Beer Lesson: Five Things You Should Do to Become a Better Brewer

October 2012

How serious are you about homebrewing? 

We found one beer enthusiast who took his hobby to the next level— 26-year-old Andy Mitchell is a professional brewer with a mechanical engineering degreeHe began homebrewing as a hobby in the kitchen of his student family apartment in Fort Collins in the fall of 2010. But, instead of a standard homebrew kit with premeasured ingredients, Mitchell brewed with all grain so he could create truly custom batches. As his wife finished graduate school at Colorado State University, Mitchell traded work at Funkwerks Brewing for bits of brewing knowledge and pints from the taproom from the five-person operation. When New Belgium Brewing Company heard about Mitchell's experience and interest in brewing, they offered him a job. The team at Funkwerks wasn't ready to see their apprentice leave, so Mitchell was hired on as the sixth employee.

Mitchell has come a long way from whipping up those first test batches in his kitchen, so we asked him the five things homebrewers can do to improve their batch.

Stay clean: Invest time in solid cleaning and sanitation procedures. Pick up Star San Sanitizer and PBW cleaner from your local homebrew shop. Don't use bleach—it makes beer taste like bandages. 

Control the temperature: The temperature of your carboy or fermenter can be 10 degrees warmer than the reading in a room. Manage this factor by putting the carboy in a 15-gallon tub surrounded by water. If the temperature rises too high, surround the carboy with frozen water bottles to cool it down.  

Make your own yeast starter: Creating homemade starter allows the yeast to multiply and be more active. Make your own yeast starter with the calculator at mrmalty.com.

Find some homebrew pals: Join a local homebrew club in your area. Trade tips, tricks, and your newest concoctions. Here are some options: Denver Homebrew Club, Foam on the Range, and Mile High Monks.  

Shadow a professional brewer: The best way to get better is to learn from the pros. Take some local brewery tours and find a beer brewing mentor. There are plenty to choose from.

Want to know more? Pick up a copy of How to Brew by John Palmer, or The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian (the guy that hands out medals at the Great American Beer Fest). Don't miss visiting the forum of homebrewtalk.com.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

 Follow editorial assistant Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter at @LindseyRMcK.