A Toast To … Art for Brewing’s Sake

As Central Texas is plagued by thunderstorms, I'm stuck in the house enjoying the last of a bottle of Mikkeller It's Alive! Belgian Wild Ale. And I'm raising my glass virtually to Dustin Sullivan, a fellow member of the online homebrewing forum HomeBrewTalk.com, and the creator of this awesome pictorial on how to make a yeast starter.

I love brewing. I love comic art. And I love anything that's educational in a novel and interesting way. This pictorial is all three, and I'm thrilled to have stumbled onto it. I wish everything in brewing could have been explained to me so simply when I was starting out. Sure, learning as you go is 50% of the fun of brewing (another 25% is drinking the results, and the last 25% is being able to impress your friends by dropping words like “saccharification” and “attenuate” into everyday conversation) … but I'm a knowledge addict, and I'm also pathologically risk averse. So I read everything I could get my hands on when I was starting my homebrew habit, so I'd have a good idea of each step of every process before I jumped in. Sometimes, it was hard to separate the good info from the bad: to separate the clear and “just-enough” from the over-explanatory, and to separate the simple sharing of helpful information from the vomiting of brewlore all over you by guys who just want to impress you with how much they know.

Now, I love John Palmer's How to Brew and Charlie Papazian's The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. They're phenomenal books, and essential for anyone entering the hobby. But if I'd had something as simple and clear as Dustin's yeast starter pictorial for my first extract brew, my first mash, my first rack to secondary, let alone my first yeast starter, I'd have lost a lot less sleep as a newbie.

Dustin also created a yeast calculator website called YeastCalc at yeastcalc.com. It's one of the most comprehensive pitching rate calculators I've seen online for liquid yeast. It tells you not only how big of a starter to make, but also allows you to dial in a target specific gravity for your starter, and tells you how much dry malt extract to use for that target. It even has options for calculating multiple step-up starters, for that 10-gallon barleywine you've been wanting to make. I'll be using this site next time I make a starter, and I recommend you do the same.

So I’d like to raise my beer glass to Dustin Sullivan, another homebrewer out there doing his part to make brewing a little easier and simpler for the rest of us: newbies and veterans alike. Thanks, Dustin. Prosit!

Also, anyone out there who isn't yet a member of HomeBrewTalk.com, check it out. There's heaps of information there. If you have questions, it's a great place to turn; if you have answers, we always welcome new insights. And it's the most helpful, responsive and engaged online community I've ever been a part of. If you join, look me up. My username is shawnbou and I'd love to hear from you.

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About Shawn M

Writer, podcaster, blogger, and homebrewer in Austin, Texas.

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