Doak Procter, the Grand Wazoo from local homebrewing club The Foam Rangers, helped me to come up with five tips to help people who are interested in home-brewing get started. Here's some advice for how to take up a rewarding and delicious hobby.
1) Learn firsthand: As Doak puts it bluntly, "hang out with friends that homebrew." The best way to learn how to homebrew is to assist a pal with the process and see firsthand what it takes to brew a batch. You hopefully will learn good brewing habits, or you might decide that the whole thing is a big pain in the ass and stick to just drinking your friend's homebrew.
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2) Skip Mr. Beer: It sounds like a quick and easy way to get started -- grab a simple Mr. Beer insta-brew contraption, and a little while later you have insta-beer. Doak calls kits like Mr. Beer the "Easy Bake Oven" of brewing. He says you won't learn anything about the brewing process and that you won't make very good beer (trying to make good beer is why you are doing this in the first place, right?). Instead, grab a book like How to Brew by John Palmer, which is a great resource for the novice.
3) Ask the experts: There are three homebrew clubs in the Houston area: The Foam Rangers, The KGB, and the Bay Area Mashtronauts. They are all made up of beer lovers (yes, usually dudes) who are more than willing to give you advice on what equipment you need to get the barrel rolling. Get in touch, ask questions and don't worry -- they've heard all the dumb ones before.
4) Realize you won't have beer tomorrow: If you want beer tomorrow, then go to a bar. Homebrewing might not be for those who enjoy instant gratification. It is a process that takes weeks before you will be drinking the fruits of your labor. Also, realize there is a lot of sterilization and cleaning involved.
5) Measure your expectations: Doak says that you probably won't make a "kick-ass" beer on your first attempt, but he adds that with a little preparation, practice and focus you can go very far, very fast. He also says that he would hate to see someone give up homebrewing because their "Double Imperial Oyster Chocolate Cherry Espresso Vanilla Belgian Barleywine-Stout, quadruple dry-hopped and aged in a ginger-infused whiskey barrel with a rooster's tail and fairy dust" didn't come out as they dreamt it might on the first try. Keep brewing!