Beer is pretty great. People have been drinking it for centuries, empires were built around it (look it up true story) and if you’re of the age to drink, it’s pretty tasty too! Some fans may enjoy beer enough to want to make some! This is my guide to making beer at home. While there are far, far more qualified resources out there, I’m doing this because it’s an activity I like to do and I have a blog that I haven’t updated since mid-summer. For my pop-culture readers, I’ll talk about Spider-man, 80s/90s nostalgia or Halloween candy soon enough. But for now I wanted to post something new. For those still with me, this is a bit long but future posts will be shorter and to the point. I’ll add fun photos of my dog along the way….So here’s a quick-ish read on how to homebrew:
One Hobby, Several Options
Homebrewing is a lot like fishing in terms of what it is. Take for example going to a creek on a summer day with just a rod, hook and worm….in the simplest terms that is fishing. If you upgrade to lures, you’re still fishing. If you drop some cash on a boat to hit the water, you’re still fishing. Even if you’re onboard the SS Budweiser and dragging in tons of fish with nets, you’re still fishing. homebrewing is a lot like that. You can have a rather minimal setup or you can spend a small fortune on really fancypants equipment.
The must-have bare-bones equipment for any sort of brewing follows:
- A big pot
- Something to stir with
- Fermenting vessel for your beer
- Siphon & hose
- Bottles and bottling bucket
- Capper and bottle caps
As long as you have at least those things you can probably dive right into homebrewing. From this point you can probably go in a few directions. For me personally I started with a Mr. Beer kit that my wife gave me as an anniversary present one year and did that for about a year or so. With that kit and a few similar starter kits you can find around the holidays somewhere around Target or Bed Bath and Beyond, you can get an idea of the process. I was able to make drinkable beers with it and as far as the brewing goes, it’s as simple as it gets. The pros to starting this way is that if you’re wanting to get your feet wet but just want to dip a toe in the water, this is probably one of the cheapest ways to do it. You only make 2 gallons of beer, and you can get by with the most basic of equipment. This kit is 100% extract brewing and all you have to do is more or less add water and then yeast. In about 2 weeks you can begin bottling and 2 weeks after that, you’ll be able to try your beer. While I no longer brew this way, I do still use my fermenters for experimental beers and splitting batches.
Another way to dive in is by snagging a starter kit from a local homebrew shop. If you don’t have one nearby there’s quite a few online homebrew shops that sell beginner kits. These kits will give you everything you need to start making 5 gallon batches. The best part about starting this way (or as it was in my case; upgrading) is that there are TONS of recipe kits to make virtually any style of beer. Some stores even sell a clone kit to replicate commercial brands or a “pro-series” (clone of the beer authorized by the actual brewery that makes the beer). The kits can range between $20-$70 depending on the strength and style of the beer. Your lighter beers will tend to stay in the cheaper side of things while the more expensive kits are going to be where you’ll find the bourbon oak stouts or Belgian Quadrupel Ales or Barleywines that have to age several months. These kits will typically consist of a few pounds of Liquid or Dry malt extract, a bag of specialty grains to steep, and the appropriate hops and yeast. You may need a few additional things such as a hop or grain bag (Life Pro Tip: You can buy some paint strainer bags and reuse them!). For a lot this set-up can easily put you on cruise control and keep you quite satisfied. You can churn out some really good beer, you can make enough to give away, and if you’re spatially challenged this still uses very little room.
All Grain brewing is like buying the boat in my fishing analogy. This will require more equipment. It’s more advanced of a method. It also has the potential to make your recipe costs go down as opposed to the extract and partial mash style of brewing. The brew day is extended as you will be doing a mash in to extract the sugars from your grains as opposed to pouring in a few pounds of Liquid Malt Extract or Dry Malt Extract. After that process, you do carry on very much the same way as you would in the Partial Mash/extract brewing. Much like the metaphoric boat in my fishing example, your setup could go anywhere from an aluminum old boat to a slick speedboat. In recent years all-in-one devices such as the Picobrew and the Grainfather eliminated the need for extra pans but the cost will set you back about $800 or more in most price-points (although a new model of Pico is around the $400 mark).
