This experiment in brewing has always been an iterative process for me. Try something, check what works, make some changes, try again. Different grains, different hops, different yeast, different temperatures, different timing – all to create different recipes and styles. Some have worked, some not so much, but each brew has taught me a little more about the process of making a good beer as a whole. Some of those lessons should have been obvious:
1) No, you can’t just dump all your hops in at the beginning of the boil and hope for the best – it wont, it will be a horrible bitter, grassy mess.
2) Don’t bottle too early, especially when using wild yeast – those buggers just don’t know when to stop.
3) Head retention is good. Carbonation is good. High head retention plus high carbonation is double plus ungood.
4) Patience is golden – everything tastes different after a month or two.
5) It’s damn near impossible to form an unbiased opinion about your own beer – but blind tasting with friends is an excellent way to get feedback.
6) To err is human – check everything, twice, especially o-rings.
7) It’s not an off-flavor, it’s a feature - see 5)
8) Yeast are finicky, except when they’re not.
9) Some flavors taste really great together, until they are fermented.
10) Always have a plan - it helps later when figuring out where you went wrong.