So, the first brew on the new equipment went well. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty good, all things considering. I think I did some miscalculations with my mash water amount (too little water), but the mash still went ok. I was pleased with how the day overall went. Fermentation was ok, too, except I couldn't get the stinkin' temperature controller probe to stick to the carboy. I had to submerge it in the blow-off hose bucket. So, the temperatures were a little less controlled than I wanted.
Currently, the pale ale is fermented, kegged, carbonated, and drinkable. My initial thoughts on this beer weren't the best. It was cloudy. It had a strong lemon and citrus flavor. There was a subtle, sharp aftertaste (aren't "subtle" and "sharp" kind of opposite? Regardless, the beer did have a subtle, sharp flavor to it!). The aftertaste is almost like metal. This beer is pretty good homebrew, very good for a first brew on a system, but still mediocre in the grand scheme of things. I have questioned it. Why is the beer like this? Why are the yeast not falling out of suspension yet? Is that why the beer is cloudy? Or is that unconverted starches (highly possible, all things considered)? Where is that lemon coming from? The Cascade hops? Or was the fermentation temperature too high? Is "lemon" a Wyeast 1056 ester or by-product? And the metal taste, is that because there is still a lot of yeast in the beer? Or is it the keg? Is one of the kettles giving off a metallic taste? Or am I imagining the whole thing?
Lots of questions.
But, regardless, I took a liter of the pale ale to the Berks County Homebrew Club meeting this past Tuesday night. And I heard very good things about this beer. I heard that it was "spot on." The bartender named it his favorite of the night (well, first runner-up; home-made cheese took his top spot). But the biggest complement I got about the beer was an empty bottle to take home. If a bunch of homebrewers finish off your beer, you musta done something right. (The Amber Ale I took, our first ever all grain, was not empty. Not even close.)
So, that brings me back to my critiques... am I too hard on myself? Do I look for flaws first and positives second? Should I just stop worrying about it and drink my homebrew? Well, yes and no.
I want to get better at brewing. I want to be able to make really good beer. I want to confidently give my beer to friends and say, "Try this. You'll like it." And the only way to get better is to be critical of the beer I make. At the moment, this critiquing of myself isn't discouraging; it is actually encouraging. For the most part, I know what I can do better. I just need to learn by brewing and apply what I have learned in each brew session going forward.
And then, sometimes, relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew.