You’ve tried a few brews and things are humming along nicely. Or maybe you’re just starting out. Whatever your current skill level, here are three tricks I’ve learnt over the years that have taught me a whole lot about becoming better at making this lovely nectar:

1. Brew more SMaSH recipes

That’s Single Mash, Single Hop recipes to you. The beauty of these simple, elegant little brews is that you can easily vary only one ingredient and instantly have another beer. This is a good thing. By changing only one component of your recipe at a time, you start learning exactly what each ingredient does in terms of the final product.

For instance, by just changing the hop varietal, you can begin to learn the flavor, bittering and aroma properties of different kinds of hops. Bonus! For a real kick to the head, change only the yeast type. Let’s say from a normal ale yeast (snore..) to a funky Belgian strain. Now you’re talking..

2. Brew smaller batches, more often

Time is a luxury. Yeah, it sucks to be a working stiff, but whaddya gonna do? Unfortunately, brewing a full-sized, 19 Litre (5 gal) batch can take most of the day, which for most of us, means only weekends are available for brewing. When you’re not trying to catch up during that particular weekend on other life-important things. Like doing that low and slow pork rib BBQ, for instance.

But, there is another way. Brewing small batch beer (e.g. 5 Litre / 1.5 gal), expands your options and increases brewing frequency. Because small batches are easier to clean and set up, you can brew in the evening after work, or in the early, early morning if you’re that kind of weirdo.

And since you’re now brewing more frequently, you can experiment more, which as you may know from reading this blog, is something I feel strongly about.

3. Measure more (accurately)

You can’t really understand what the hell’s going on without measuring. I think maybe Copernicus said that. In brewing, that means investing in proper measuring devices. The key ones you should spend a bit more on are:

  • Hydrometer / Refractometer. Don’t use the old, dirty, wonky one you got in a kit somewhere. Purchase a good one, treat it well (i.e. clean it, store it securely), and it can last you many, many years.
  • Instant-read, digital thermometers. Although glass immersion thermos are fine, they tend to break (I’ve recently destroyed my fifth one in as many years). Digital instant read ones, however, are a bit more robust and tend to be very accurate.
  • Digital scale. Again, analog scales are okay, but digital scales, especially with 1 gram incremental measurement, are better. If you’re going to follow my advice and brew more small-batch beer, you’re definitely going to need a gram scale, which you can definitely buy at a shop that also sells bongs.

Now that you’re appropriately kitted out, you should also measure more often. Yes, there’s always the risk of contamination, but you’ll also learn a lot about how your beer evolves from base ingredients to beautiful, fully fermented suds. And that’s a beautiful thing indeed.

Happy brewing!



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