At Brew School, our 101 class for new brewers, I have the following slide on our Power Point presentation:
I know what you’re thinking… “Wow! These guys have a Power Point presentation?!” Darn right; we’re professionals. But this slide always makes me feel a little weird. We try to put some humor into our class, and this is just a kind of funny way to say that malt extract is to homebrewing what Pilsbury cake mix is to baking. That’s fair, right?
It makes me feel weird because I’m all too familiar with the stigma that surrounds liquid and dry malt extract. There’s a perception that extract brewers are half-assing it. That it’s not “true” homebrewing. Or that the beer isn’t going to taste good simply because it was made with extract. Interestingly, the far majority of people with this perception are extract brewers themselves. They believe that all-grain brewing is some kind of magical place where beer never has off-flavors. Too many new brewers decide that they must make the jump to all-grain brewing… that “if I just did all-grain, my beer would taste so much better.” This could not be farther from the truth.
To new brewers… here are a few reasons to stick with extract for a while:
- It IS easier. Please don’t equate this to “it is lazier”. Anything that makes the process easier means you’re more able to focus on your brewing process. Having a good process is ten times more important to the quality of your beer than whether or not you use extract.
- It makes your brew day faster. Doing an all-grain batch takes at least an hour and a half longer than an extract batch. Use this extra time to focus on getting the details of your brew day right.
- You can brew on your stove top. Now, I’m not going to say you absolutely can’t do it, but you would need Wolfgang Puck’s kitchen gear to brew all-grain on a stove. Brewing with extract means that you don’t need to invest in extra equipment such as a mash tun and propane burner.
- You can make award winning beers with extract! It’s true, brewers with a solid workflow and attention to detail can make beers that rival all-grain brewers.
In a way, what I’m talking about is even more universal than homebrewing. Your guitar playing will not magically get better because you added another pedal. You will not begin taking stunning photos because you bought a better lens for your camera. These things are tools, meant to be added onto a solid foundation. It’s the same with homebrewing… build a solid foundation and learn how your brewery operates through the experience of doing it with extract. Once the process of brewing becomes second nature, moving to all grain will become a tool that you will use to expand the variety of grains available to you.
Better process makes better beer
So, extract brewers, be proud of your extract batches! Don’t look away when you tell other homebrewers what extracts you used. If you use the extract right, and treat the process like you were producing a world class beer, your beer will tend to be world class.