Here’s my homebrewing-themed post for the inaugural Homebrew Blogging Day, as launched by Adam on the Beer Bits 2 blog: "I remember when I started homebrewing."
It was the mid-nineties, and I was just discovering good beer. (You can read about that in this month’s earlier Session.) My friend Justin had brought over some homebrewed beer—Toad Spit Stout, Charlie Papazian’s recipe—and even though I had some trepidation (this being my first ever taste of homebrew, so I didn’t know what to expect), it was a fantastic, tasty, smooth beer, very drinkable, and very inspiring.
I had one of those small booklets on brewing beer—you know, the pamphlet variety that come with beginner kits— and started acquiring the equipment I would need for my first batch of beer. It was from a kit: a can of pre-hopped amber malt, I think some hops (though since the malt was the pre-hopped variety, I may not have used them), a packet of dry yeast, and that was it.
Following the directions from the booklet, I boiled the amber malt with two gallons of water and about a pound of table sugar for about 15 minutes, let it cool a bit, and added it to three gallons of cold water in the carboy. I sprinkled the dry yeast directly onto the wort (no rehydration or anything), plunked the airlock into the neck, and hoped for the best.
(Everyone reading this is cringing right now. I’m cringing a little too, as I’m writing this.)
It fermented, and about a week or so later I fumbled through the bottling process (using more table sugar to prime the bottles). I had saved up Molson Ice bottles for this purpose, so all my Amber Ale bottles were green.
Two to three anxious weeks later, I sampled my very first homebrewed beer.
It was, surprisingly, not bad. Not bad at all. Pretty good, in fact, based on my limited judgment (and my memory). I was hooked.
My next two batches were a honey wheat and a porter—also from kits, although I branched out a bit: I added honey to the wheat kit, and actually used some specialty grains with the porter (the guys at Jim’s Homebrew had helped me out there, cluing me in to what to use and how to use it). Both of these beers also turned out surprisingly well.
Realizing I had a serious gap in my brewing knowledge, around this time I bought the New Complete Joy of Homebrewing, and started reading it religiously. Great book, I learned a lot from it and it was a great source of brewing inspiration for me.
And, I believe I even have some bottles of those original homebrews that I’ve saved—for posterity’s sake, not for drinking. (Trust me, they haven’t been stored well enough for drinking, I’m quite sure.) Good years, and (reasonably) good beers.