Keeping Homebrew Notes

Great news: I tried the beer that I brewed from a kit back in September. It's excellent! I'm really pleased with how it came out--it does taste like a Pilsner, with just a soft hint of Old Speckled Hen (something about the foam). Nice sharp-but-small bubbles. Nice sharp taste. Hoppy, clear, golden. YUM. I know I complained about that kit and how it wasn't "hands-on." But I am so impressed with the results that now I want another kit that's exactly the same!

Bad news: I have one problem with my replication plans. I don't know what kind of yeast I used. Because I wanted something like a lager, the brew store guy removed the yeast that was part of the kit and gave me a different kind of yeast. All I know is it was in a yellow package... or maybe a pink package... and it might have been Danish... or not. I just used it and--here's my grave error--threw away the package without writing it down.

I know, I know. Keeping good notes is a key part of brewing well. I have failed. Now I have a great beer on my hands and I'm horrified that I won't be able to make any more! What was I thinking? I guess I was thinking, "This is just an experiment, it's a dry run, I'm just getting started again after 5 years, there's no way this will be fantastic, if it's just drinkable I'll be happy and I'll have learned something." Well, it seems pretty fantastic. And yeah, I've learned something.

To really hammer my lesson home, I went back to my last brew notes from 2003, when I was making single-gallon batches of herbal beers. (Somehow I lost my notebook from 1998-2002.) Here are some useful things to write down when brewing:
  • All ingredients, including names, brand names, and measurements. You can even staple yeast packets and malt labels into your notebook if you want.
  • At what point (time) during the boil (or after) you add each item
  • Length of boil
  • Specific gravity at each step (before fermenting, when switching fermenters, when bottling)
  • Running notes on color, smell, effervescence, taste (if you taste it--I usually can't resist taking a swig at the bottling step), yeast activity, etc.
  • Dates for each step
  • Temperature or at least general atmosphere (dark? cool? warm? light?) of the place where you put your fermenter(s)
  • Any music that you played to your beer during the process (hey, it might make a difference! Yeast are animals, you know. Do you want to soothe them with Vivaldi? Or get them jumping with some dueling banjos?)

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