Let me paint the landscape of homebrewing in 2001. When I walked into Brewer’s Art for the first time there were containers of grain everywhere, a fridge for hops and yeast, a book section for resources, and a small shelf with various cans of Munton’s hopped liquid extract. I started with the Munton’s ‘two can dump’ as a way to learn about the brewing process itself and get my sanitation procedures down. After a few batches and realizing that homebrew has GOT to taste better than that, I bought some recipe books and started to add steeping grains and hops. Now here’s the kicker, kids:
THERE WERE NO BEER KITS
Yes, you HAD to make you own recipes! You started with some base extract, either liquid or dry, and added steeping grains and whatever hops you wanted for what style you were shooting for. Yes, there were style guidelines and plenty of recipe books to get you close, but you had to dive into the never ending process of trial and error to find out what ingredient you liked and how to use it (you’ll read this in the next post: I HATE Victory malt; you already know how I feel about Special B). The kits are great for getting your procedures down in your brewery, except the sack of grain and the bag(s) of hops you get tell you nothing of what kind of grains and hops will produce the final beer. The beer kits of today will make you good beer, but if you want to know how to make that recipe in the first place, you have to branch out, kick the kit, and formulate your own recipe.
My first recipes came from my favorite books- The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, Homebrewing for Dummies, and other books. The recipes were simple: an amount of extract, two to three pounds of steeping grains, and a hop addition or two. Books abound now, and I have many volumes, though most of my recipes now come out of my head. That’s the beauty of knowing the characteristic of each ingredient! Brew Your Own and Zymurgy magazines are the best resources I use currently — if you make beer and you’re not a member of the American Homebrewer’s Association (who publishes Zymurgy), you’re missing out on tons of resources.
So why title this post ‘Don’t Hate the Extract’? There’s a lot of beers we’ve all had that had that ‘extract flavor.’ How to describe it? It’s difficult, but you know it when you taste it. It’s not bad; it’s drinkable beer, but like many of my first beers they all have a certain characteristic that tells you extract was involved. My next post will tell you how to get around that and make beer that the most ardent extract hater will compliment you on (which has happened to me at maaaaany Kettltheads meetings).
Cheers and happy brewing,