I promised I would update after the process of making my first brew was completed. It was an Amber Ale from a kit. Today has been 8 days since the beer was bottled, and I couldn't resist trying one, so I chilled one and a few hours later tried it. Wow! I guess i did everything right, because the carbonation was there, and it had a nice head on it. It tasted... good. Not amazing, but damn it was good. Hopefully it will only get better as I continue brewing! I have plans for a Belgian Wit next and then I think an Irish Ale or Pale Ale. However, I think I might go with the irish ale, since this amber ale is almost like a pale ale.
The swamp cooler was a great no-cost method to ferment the beer. I took a plastic tub and filled it partially with water and ice bottles, and used a t-shirt. Easily kept the beer below 75 deg F during some of the hottest temperatures NJ has seen this summer. At times i checked the stick on thermometer and the temp was actually about 68. (I don't know how accurate those are, but i figure it was at least below 75). I cut the lid into two sections and now the top of my fermeting bucket sticks out a few inches.
OK now i'm just rambling. I will say, though, there is something extremely satisfying about opening a bottle of home brewed beer.