Brew kettles can vary in price and Mash Tuns can range from converted coolers to slick stainless steel pots. Personally I opted for the DIY route and converted a picnic cooler with a few hoses, a bazooka screen, a bung, and a nozzle, and it took me only 15 minutes to make (the drain spigot didn’t surrender willingly). In addition to a mash tun you will need to either have a kettle that will hold your entire volume or 2 decent size kettles to do a split boil (more details later on this method, but living in an apartment, this is my current setup). In addition you will need to heat your sparge water which you’ll use to get that last bit of extracted sugars after you fill your kettle (you can also pour into a bucket if you don’t have extra pots. Much like the extract and partial mash methods, recipe kits are easy to acquire and are typically a few dollars less than the partial mash kits as the ingredients are less expensive. You can also really save some money if you purchase a grain mill and buy your base grains in bulk. Keep in mind that unless you have a local brewshop nearby that sells bulk grains, or a brewclub doing a group buy, the shipping for these bags will be expensive. However the payoff in my personal experience of buying bulk grains, bulk hops and reusing yeast has made it significantly cheaper to do and more flexibility with what to make.
A Few Ways to Level-Up
Regardless of which method of brewing you go with you can more or less dive into the hobby once you have the right equipment and ingredients. As long as you follow the steps and don’t make any major mistakes you will most likely end up with something drinkable and after a few batches you may be hooked into the hobby and already start planning your year out. Once you get hooked by the hobby it is only natural to want to expand your operations at your home brewery. While the minimal bare bones list earlier provides the must-haves these are some of the equipment purchases you’ll probably want to add as you go along:
Kettles: After a while, you may want to grow the size of your batches or you may realize that cheap pot you bought wasn’t quite cutting it…a few boil-overs will quickly push that decision. Some of the nicer kettles will have gallon markings and temperature gauges as well and will really help eliminate “eyeballing” volumes.
More fermenters- More fermenters mean more beer! These can be anything from the cheaper buckets, to carboys of the glass and plastic variety to stainless steel vessels.
Hydrometer- This is a device that will help you determine the alcohol content of your beer. You could get away assuming everything went to plan but if you want an accurate idea of the ABV% of your beer you can easily use one of these floating rods to get a starting gravity or a final gravity at the beginning and ending of your fermentation time. The simple rod is the most common but refractometers have been increasing in popularity and requires less of a beer sacrifice to measure.
Temperature control options- Ranging from a blanket or heating pad to something like a brew jacket, you’ll want some sort of control to stay within a temperature range. Wildly swinging temperatures can lead to off-flavors so you’ll want as much control as you can muster. If you have space a fermentation chamber will take out a lot of effort out of the equation.
Barrels- These aren’t really needed for making a “barrel aged” type of beer. Usually getting oak chips or an oak spiral and soaking in bourbon will give a close enough experience but these look cool, and once the good spirit flavor goes away you can convert into a souring vessel. The problem is most distillers use pretty giant barrels but there are smaller options including one from a distiller of blue corn whiskey in Texas that uses 5 gallon sizes that re-sales the barrels on a variety of homebrew online stores and websites. I purchased one and really want to add more. They usually run around $150 and can probably run a few uses before the flavor goes away (which at that point you can maybe make a sour).
Thermometer- One thing you don’t want to do is kill your yeast. They turn that hopped barley water you made into beer after all! A thermometer will help you measure when the wort is cooled enough to pitch and if you want to monitor fermentation you’ll want one of these.
Wort Chiller– You don’t really need one but you’ll find that ice baths add up and typically melt away before the wort is cool enough anyway. These can be found around the $30 range and easily pays for itself off after a few batches. Plus if you brew outdoors you can make the water run-off go into your flowerbed or yard! Counter-flow chillers are another option but usually that route is more expensive.
Burner- This is one piece of equipment I wish I could get. To keep with the fishing analogy brewing outside or in a garage is like having some beers with friends. It makes the experience more fun, it makes the jump to all grain go a bit easier and it boils a hell of a lot faster than a stovetop will. Unfortunately I live in a garden-level apartment in Denver so unless I want to hang out in my courtyard saying hello to neighbors for 4 hours, it’s not going to happen for me in my current set up. Allegedly heat sticks work too but I haven’t tried them yet.
Kegging system- A bit on the pricey side but this becomes a fantasy daydream for many during bottling days when the knees start to ache from being on the floor slowly filling and capping 40+ bottles. You can have your beverages on draft and your beer becomes carbonated anywhere from a few hours to 3 days!
Mini-fridge- These can be scored quite cheap (university move-out day may land you a free one or you can snag a used one pretty cheap). Using a mini-fridge you can make a fermentation vessel or kegerator with some modifications…or you can just make it a personal beer fridge.
Bottle wand– This is quite cheap and helps out on bottling day. You just attach it to a hose and push into your bottles until it fills to the top, once you remove it you’ll have plenty of space for natural carbonation.
Labels- Once you make multiple batches at the same time you’ll need some sort of order. Labeling can be as simple as marking the bottle cap, or you can design your own labels. I typically do some design on Word and glue them onto the bottles.
