The BeerSmith Podcast #82: 5 Tips for Beer Brewers with John Palmer

Are you new to homebrewing and are enthusiastic about making your own beer but you don’t quite know where to start? Or are you someone who has been in the homebrewing scene for quite a while and wanted to brush up on the dos and don’ts of brewing? In this episode of The BeerSmith podcast, John Palmer gives us five tips on brewing a better beer. Some of them you may already know, but some of them may be entirely new to you.

But first, a little info about our guest: John Palmer is the author of the book Water: A Comprehensive Guide to Brewers. He also wrote How to Brew: Everything You Need to Know to Brew Great Beer Every Time and Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew. He keeps himself updated on the latest brewing styles and methods by going on conferences and travelling the world. He recently went to Brazil where he acquainted himself with the different brewing traditions in the South American country. He saw how the craft-brewing scene there is really coming along, and how the beer brewing community is growing rapidly. He hopes that in five years the community will have grown even more and will continue to produce an impressive selection of beers.

In this episode, John gives us five priorities that new and old brewers should keep in mind when brewing great beer. Number one is sanitation. We definitely would want our beer to be fermented by yeast and not by bacteria, which isn’t as easy as it sounds because we’re brewing in a home environment that’s full of beer-spoilage bacteria. Number two is fermentation temperature. The best tool for creating good beer is a consistent and controlled fermentation environment, which can be achieved either by a water bath or through evaporation.

If number two is about external fermentation conditions, number three is about internal fermentation conditions — yeast management. Pitching rate is very important here, as we have to make sure there’s enough yeast in the beer to ferment it. The fourth tip or priority is recipe proportion. The rule of thumb is: keep it simple. If we can’t taste every ingredient we put in, there’s no point in putting them in. And the last priority is water. Now we can make good beer without worrying about water, but if we understand how water affects our beer, then we can turn good beer into great beer. If we don’t, we’ll turn good beer into lousy beer.

Brewing may seem complicated, but the old rule keep it simple applies. Get the first four priorities first, but don’t forget to understand the fifth one. If you want to get into the details of John’s five tips on brewing a great beer, you should listen to this episode. Now let’s get to the podcast!

Main Takeaways from the Podcast

  • The rapid growth of the beer brewing community in Brazil
  • The importance of sanitation in a homebrewing environment
  • The best tool for creating a good beer (hint: it’s the right temperature)
  • How to make sure there’s enough yeast starter to ferment the beer
  • What’s more important than recipe proportions
  • The golden rule of recipe proportions
  • How to turn good beer into great beer
  • 3 things that affect beer flavor