Confidence and Competence in Brewing

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“Relax. Don’t Worry. Have a Homebrew.” What a lifesaver that phrase was in my early days of brewing! Getting started in this hobby can be a nerve-wracking business. First are all of the (rightfully) important warnings about sanitation and proper temperature for yeast pitching and whatever. Then come all of the smaller warnings about water chemistry, boil volumes, specific gravity, and the rest. If a novice brewer spends more than a few minutes browsing any homebrew forum, they are quite likely to spin themselves into a panic over every last detail. And heaven help them if they run across the most die-hard low-oxygen brewing proponents!

Yet, as long as you master the very basics, you can make some pretty passable beer. All of those other details can come later, with practice and experience. Brewing becomes a genuinely relaxing process, passing the threshold from slightly stressful exercise that produces a fun product to a fun exercise that produces an excellent product.

Just the other day, as I was brewing a pilsner, I thought…”Hey! I really have confidence in brewing now!” Much of this comes from frequent practice. I know my system. I can throw in a new technique without too much disruption in my brew flow. I know my ingredients. If I can’t find one particular ingredient for a recipe, I feel confident in making appropriate substitutions. I’m getting much stronger in self-critique, and have had my critiques validated in formal competitions. Speaking immodestly, most of my beer is pretty decent, and some of my beer is pretty darned excellent.

To truly enjoy brewing, don’t try to master everything at once. Focus on the big picture, and dial in the details over time. Brew by brew, work on your craft and develop your knowledge base. It takes time, but we all have the potential to be confident and competent brewers!

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