Yeast starter equipment- Yeast starters will really help your yeast grow into a healthy army to consume some of your bigger beers. Having healthy yeast will greatly help with fermentation and eliminate the costs of having to buy additional yeast packets.
AHA membership– You may like the hobby enough to want to join some clubs. Being a card-carrying member of the American Homebrewers Association will grant you access to meet-ups and rallys, discounts at breweries, presales to beer festivals, and either an electronic or physical subscription to Zymurgy, a magazine that goes over the hobby with articles and several recipes.
Extract Brewing/Partial mash brewing….In a Nutshell
This is probably the easiest way to dip a toe in the water and how many homebrewers begin. The brew days are shorter, you don’t have to have as many ingredients, and it’s pretty easy to do.
There are TONS of kits you can buy to do this and you can put out some really great beer. After choosing a recipe you may or may not need to add specialty grains. From here you’re probably looking at 6 or so pounds of extract syrup. You may even have a mix of light and dark syrups for special recipes.
First you’re going to want 2-3 gallons of water which you’ll want to bring to a steeping temperature of 150 degrees. If you have your specialty grains you’ll want to put them in a bag and steep for a good 30 minutes or so with the lid to your pot on. The burner will need to be off but the temperature will probably hold the entire time. Once you steeped for 30 minutes remove the lid and lift the bag to allow all the water to drain out. There is debate on whether squeezing the bag is a good idea or a terrible idea. I’m in the camp of thinking that it’s A-OK to squeeze the bag, curse a bit over the hot water if you have no glove and save yourself a good 5 minutes…plus Brulosophy said it was fine!
After this step you will want to bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and then add all of your extract. The extract is very sticky but using your paddle/spoon and holding over the hot kettle will help get that last bit of extract out. If you are using dry extract keep in mind that it will clump if you are not stirring as you pour. Once your extract is stirred into the “beer tea” you now have what is called Wort which is basically unfermented beer. From here you will be bringing to your 60 minute boil and have your hop schedule. Some recipes like certain IPAs will go longer as more hops are added in.
While your wort comes to a boil you’ll want to watch for a boil over so you’re going to want to keep an eye on your wort and be prepared to quickly lower your heat. It can happen in the blink of an eye. Your first hop addition also brings that risk as well and in my experience it’s safe after that. You can also buy some Fermcap for about $7 or so and that apparently will reduce the risk. It’s only happened to me a few times while brewing so I haven’t felt the need to buy any yet.
Your first hops added in the beginning of your boil will be your bittering hops. You’ll be adding these right at the moment the boil begins and start the timer. Most ales will have a schedule of adding flavor and aroma hops at different intervals typically with 15, 10 or 5 minutes left in the boil time. The hops at the end of the boil are going to give the upfront nose notes in the finished product. If you are doing a spiced ale, within the last 10 minutes is when you’ll be adding your spices, citrus peel and so on.
Once the timer reaches zero, it’s time to quickly cool your hopped wort as quick as possible so that it lowers to a temperature for the yeast to be pitched BUT fast enough that it’s not vulnerable to infection. Some beer styles encourage the possibility of wild yeast spontaneously fermenting the beer but as a homebrewer with a budget, you’ll probably want to get some recipes under your belt before attempting that gamble. …plus kettle souring is a much safer bet to make.
The easiest and most efficient and bare-bones way to cool your wort is by putting your kettle in a nice bath of icy water (around but not in the wort with the lid on). A sink full of water and ice will do just fine and within 30 minutes or so it should be right around the perfect temperature for the yeast to be added (75 degrees). A wort chiller makes short work of this too. From this point you will transfer the wort to your fermenter which should be sterilized. You can add 1 gallon of cold water prior to the transfer of the wort. You could pour the kettle into the fermenter but a siphon will allow you to transfer everything but the hoppy gunk. You’ll then add water to bring to the 5 gallon mark (or just a smidge above). If you want to this transfer step would be when you will want to measure your Starting/Original Gravity reading with a hydrometer. Using a tube you can sacrifice a small amount of beer to read your gravity or if you’re really good with sanitizing and have like a bucket you can put the hydrometer into the beer…that alone may make some sanitizer purists squirm but I’ve done it a handful of times if I forgot to fill the cylinder when siphoning. You’ll want to write this down because you’ll be recording the same way at the end of the fermentation to figure out how much Alcohol by Volume your final beer will be.
From this point you will pitch your yeast into the beer. Some tips suggest using this time to cap the beer and aerate the wort to add a bit of oxygen to help the yeast out. A super easy way to do this without getting a oxygen tank, or some additional device is simply putting a tennis ball under the fermenter and rocking it around for a good 2 or so minutes. If you have a dog, you are better off grabbing the tennis ball in secret.
