It has been over 20 years since I last made beer at home. Those days it was all extract, 5 gallon batches. I have fond memories of the experience. Some were good, like an unforgettable Cherry Wheat where I somehow guessed the perfect hop additions. And some...well not so much, like quickly realizing that sanitizing isn't just a suggestion. First rule of brewing I suppose.
Anyway, I have been recently searching and reading many of the threads here trying to figure out what is my best way back into homebrewing. I have to say that this community is quite impressive, not just for the information available but also for the civilized tone to the discussions. Much appreciated.
I have decided that I'm going to give small batch (2.5 gal) BIAB a go. Mash, boil, ferment, bottle, lose my mind waiting, drink. Reasons are the usual: I like to tinker with recipes, I'm the primary beer drinker, 5 gallons of one style is too repetitive, keep it simple for now, brew in the kitchen on the stove etc. etc.
Before I brew my first one though, I was hoping to get some opinions first.
1. For the first beer, I was hoping to keep it simple. I was leaning towards an English Pale Ale (Marris Otter based, fuggles and goldings, some English ale yeast) but started worrying that this seemingly straight-forward beer might expose my rusty abilities. Maybe I should try something a little more bold, like a stout or porter, to mask any off flavors?
2. In scaling down 5 gallon recipes, is it as simple as dividing by 2 across the board? 10lbs of grain becomes 5...2oz hops becomes 1. Or is there more nuance to it? What to do about the yeast? Is this why I need Brewers Friend or Beer Smith?
3. I am petrified of contamination. My cleaning thought process is to wash all equipment with dishwashing liquid, rinse thoroughly and then Star San for sanitizing. I saw a video where the brewer used a bucket to keep the StarSan solution, then rinsed his spoon in the solution and went right to the brew pot to stir without rinsing the spoon under water first. Is that legal? That feels so wrong to me.
Does anyone use a dishwasher for cleaning and/or sanitizing bottles? I'm assuming no, but was looking for a shortcut.
4. I bought some new equipment from a local beer distributor that doubles as a mini homebrew supply. I found him on the AHA website, he pays his dues. I want to give the local guy as much business as I can, but equipment is one thing, ingredients are another. I'm not sure how much beer making stuff he moves (he seemed to have a fair selection of grains but a small selection of hops and yeast) and I'm concerned about quality. Has anyone had a problem buying ingredients local, and if you don't buy local, what on-line sites are your favorites.
5. One beer-making book that I NEED to have handy. I lost most of my old books in a move and was hoping to have something equivalent to a Homebrewers Bible by my side.
Thanks in advance to all. Any answer to any question is greatly, greatly appreciated!