Paule Gosselin is an enthusiastic literature teacher who is passionate about the art of beer brewing. She loves learning about the ingredients and artisanal production of different beers and enjoys sharing her knowledge and love for excellent brewing products through writing. She is always keeping an eye out for new trends in the world of beer.
I recently spoke with Yan Smith, a brewer at the Le Bien, le Malt microbrewery in Rimouski. I met him several years ago when he was just starting out in the world of amateur brewing. He has now been a professional brewer for over 6 years and I thought his experience might be inspiring to others.
Question: Hello Yan! What equipment do you want to buy when you are an amateur brewer, and ultimately, what should you turn to, to avoid beginner mistakes?
I think at the start, basic equipment that is not too expensive is ideal, because it is important to know if you will enjoy brewing beer, how often, etc. Many people immediately spend money on fairly expensive systems and then end up selling their equipment not long after, because it was not for them. If after several brews, motivation and passion remain, you can then consider more professional equipment.
At the start, you can go with just a large pot to boil the wort, a large cooler that you can buy already modified or modify yourself to serve as a mash tun, and finally a glass fermenter or plastic kettle for fermentation. Then, if you really get into it, you can turn to more professional systems but they are still much more expensive.
Q: What technical skills are truly essential for any first amateur brew?
Personally, I would recommend to all those who want to start this wonderful hobby to read the book How To Brew by John Palmer in full or at least, to a large extent. It is a must in my opinion. Also, do a lot of research on forums and/or Facebook pages for amateur brewing. Otherwise, the most important thing in my opinion is to have good cleaning and sanitation practices for equipment. It may seem insignificant, but without it, you can quickly have contamination problems and have to throw away the fruit of your efforts.
Q: Where do you get your raw materials when you are an amateur brewer or brewer?
Ideally, you look to see if there is a specialty store for amateur brewing in your area/region, so you can go there to buy your ingredients and equipment and discuss with the sellers and exchange ideas and products. Otherwise, there are now many websites that sell a wide variety of products online and deliver to your home. As a last resort, you can ask your local microbrewery for help, but I encourage this option a little less, as they often maintain a fairly limited quantity of malts/hops/yeasts based on their needs.
Q: Where do we get inspiration for composing our first recipes to brew?
At the start, the easiest thing is obviously to execute already established recipes that are widely available on the internet or in brewing books. That way, you can see how the brewing process works, how to use different ingredients, etc. Then, once you have a good foundation and some experience, you can start to tweak recipes and make them your own. You can also get inspiration from commercial beers you like and try to replicate them or create your own version. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from more experienced brewers.
Enthusiastic literature teacher, passionate about beer, its ingredients, and its artisanal production, Paule Gosselin loves to share her love of excellent brewing products through writing. She is always on the lookout for trends.
For more information on ingredients and equipment for home brewers, go check our friends at Beergrains!