Once this is done you’ll just pop on the airlock and put in a nice dark cool area. Ales will ferment at various temperatures which makes them a preferred category of beer type for homebrewers. Lagers on the other hand are cold-fermented and you’ll want to have a fridge with a temperature control. Either way the next part is more or less waiting it out and letting the yeast do its magic. Within 8-12 hours you’re going to see quite a bit of activity. If you have an opaque fermenter you’re just going to hear the airlock bubble. If you have a carboy or clear plastic fermenter you’re going to be able to see a pretty cool show for the next few days as the yeast and wort wildly ferment. Sometimes this could get messy if you don’t have enough headspace and depending on the yeast you may get a frothy volcano. This is fixed by a blow-off tube (basically putting a tube over the airlock hole and running it into a jar of sanitized water. While all this is happening the yeast is living a very hedonistic life of partying. They are eating all the sugars from your wort and crapping alcohol! Within 7-14 days the fermentation will settle down and you will now have flat beer. If you are wanting to make a beer with fruit or oak chips soaked in bourbon or even dry hopping to bring more hop flavor, after the initial fermentation you’ll want to transfer into a new vessel for a secondary fermentation and that will last anywhere between another 7 days or a few months.
Once your beer is ready it’s time to package it for consumption. At this point kegging is a godsend. You can easily put your beer into a keg and force carbonate and be ready in a few hours to 3 days. The downside is kegging is expensive to get started. It’s worth it by the way, but shells average 30-90 dollars, a C02 tank is around $60 and the regulator (needed so it doesn’t explode) will run up to $100 although there’s a few online deals that combine a keg/regulator combo or a gas tank/regulator combo and saves about 1/3 the cost. Of course that’s all assuming you have space in your fridge or a spare fridge. There are some alternate kegging options (I use a discontinued product called Party Pig) and those vary, some do not give you carbonation control, others look hard to clean but they are usually under $50. Some newer options in the way of ManCan and Growler taps have surfaced in recent years and while more expensive it does give you control of carbonation.
Most homebrewers opt in the direction of bottling. Much like every other step you’re going to want your bottles to be sanitized. You can buy empty bottles relatively cheap along with some caps but I typically just buy bottles with beer already in them and reuse them (OxyClean and Warm water will make short work of most labels…you learn quickly which breweries have easy to remove labels and which ones are impossible to remove). To carbonate your beer you’re going to need some sugar to give the yeast a new job to do. Most recipes for 5 gallons call for ¾ cup of corn sugar dissolved in 2 cups water. Boil for 15 minutes and cool. During this time you’ll want to sanitize a bottling bucket, hose and bottling wand. The last 2 aren’t absolutely required but a few misjudged fills, they become very welcome. Once your sugar water is cooled you’ll want to pour it into your bottling bucket followed by your beer, which at this point is when you’ll want to collect your beer to do a final gravity reading. While siphoning your beer you’ll want to leave behind the layer of gunk from fermentation. This gunk is called trub and while it’s high in nutrients, you really don’t want to have it in your bottles of beer…it’s hard to impress your friends if it looks like some guy did something in your beer…use your imagination. You can use that trub to re-harvest your yeast after bottling to save on future brews (I’ll have a future post describing how to do exactly that). Once your bottles fill you will want to cap them relatively quickly as this is the only time your beer should be exposed to oxygen until it’s ready to drink.
Unfortunately your beer isn’t ready just yet. The yeast has one final job to do and that is to eat the sugars and burp Co2. Leaving your bottles at room temperature for 7-14 more days will be enough time for this job to be complete. Then you can put your beer in the fridge and consume once cold. You’ll find despite your best efforts that you’ll still have sediment on the bottom of your bottles. This is normal and a lot of commercial breweries from Belgium and some craft breweries will have the same issue. Most of the time you’ll probably want to pour all but the last little bit into a glass before enjoying.
That in a nutshell is more or less is how homebrewing is done. It’s easy work and the wait can provide you with a delicious reward.
