When my home brewing hobby was in its infancy, I would wander the internets like a zombie prowling for tender human flesh, relentlessly and listlessly seeking out tips, tricks, and new recipes to try out. I’m not sure how that simile contributes anything to my lead here, I’m just excited to watch The Walking Dead tonight. But, I digress.
In the beginning of my quest, I got a lot of good information from the book The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, by Charlie Papazian. There are others of its sort, but this one seems to be the most popular. This book is packed with all the info you need to know as a budding home brewer, from basic descriptions of ingredients and equipment, to all-grain brewing techniques and a bunch of nice recipes. The book is undeniably a great resource for any one starting out in home brewing.
In spite of the book’s value as a resource for aspiring brewers – we are living in the 21st century, here. Unless a Walking-Dead-esque zombie apocalypse does happen in our near future, you can find all of the information in this book fo’ free online — you just need to have patience, and an ability to make judgment calls when you read completely contradictory information from two different sources. I would never advise someone not to buy the book, I’m simply saying it might not be a critical element to anyone’s success in brewing these days.
Early on, I had the naivety to think I’d learned all I needed to know by watching a 15 minute instructional DVD on brewing, and brewing my first recipe kit. I quickly stumbled upon Beer-Recipes.org and started digging up recipes. This site is a database of self-submitted recipes, organized by style. There are recipes on the site for all skill levels, and almost all styles of beer (even some ciders and meads).
The site has potential to be a great resource, but I will state that I’ve brewed some of my least favorite beers based on recipes from beer-recipes.org. I recommend approaching this site with caution, as a beginner. Remember that some random submitted each recipe, and there is no room for comments to validate their claims of greatness. I recommend developing your knowledge of how ingredients work together in your brew kettle, and understanding what defines your own personal tastes. This will allow you to glean info from the recipes submitted here and tweak them to suit your tastes.
HomeBrewTalk.com is a forum for home brewers to share info, and discuss their passion for the hobby and craft of brewing. The site is widely used by brewers of all skill levels, making it a tremendous resource for… brewers of all skill levels.
On this message board, you can find recipes (with plenty of comments, suggested tweaks, collaborative efforts on perfecting the recipe, etc.). There are tips and discussions on commonly-faced home brewing problems, information on vendors of brewing supplies, and a whole lot more. You can bet that if you’ve had an issue with brewing, someone else has had it too, and asked about it on this forum. You can also bet they received several different replies about how to address the issue – which is part of the beauty of the forum as a resource. Because the information is coming from different brewers with different styles, you can try out various methods and decide what works best for you.
Whenever I have brewing conundrum, or am looking to formulate a recipe I’ve never attempted, I inevitably wind up culling some type of info from HomeBrewTalk.com. The forum has helped me craft better and better recipes, and evaluate the pros & cons of different styles and approaches to brewing. I’ve adopted some brewing techniques from this forum (including this stove-top all-grain/partial-mash brewing method), having evolved my style from the recipe-kit-instruction-sheet method of brewing to creating my own shortcuts, time savers and quality control methods, many based on tips from HomeBrewTalk.com. I highly recommend checking out this forum.
I found Hopville.com as kind of a beautiful accident. I was Googling recipes and stumbled upon this site, which is an amazing free resource for home brewers, particularly those looking to craft their own recipes. Their Beer Calculus recipe builder will help you nail the style you’re trying to brew with minimal effort. There are multiple commercial brewing software options available, but I have never invested in any, personally, so I cannot comment. I find it hard to justify, as I have been able to make some pretty good brews without paying a cent beyond ingredients and equipment, in part thanks to Hopville.com.
I have increased my use of the Beer Calculus tool and started saving my recipes in 2012, and each brew that I’ve done this year has been pretty darn good. I can’t attribute that solely to Hopville’s Beer Calculus recipe calculator, but it’s definitely not hurting!
On top of that, Hopville lets you peruse other members’ recipes, by style, follow brewers whose recipes pique your interest, and a lot more. It’s a great site to browse and their Beer Calculus tool is an invaluable resource, provided to you for free. God bless the internet!
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I highly recommend checking out the resources discussed in this article. With that said, one other great source of information is your local home brew supply store. In the Buffalo / Western NY area, this means Niagara Tradition, on Sheridan Dr., or Dunkirk Homebrew, located on Route 20 near Fredonia. Both of these stores are run by folks that really, really know what they’re talking about, and are more than willing to provide some help and answers to any questions you might have. Not to mention, both stores have most of the ingredients and equipment you need for most styles… so why order online and pay for shipping?
Oh, and when the roaming hoardes of walking dead do turn up, “Relax, don’t worry. Have a home brew!”