As I stated in the description of this blog, I started home brewing recently (beginning of 2015). My lovely wife got me a 5 gallon kit from Northern Brewer for my birthday, and I marked a date on my calendar when I'd actually brew my first beer (the kit came with a wheat beer recipe and all of the ingredients). Everything went fine, and the beer turned out pretty well, but the bottling operation was a bit of a handful.
I decided that I liked this home brewing thing, and I wanted something a bit more manageable, so I purchased the 1 gallon kit, with the Wil Wheaton VandalEyesPA recipe kit. I really enjoyed the process, and the beer was pretty good, as well. More than anything else, I had been doing some research and was learning a bit more about the overall process, as well as where I might be able to make changes and experiment a bit. My wife also got me a notebook so that I could write down recipes, make notes about the process (dates of brewing, racking to secondary, bottling, etc.), as well as document what I thought about the beers as I tried them.
One of the things I found about the recipe kits from Northern Brewer is that they provide a really good place to start. I have found that the recipes are good, but I tend to want more body in my beers...more on that in a future post. Suffice to say that Northern Brewer is a great resource...not just for kits, but also for other recipes (it's pretty easy to reduce a 5 gal recipe to a 1 gal small batch), so that you can see things like malts used, hopping schedules, etc.
Ingredients are pretty easy to get. I've relied on Northern Brewer for most of my ingredients, but I found a really sweet (no pun intended) deal on corn sugar on Amazon...I got 4 lbs @ $1.79/lb. I picked up some grains from one of the local home brew supply stores (I have yet to visit the other one). Other things you may want to try are likely available at your local supermarket. Maple syrup apparently makes a really good sugar for beers, and you can get different sugars (agave, honey, etc.), fruits (grapefruit, blood oranges, etc.), and more.
Something else that really helped me was having a friend who had been home brewing for a while; he let me in on some really important tips (which I'll be documenting in a page associated with this blog in the near future), and was also able to help me see past some of what appeared to be mixed or contradictory messages from different resources.
Making small batches of beer is a lot of fun. Overall, the equipment required is smaller; I found a nice 8 qt brew pot on sale at Target. The amount of ingredients is more manageable, and the space required is much smaller. We have a bathroom in the basement of our house, and with my first 5 gallon batch, I decided that was the best (in terms of constant temperature) and safest (in terms of making a mess) place to let the brew ferment. So, I brew in the kitchen, move everything downstairs into the basement to ferment, and handle transferring brews to secondary, as well as bottling, behind the wet bar that we had built into our basement. I have a storage tub that I put the bottled beer into, and I just follow the calendar to see when I can try one of the first bottles of the beer.
Anyway, there's more to come...stay tuned...