My wife bought me a beer brewing kit for Christmas. It's great; goes hand in hand with my New Year's Resolution to balloon up to 240lbs by September.
My first effort is an Irish Stout.
The stuff is fermenting away in a closet as I type this, but we're weeks away from seeing whether this business is a success or a comical failure. At the very least, if I turn out to be a total beer brewing flunky it will not be a total loss because new skills have been acquired- I now know how to use a siphon and brew tea for a hundred people.
After my own first attempt, for anyone interested in trying this on their own, the following suggestions may help:
Make sure to write your own instructions clearly and deliberately.
I purchased a pre-measured kit and the accompanying instructions were written by the dumbest guy in the office. It reminded me of the scene in MASH when Henry was telling Hawkeye how to disarm an unexploded bomb.
"Cut the red wire leading to the detonator".
"But first, disarm the fuse."
Preheat the malt extract.
Man, that stuff is like resin. Luckily a friend of mine warned me that it was terrible to work with (think molasses that has sat out in the freezing cold over night). He recommended putting the cans in the oven on low until the stuff became more viscous.
Consider your workspace.
We have a stationary tub and a counter in our laundry room. I don't know how I would have done this in our kitchen where our sink is not large enough to accomodate a four gallon canning pot. Remodeling may be in order, mind you.
Work with the tools ahead of time.
Getting two gallons of wort into a fermenter and leaving all the trub behind is tricky business. I nearly had a catastrophe that would have been avoided had I filled the canner and tried it before hand. That would have revealed the difficulties.
Get a partner.
Working with 5 gallons of anything is cumbersome. It's nice to have an extra hand. What's more, this process takes a few hours and unless there's a good game on or you have something to read, it's pretty boring.
Drink really good beer while brewing.
I'm sure a lot of people would say this is a bad idea, but we found that it was the perfect stimulant. Sitting there with a pint of Guiness, thinking that I was making my own was pretty cool, even if mine tastes like a poor imitation.