Homebrewers offer up tips for a successful brew

Love the smell of malts as you pull into your favorite brewery? Wish you had a beer to call your own? Can’t wait to try your hand at this craft brewing thing that has taken San Diego by storm?

If you are one of the thousands of locals wanting to get into homebrewing, you might need a few pointers from those in the know. PACIFIC spoke with the president and members of local homebrew club Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity (members of QUAFF have won multiple awards and gone on to become head brewers and brewmasters at several places), for exclusive insider tips for making any homebrew a bubbly success.

Joaquin Quiroz, Jr. has been homebrewing since 2006, a member of QUAFF since 2008, he is a Beer Judge Certification Program judge, and served as the QUAFF Vice President for two years prior to his appointment as President. We asked Quiroz:

What are you top three tips for newbie homebrewers?

  1. Sanitation is key! Fermentation is when a beer can get infected and develop flavors that are not keen on a certain style of beer. Some of those flavors may be enticing to the palate — such as high-temperature fermentation characteristics — but not appropriate to the style which is something to think about when entering competitions.
  2. As a brewer, if you don’t get the expected results, don’t go and change the full process at once. Tweak things that you know are not working slowly and one by one. Think of brewing as cooking, you start changing things slowly to make the food you like.
  3. Join a Homebrew Club! In San Diego we have quaff.org and other clubs that we are friends with — Foam on the Brain, Society of Barley Engineers, Society of Barley Literates, North County Homebrewers Association, Temecula Valley Homebrewers. As you have questions about process, ingredients and even travel, your club brethren are there to help.

Brian Taylor is a newer member of QUAFF (2017), but has been homebrewing since 2005.

What are your tips for San Diegans looking to dip their toe into homebrewing?

Buy a good book on brewing — I prefer Papazian’s Joy of Home Brewing, as opposed to Palmer’s How to Brew (it’s) easier to read and not as technical.

The best tip I have actually came from Alton Brown of the Food Network. Your new brewer’s kit that you just purchased probably did not come with a wort chiller, so you’ve got your wort boiling on the kitchen stove, you’ve added the hops and now it’s time to “quickly chill” the wort so you can pitch your yeast. An easy solution is to add a bag of ice (or two). A 7.5 pound bag of ice adds just about one gallon of liquid to your wort (and you will need to add more liquid at some point anyway).

Last tip: Do not fill your 6 gallon carboy to the top with liquid. One, you are brewing a five gallon recipe. Adding more liquid is just diluting your beer! Also you will likely blow your fermentation lock off and you’ll have beer and foam all over everything.

Finally, Ryan Fowler, in his second year of homebrewing and as member of QUAFF gives a few tips he’s learned entering the craft:

Be extremely organized and devote time to cleanliness and sanitary practices. As for organization, have your items measured and set to the side. I use the BeerSmith app which has countdown timers and lays out your process step by step. I like to set aside my ingredients preemptively in chronological order, so I’m not fumbling around on the spot looking for a specific hop.

Deep clean everything after the last brew session. I make sure my kettle and tools are free from debris before mashing in, however once you move through your boil and start to cool your wort, it is absolutely imperative everything that comes in contact with that is sanitized. This include your hands, wort chiller, paddles, spoons, and scissors used to open yeast and hop packets

Okay, San Diegans, there you have it, tips from new and experienced homebrewers to use on your craft journey. Get out there and start brewing. Who knows, you might be the next award-winning brewmaster.

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