30. Become a Certified Beer Judge. In order to become a BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) judge, you really have to prove you know how to brew. Study the BJCP guide, review their test-prep info, and find a study-buddy. Move up in the ranks within the BJCP, and watch your homebrew knowledge and skill grow.
29. Ask to apprentice/volunteer in a brewery. Ask around- many microbreweries would be happy to show you the ropes in exchange for some help (lifting, cleaning), especially those breweries just getting started. Remember, most professional brewers today started out as homebrewers, and the best ones do what they can to help a fellow brewer out.
28. Enter Homebrewing Competitions/ Get Peer Feedback. Just like Canadian intellectual rapper Baba Brinkman said, the key to your (beer) evolution goes like this: Performance, Feedback, Revision. There are few better places to get that feedback than from competition, where beer goes through a sort of natural selection: the fittest rise to the top while others could probably stand to benefit from some revision. All competitions should offer you feedback, whether it’s a club competition within your local brew club, a state homebrew competition, or the Grand Puba (Maxwell Dixon) of them all, the National Homebrew Competition.
27. Join a homebrew club. True story: I joined my local homebrew club before I brewed my first batch of beer. In fact, I think I joined before I ever really thought I’d want to brew. So, in my case, I might not have ever become a brewer if it weren’t for my local homebrew club. One of the great things about a homebrew club is that every homebrewer in the club usually specializes in a certain branch of knowledge, or has a particular style of beer that they brew really well, and can offer their expertise on that subject. Many homebrew clubs have a formal educational part of the meeting where they discuss various topics relevant to brewing, and many clubs do beer style reviews where they feature a certain beer style, taste it and discuss it. And usually club members will bring their homebrew to the club meeting to share and receive feedback.
26. Brew with other brewers. Not only does it build comradery, you also get to learn and bounce ideas off of your fellow brewers. Many times it’s a fellow homebrewer who gives you that one little tip you were missing in order to perfect a certain process or recipe you’ve been struggling with. The more advanced the brewer, the more you’ll be able to learn.
25. Join an online homebrewing forum like at beersyndicate.com. (Told you we were shameless.). Essentially a virtual homebrew club, online brewing forums enable the homebrewer to learn and share ideas with fellow brewers to help one another share their knowledge and experience. www.homebrewtalk.com is one of the best, but check out the forums at www.reddit.com, www.brewingnetwork.com, www.northernbrewer.com, and even www.beeradvocate.com has a forum too.
24. Mash Temperature Control. For those all grain brewers out there, controlling the mash temperature is key to determining the fermentablity of your brew, and thus key components in your final beer such as thickness, thinness, residual sweetness, dryness, and alcohol content. This topic is debated a bit, but the general rule of thumb is the lower the mash temp, particularly in the 148-152F range, the more maltose conversion takes place during mashing, which produces a higher gravity wort, and generally results in a cleaner, thinner beer with a bit more alcohol. The higher the mash temp (154-160), the less fermentable the wort becomes due to some unfermentable sugars produced in that temperature range which results in a less attenuated (sweeter) beer with more body and less alcohol. There’s even the medium body range of 150-152, which gives you a little bit of both worlds.
23. Don’t introduce oxygen into your beer once fermentation has begun. Yes, I know, I added this tip in the “Don’ts of Homebrewing”, but it’s important, so it gets a little more attention. As with almost everything we eat, exposure to oxygen causes our food to spoil faster. Ever wonder why the flesh of a sliced apple quickly turns from a juicy milky white to an unappealing rusty brown? That’s oxygen at work, and it can have negative consequences in your beer too. Though beer doesn’t exactly spoil in that it won’t make you sick if you drink old beer, it can become unstable and begin to deteriorate and lose its character given enough time and leave you with what I describe as a semi-sweet, apple juice/apple cider/squash, carbonated drink often with notes of wet paper or cardboard. These off-flavors are the tell tale signs of oxidized beer and is a problem that effects both commercial brewers and homebrewers alike. Do your best to limit splashing your beer around while it’s fermenting and when bottling in order to reduce the mixing of oxygen in your beer. Use airlocks when fermenting to prevent oxygen from entering your fermenter, and make sure your fermenter is sealed tight. If bottling, use a bottling wand and oxygen barrier caps to help increase the stability and self-life of your beer, and reduce the chances of stale oxidized notes appearing in your beer.
22. Serve your beer at the proper temperature. Isn’t it annoying when you order a tasty craft beer only to have it brought to you ice cold? Not only do you run the risk of brain freeze if drank too quickly, what’s worse is that you can hardly taste what the brewer worked so hard to create for you! Every style of beer has an ideal serving temperature, but a good rule of thumb is to serve ales around 48F, and lagers just slightly cooler. You’ve made it all the way from grain to glass; don’t stumble at the finish line.
21. Give your beer enough time to age before drinking. Yes, we’re all anxious to see how our beer turned out, but there are very few examples of beers that are in their prime just after a week in the bottle; German Hefeweizen and possibly a big fresh hopped IPA are the only exceptions I can think of. A good rule of thumb is allowing your beer three weeks in the bottle in order to drastically reduce many of the off-flavors you might find in newly bottled beer, a.k.a. green beer. What’s a ‘green flavor’ you ask? The answer is that green flavors really just refer to a lack of balance, or a particular off-flavor that would be eliminated with some aging, and these off-flavors/off-aromas depend largely on the style of the beer. For example, in higher gravity beers, you might get an overly alcoholic character as its green flavor, while lighter beers usually exhibit an overly yeasty quality, or in the case of some lagers, sulfur. Some other beers can be overly sweet, overly hoppy, harsh, sharp, grainy, bitter, you name it, and these off-flavors can present themselves in the aroma, flavor and aftertaste. However, a very common compound found in young beer is acetaldehyde, which is often described as green apples, sometimes apple cider, or fresh pumpkin slices. Just remember, with a little patience, you too can avoid the Green Giant.