely have pre-prepared kits that correspond to styles (IPA, Scotch ale, etc). A “kit” is simply pre-weighed portions of grains, hops, yeast, and malt extract. Be sure to tell them you want a kit with malt extract, or you’ll be jumping to homebrewing 401 without the right hardware or patience. Malt extract is the chicken stock mentioned above – it’s a condensed version of what you get from mashing grains when brewing all grain. You can get it dried (like powdered sugar) or liquid (like molasses), which have different (and largely subjective) tradeoffs.
Pro tip: never, ever, ever use dried yeast. There’s some okay dried yeast out there but it’s much easier to find a great liquid yeast from either Wyeast or White Labs. Every homebrew store and online store stocks one, or both, lines of yeasts. Always use liquid yeast and make sure the yeast matches your beer style. If you go to a local homebrew shop and ask for help with a kit, it’s highly unlikely they’ll give you dry yeast in a packet, but keep an eye out for it.
IMPORTANT: If your uncle gave you a Mr. Beer kit, you do not have your ingredients. A Mr. Beer kit is merely an efficient way to waste an afternoon making something you that tell your friends is great, but that really sucks in reality. Throw out that kit out, follow my recommendations above, and tell your uncle his beer kit was awesome.