“Rules are meant to be broken.” Nowhere is this more true than in home brewing!
Sure, there are plenty of recommendations about what you should do in order to make the best beer you can, but homebrewing wouldn’t exist without experimentation. It’s often how new discoveries are made. Without experimentation, would double IPAs and chocolate stouts even exist?
With that in mind, here are just a few home brewing rules you might consider breaking on your next brew day:
- Cleaning and sanitation – 99% of the time, yes, cleaning and sanitation is very important if you want a degree of predictability in your beer. But as a homebrewer, you have the luxury of deciding when – and when not – to follow the rules. If you’re into Belgian, wild fermented, or sour beers, maybe you can risk a little slack in your cleaning routine. No guarantees that it will turn out well – but what’s the worst that can happen? Start with a one-gallon, “wild” batch before risking a whole five-gallons.
- Beer must have hops – Depending on who you ask, beer isn’t beer without hops. But anyone who knows a little beer history can tell you that hops weren’t always a main flavor ingredient in beer. Want to try something unique? Mix a blend of herbs and spices to make a gruit or mumm – hops are optional!
- Beer must have malted barley – Yes, most beers have malted barley, but not all. Chicha is a traditional Peruvian corn beer. Sound intriguing? Brew it!
- Yeast starters – Do you have to do a yeast starter? Absolutely not. At least one experiment has actually shown that they do little, if anything, to actually improve beer flavor. Maybe this is a step you can skip on your next brew?
- Temperature control – You’ve heard it time and again: temperature control is the most important thing you can do to make better beer. But what happens when you let temperature go? This experiment shows that temperature control might not be as important as we think. Plus, many Belgian yeast strains do well at higher temperatures. Try pushing the temperature on your next saison and see what happens.
Of all the home brewing “rules”, there is only one that is sacred: have fun! Because if it’s not fun, what’s the point? Yes, there will be challenges, there will be frustrations. These are times to recall the homebrewer’s mantra: “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.” But beyond that, don’t let anyone tell you there’s a certain way things have to be done. Experiment, test, evaluate, go crazy! You may just stumble upon the next big thing!
What are some home brewing rules you like to break on brew day?
David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.