Tip #1 – It’s all about Kegs Man! (but don’t abandon bottling) to build-up your cellar reserves. All brewers will quickly realize that it takes quite a bit of time to do a brew session (all day) and later even more planning needed to bottle, (cleaning, sanitizing, actual bottling time), space for all the bottles – so most people quickly switch to kegging their beer. You can literally keg an entire 5 gallon batch in 5-10 minutes and be done with it. But you also sooner or later realize that there are benefits to bottling, (you can give to friends, co-workers [check your local laws for giving out beer to people]), you can cellar beers for years like wine (not all beer styles apply) and create your very own private reserve label.
Buy bottles that can be cleaned and re-used, like the Grolsch-style swing-cap bottles, or just re-cap a regular beer of your choice.
Tip #2 – Don’t underestimate your brew batch size! Most home brewers do 5 gallon batches and that is all fine and dandy, but soon your realize after all that hard work and time endured, that 5 gallons don’t last long especially when some friends come over for a party.
We usually here unless the batch is experimental, do by default 10 gallon batches, we split the 10 gallon into a 5 gallon Keg, 2.5 gallon Keg and the rest we bottle for friends and add to our aging cellar with a label imprinted and a date.
With each good confirmed batch, I bottle and put away a few bottles or maybe even a batch for long term storage. I usually do this with higher gravity beers, because those keep well better over time like wine. The higher alcohol percentage protects the beer from bacterial infection and overtime the chemicals interactions change the beer for the better.
Tip #3 – Age most beer styles correctly before giving it out for consumption!
Some Belgian styles need to age for 6 to 12 months! Some beers are good after about 2 months! I did tests by opening a beer bottle at 1 month, 2 and 3 and trust me the 3 month old bottle was substantially better than the 1 month old bottle.
Even if you use the best, award-winning recipe that was repeatedly brewed for 1,000 years! – If you don’t wait and age it correctly before giving it out, people will think sub-par thoughts about your beer and your brewing skills. Make sure to say when the beer is under-aged if you must give it out, so that people are aware.
Tip: Some aging time can be cut by filtering the beer, but there are pros and cons.
Yes there are some beers that don’t age well for longer periods of time, usually these are beers that use a lot of hops, like IPAs. Use brown Bottles and try to cellar where temperatures are stable and there is no to little light. Light overtime will give beer a skunky smell, so unless you brewed a hemp beer, you probably don’t want any skunk in it.
Tip #4 – Not everyone wants to join a brew club for a variety of reasons, maybe you are not that social of a person or don’t want to deal with the politics at brew clubs, fees, etc… etc.. etc. There is plenty of good brew forums, blogs and communities for beer discussion (Google+ has many great beer communities and they are all free, just join), and watch your skills get better much faster and sooner than if you brewed alone for the next 20 years, trust me – communities have a lot of experienced brewers of all kinds that will quickly answer your questions, and point you in the right direction – saving you lots of time and money $.
Tip #5 – if you have a friend who brews, don’t be shy and ask them for help, they probably already have developed relationships with other brewers and you could get a hookup and deals on used equipment or new equipment and overall a lot of helpful tips!
Whatever you end up doing, please take extra time to think things through, SAFETY is #1.
Happy Holidays 2014!