Five Steps to Choosing Your First Extract Beer

Extract Beer Kit

Picking your first brew style is an exciting time for new home brewers.  Often times we get caught up in wanting to try the newest popular style.  Currently that would be the New England IPA.  I would greatly suggest that new brewers stay away from this beast of a brew.  I have found that if you follow just five simple steps you can maximize chances for success from day one.  I personally chose a Saison kit from a reputable company and it turned out fantastic despite my lack of experience.  Here are the five steps to follow to creating a great first extract brew:

  1.  Pick an “Easy” Style

This begs the question, what is an easy style to brew?  Easy beers stick to the basics of brewing, utilize simple ingredients, basic techniques, and are styles that can mask small off flavors.  Styles such as the Pale Ale, Amber Ale, and Brown Ale are able to be brewed with a high success rate.  The “Ease” of these recipes raise the probability that you will produce a beer that you’re proud to drink and share.  Having a positive experience on your first brew is critical to springboard new brewers onto their second and third brews.  Pick an “Easy” style and impress yourself, friends, and family with how great your first ever beer turned out.

(Get started with an easy to follow Session Citra IPA kit and start enjoying your homebrew today)

  1. Ask for Advice

The internet can be a great resource and your worst enemy when starting to home brew.  NewToBrew was developed because of the overwhelming and intimidating amount of information available.  I wanted someone to lay out the rule of brewing in an easy to digest format but I simply couldn’t find it available.  Read blogs, post on forums, and get your questions answered.  Just beware that when you go down the rabbit hole, there’s no telling what kind of information you’ll get.  Ask questions, get answers, and have a great first brew day.

  1. Minimize Equipment

You’re already limiting the equipment that you’ll need by using an extract recipe instead of an all-grain recipe.  Don’t know the difference?  See this post (All Grain Vs. Extract Brewing) to learn more.  You’ll still need the basics, which we will cover in a future necessary equipment post.  I wouldn’t suggest going out and spending thousand of dollars on equipment for a new hobby.  Multipurpose equipment is a great way to keep costs down when you’re beginning.  I personally have done this by borrowing a friend’s cheap outdoor turkey fryer.

A basic extract kit should assist you as a new brewer by keeping equipment and even ingredients fairly basic.  This also keeps the techniques utilized at an entry level as well which increases the rate of success.  Using less equipment also means less sanitizing and less opportunity for the critters that want to spoil your beer to get through.  As a basic rule of thumb, follow the K.I.S.S. rule and have a great first brew.

(Get all the basic brewing equipment you need and a bonus extract beer kit: Northern Brewer Starter Set)

  1. Do a Dry Run Before Brew Day

In your early brewing days, confidences is your enemy.  It was only my third brew when I thought I had it all figured out and decided to go rogue.  I attempted to brew a basic extract kit, a Cream Ale I believe.  I went through the paces as I had with kits before.  My major mistake was adding the extract while still trying to bring the water to a boil.  Had I been following the recipe I would not have made such a boneheaded mistake.  Instead, I added Liquid Malt Extract (LME) while trying to boil the water with the flame on 100%.  This caused the LME to scorch and burn.  Regardless, I finished the brew, bottled, primed, and consumed.  The Cream Ale had a light burnt caramel flavor to it that was only a little off putting.  My friends and I still consumed all five gallons though.

Don’t make the same mistake that I did.  I have found that a dry run prepares me for the upcoming brew.  I ensure I have all of my equipment and that it’s clean and ready to go.  I double check my ingredients and make sure I have everything the recipe calls for needing.  Check your propane, if you use it, and be sure that you don’t run out during the middle of the boil.  I always suggest having a back up tank of propane because there are only a few things worse then running out of gas while brewing.  That is a mistake you only make once!  If nothing else, doing a dry run will give you peace of mind as you contemplate your brew day.

  1. Consider a Kit

Everyone wants to write and develop there own recipes.  I personally love being able to tell my friends that the beer they drank was from a recipe that I created.  Many new brewers try to run before they crawl and a kit is a perfect example of where you should start.  They are incredibly convenient.  You can customize them with yeast upgrades and add all of the bells and whistle that you care to purchase.  Best of all, they come with an easy to read instruction guide that if followed should lead you to a very tasty first brew.

Kits have improved tenfold from what they once were.  Even so, buy your kits from reputable retailers.  I have had great success with both Northern Brewer and Adventures in Homebrewing.  Don’t be afraid to check with your local home brew supply store either.  My local store make their own recipes available in easy to follow kits that you don’t have to wait for shipping.  Once you receive your kit, make sure all of the ingredients are there and look to be in good condition.  Check the date on your yeast and make sure it is still good to use.  Cross reference your equipment with their required equipment list.  Finally, make sure you enjoy yourself.  A hobby won’t last if it isn’t relaxing.

Things to Avoid!

Simply put, don’t get ahead of yourself.  I love DIPAs but I haven’t tried to brew one yet.  I love great lager beers.  I’m simply not ready and experienced enough for the challenge.  However, I’m not afraid to take risks.  I recently bought a kit and modified it with a few ingredients I thought would really enhance the brew. This will be a future post!  Spolier Alert: The beer turned out amazing!  Stick to the basics in round one.  Keep it simple and you’ll be rewarded with a beer you can be proud to share.


Happy Brewing

Ryan Caldbeck


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