Ten Tips for new brewers

Ursula Phillips, Cape Town
17th May 2018

Our sister company, Dematech Pty Ltd, has been in the brewing industry for an impressive 20+ years. Earlier this week, we decided to sit down with their very own in-house Brewmaster - Sebastian Meyer, to discuss his top ten tips about a few brewing do’s and don’ts. Here’s what he had to say…

1.       Hygiene is priority: Know your chemicals. We all know that when you are brewing, it’s really important to keep your working area and equipment clean, sterile and sanitised, but it’s also equally important to thoroughly know what your sanitation chemicals can and can’t do. Sanitiser will not always clean everything 100%, so even if you are using it, there’s still a pretty big chance that you could potentially be dealing with infected beer. Sebastian’s recommendation for this is applying some kind of caustic to remove any residuals. If you skip this step, you could end up creating the perfect breeding ground for contaminations.


2.       Know your water. Since water is the main ingredient in beer, it is extremely important to know as much as possible about the water you are using. Sebastian suggests contacting your local municipality or water supplier and gathering as much information about the quality of the water. Hard and soft water will give your beer different tastes and characteristics. The mineral content of water however can be manipulated and adjusted by adding brewing salts or acids depending on the requirements of the beer style being brewed.


3.       Use tried and tested recipes. One of the biggest challenges in homebrewing is finding recipes you trust. To have more success, keep in mind that your brew will still be uniquely yours, it’s one of the main reasons that we began home brewing in the first place, but recipe creation can seem a daunting task to the beginner. Great beer is as much about process and technique as recipe, so it’s best to concentrate on these to begin with. Always start brewing with a tried and tested recipe and brewing the same beer over and over again. Only once you are consistently producing great beer move onto creating your own recipes. You will then be safe in the knowledge that your brewing process is sound and your beer will be good.


4.       Source the best ingredients. Always look for the best ingredients and equipment from reputable suppliers. Remember that you are not mass producing and therefore can never come in cheaper than these giant produced goods. You are making a craft beer speciality product which deserves speciality materials and ingredients. If you take the time to source the best available materials, you will not be disappointed.


5.       Stick to your speciality malt ratio recommendations. It’s all about creating a balance between malt and hop, too much of one or the other tends to throw a recipe out. 
Do not go overboard with speciality malts, as you may overdo it. It is suggested to always follow the supplier recommendations for the ratio of exactly how much speciality malt is being used.


6.       Choosing your hops is a careful decision. Selecting your choice of hops is a personal preference and can change often depending on style or mood. As a new or home brewer, you should really experiment and find out what works best for you. Rather use bitter hops at the beginning of the boil as this is the most economical choice (hops are really expensive). On the plus side, using this technique will give you the opportunity to boil out those harsh flavours. Dry hopping is only ever done after the beer has cooled down (otherwise you wouldn’t call it dry hopping). Dry hopping will prevent those beautiful new extracts and flavours from escaping, just remember that the dry hopping process needs to be balanced correctly because dry hopping is in reference to alpha acids, the less you use, the less bitter the flavours will become and the more aroma’s you will receive, but on the hops side, the aroma will disappear, so it’s all about getting that balance between the two correct.


7.       Yeast is very important and can sometimes be neglected. When it comes to selecting your style of beer, yeast is very significant. You need to select styles that complement each other, otherwise you might have aroma’s in your beer that are intended to enhance other unflattering flavours. For example, you cannot use the clove and banana flavour from Weiss beer yeast to make a Pilsner – it just won’t work.


8.       It’s all about temperature. For most home brewers, it is easier to make ales and top fermenting beers like weiss or saison because this yeast can handle higher temperatures, so if you want to make a classic lager, you must make sure your fermentation temperature is at about 10 degrees, while with ale, the yeast can easily handle 20 degrees of fermentation. Adjusting the temperature at the precise time is key to creating the perfect brew.


9.       Bottling it the right way. Bottling is a nice way to share the taste of your delicious craft beer amongst friends, but be careful of the priming and attenuation process used, or you might find yourself making small bombs. If done incorrectly, there could be too much pressure in each bottle which could cause complications. Investigate the correct procedures and follow all of them accurately.


10.   Take it easy. Nothing runs perfectly or according to plan all of the time. It’s not the end of the world if one step in the process didn’t work out the way you expected. Don’t give up or throw anything out mid-brewing. Continue and complete the process as best you can and only judge the results afterwards – you may be pleasantly surprised.


Happy brewing and good luck!

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