What beer should be your first homebrew? The quick answer is; whatever you like to drink! The longer answer is that there are a variety of methods and beer styles that make certain beers easier for beginners. It’s always best to make beer you like, but with these tips you can help maximize your chance of something tasty, even on your first attempt.
Extract versus All grain
While I’m a big fan of moving to all grain batches quickly (check out the article on how to get started with all grain for less than $30), a first attempt at home brewing should be an extract batch. It’s important to focus on the basics; cleanliness, hop additions, and cooling. Although there are exceptions, starting with all grain is likely to introduce variables that will make it difficult to diagnose the inevitable flaws in your first beer. I would recommend steeping grains for flavor, as this process is very simple and temperature control / extraction are not critical.
Brew Something Hoppy
Although it may be counter intuitive, the lighter the beer the more difficult it is to make. This is because hops and malt tend to hide flaws in beer very well. This is why many will guide a first time home brewer towards an IPA as a first attempt, as its very easy (especially with an extract batch) to get good results. This No Fail IPA is a great one for a first time brewer, although any extract IPA recipe would do the trick.
Although more flavorful beers tend to mask the off flavors, I would stay away from anything with too high of ABV (or gravity). High alcohol content beers tend to be a bit more difficult to ferment (often requiring yeast starters) and, more importantly, take a longer time than a lower alcohol beer, which can be a difficult waiting process for new brewers. I’d suggest anywhere in the 5 to 7.5% ABV range would be a good starting place.
Brew Something Malty
If you’re not a hop head, then a malty beer would be another great option for similar reasons. Some of my first beers were porters and stouts, all of which were very tasty. Again, stay away from crazy alcohol contents.
This Robust Porter recipe for beginning homebrewers would be a great starting point.
Fermentation Temperature Control Concerns
Although this won’t be a problem for all climates, often new homebrewers don’t have a means of keeping their beer cool while fermenting, which can lead to some nasty alcohol and ester flavors. If you live in a warm climate in the summer time, where “room temperature” can hover close to 80 degrees, it might be a good idea to start with a yeast strain that is more forgiving to higher temperatures. These tend to be Belgian style yeast strains (as outlined by this article) but even some clean ale yeast strains (such as Nottingham or US-05) would fit the bill if you don’t like the taste of Belgian Yeasts.
Most importantly, brew something you like! More than likely, it will be great! RDWHAHB (Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Home Brew!)