For now I'm working off kits/recipes from allegedly reliable sources. BUT I have some ideas I want to try out. Now, trying something and finding it doesn't work and chucking it is one thing. Finding out it doesn't work and chucking FIVE GALLONS of it is another thing.
How do people do small batches? Does one simply divide the recipe by five and then ferment in a growler? What do you do with the rest of the yeast, hops that comes in quantities made for 5 gallon batches.....?
"Think small" defines my homebrewing operation. Most of my 20-odd brews have been small batches (2 - 4 gallons) both to make it easier on me physically and to experiment/learn. I use a digital scale to measure out hops, which I would do anyway--I store the rest sealed tight and frozen (thinking of getting one of those sealers), though I'm considering upgrading to a more precise scale ( possibly http://www.amazon.com/American-Weigh-Signature-AWS-100-Digital/dp/B0012LOQUQ/
). I use the full amount of yeast, and I make a starter if I'm using liquid yeast. BrewSmith software is helpful for scaling, though a spreadsheet works well too. Depending on the size of the batch, I ferment in either a 3- or 5-gallon Better Bottle carboy. I mash in a 5-gallon mash-tun, and boil in an 8-gallon kettle. I even bottle about half of each batch in 7-ounce splits. If the batch is small enough, I can even boil it on the kitchen stove.
Depending on what you're after, you can still brew a full batch and then split it into carboys which get different flavors/dry-hops/yeast/etc (wish I had done this before I used fenugreek in an entire 5-gallon batch... glad I did this in my gingered-ale experiment). But brewing small has its advocates. I figure if I can spend all day on a meal that will be devoured in less than an hour I can spend an afternoon making 3 or 4 sixpacks of beer.
If you go to an LHBS, if they do a double-take at your recipe (which they will if they're paying attention), just explain it's for a small batch.