So after a 12yr hiatus I'm back into home-brewing and made an Irish Red Ale (just from a kit, nothing fancy) to break-in the new equipment. I'm really surprised how well it came out for an extract kit, there's no twang, yeast or syrupy taste so I guess paying attention to the details and sanitation really paid off. I didn't make a starter but I did let the smack-pack sit for a couple of days before starting to brew.
I did a full boil thanks to an 8-gal brew kettle, cooled it with an immersion chiller as fast as possible, let it sit in the primary for a few weeks taking gravity readings every 3-4 days until it leveled off and stopped. I then carefully transferred it to a glass carboy secondary for another week which really seemed to clear it up a bit, then carefully primed and bottled it into 1-liter flip-top amber glass bottles.
I wasn't too sure if using the flip-tops would work but i took a chance and it seems to be fine so far. I also used a couple of regular 12-oz capped bottles just as an experiment.
I just popped one open after a week of sitting at room temp and a few days in the fridge because i just couldn't take it anymore, and its fantastic! Hopefully it will get even better over the next few weeks.
I think the best part of getting back into brewing is that my wife loved the whole process and seems just as excited as I am to start our next one. We had a blast brewing together and she helped me every step of the way. She even has ideas for recipes and is already planning and area in the garden for hops and maybe barley! hehe she's totally hooked!
Just wanted to say thank you to everyone on this site, the amount of brewing knowledge I've accumulated in a short period of time has been incredible.
So I raise my first giant mug of home-brew to you guys! Cheers!