After a few extract brews, you’ll probably want to up the ante and go all grain. The process is almost the same as extract/partial mash brewing except rather than using extract syrup you’re going to replace it with a few pounds of base grains that you’ll break down the sugars of. This will require more equipment and this is where it really splits into the equivalent of getting a baller setup, something moderate or doing a custom build. While I would LOVE to have some fancy stainless steel setup with electric burners, counterflow chillers, pumps, or some all-in-one setup I do have 2 setbacks: that is VERY expensive and I live in a apartment with no room for that sort of thing. However, I found a few ways to make it work. This mash/lauter tun I found how to make on American Homebrewer’s Association does the job I need and I only spent $20ish to make it. A grain mill is a good device to have because you do save quite a bit of money if you’re able to find a local shop that sells bulk 50 lb bags of grains (unfortunately the shipping online will eat you alive) but even if you’re only able to do a 10 lb order of your bulk grains online or at a local store you do save a little more on your beer than you would on a extract/partial grain recipe. You will need either a kettle capable of holding 2 gallons or so more than your full volume or 2 kettles to split the boil. This method you won’t be adding water at the end to bring volume.
First you’ll be adding your strike water and grain for your mash in. Heating 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain to about 165-170 degrees, you’ll add the water to your mash tun followed by your grains. The temperature should drop down to the idea mashing temperature around 150 degrees. You’ll need to hold this temperature for one hour to break down the sugars in your malt. There are some ways to test when it’s done including iodine or simply tasting the wort to see if it is ready (sugary…yay…if not you have to wait longer). You’ll want to pour this first bit into your kettle. While the Mash-in is occurring you’re going to want to heat your sparge water. This will be ½ gallon per pound roughly and you’ll want this at a much higher temperature to break down that last bit of sugar (190 in the kettle/170 in the mash tun). Here’s where the process can differentiate a bit. I have been doing a batch sparge method and just pour it all in and let it sit for 10-15 minutes and pour into the kettle until I’m at about 6-6.25 gallons. Other methods have you do a fly sparge or pour into a colander. Either way this is the last step of breaking down your base malts. From this point you follow the same steps as you would on an extract/partial mash set up.
Brew-in-a-Bag is sort of the hot new trend of brewing. You do the steps in the all grain method BUT without all that extra equipment or sparge water. You will have a grain bag strong enough to hold your full grain bill. You will mash your full volume at around 160 or so and hold for an hour. You will then lift the bag allowing all the water to drain from the grains and from there you will follow the boiling schedule. This method was instrumental in me switching to all grain after a few years of partial mash. My only setback was not having a big enough kettle, hence why I went with the above method. With the ease of this method, this may be an even easier approach for people wanting to try homebrewing but going straight into all grain.
Homebrewing Dos and Don’ts
Now that we went over HOW to brew, like most hobbies, homebrewing will teach you a lot of dos and don’ts. Most of them you will discover on your own or you may get feedback to suggest a few modifications. While this is a hobby that encourages you to be a pirate and thumb your nose to the rules, here’s a list of probably the absolute things to make sure you do:
Sanitize, Sanatize , Sanatize- Of all the things you can do wrong with brewing, this is the most important thing you do right. Poor sanitation leads to infected beer, off-taste, and money loss (it’s no fun dumping a beer or drinking a bad beer) It’s actually kind of hard to mess up a homebrew outside of hop/malt combo but generally if you have something that tastes medicinal, farty, sour-milky it’s from an infection so clean everything!!!
Treat your yeast right- Those billions of yeast cells are the true miracle workers of your beer. Without them you’ll just have some flat, non-alcoholic hopped barley water. Happy yeast is good yeast! So keep your yeast at a proper temperature and give them a nice sugary meal. A yeast starter will be very rewarding with your final product. All it takes is just a small amount of premade wort, aeration and a day extra. A yeast starter will let you yeast multiply and have a healty fermentation. Better to go to battle with 10,000 friends rather than 1,000 friends. Just a little time makes a big difference.
Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Homebrew- This is the Hakuna Matata of homebrewing. White bubbles form on your beer? Relax don’t worry have a homebrew and give it time you may still have something good. You forget a hop addition? Relax don’t worry have a homebrew because you may still be OK without it. A lot of times just chilling out will make it a much better experience.
Leave a little space in your bottles and fermenters- Fermentation is a crazy reaction. During primary fermentation there’s a LOT of gas and bubbling going on. If your fermenter doesn’t have enough space you’re going to have a very big mess on your hands. Once you bottle you’ll want to leave a inch or so on the neck. Carbonation means gas and you may have a bottle-bomb if that space isn’t left although if you add too much sugar you’re going to have that anyway….or a geyser upon opening.
Break the rules like a Belgian!– Beer should only be comprised of the ingredients of Water, Barley, Hops and Yeast…at least according to a 600 year old purity law that the Germans created called the Reinsgebot (aka the German Beer Purity Law). The thing is back then people did dumb shit like add wormwood or something dangerous to the beers. Nowadays while a lot of classic styles adhere to the tradition but a lot of very exciting beers out there blatantly violate this purity law. The Belgian brewing tradition has a long history of adding fruits, sugars and spices to their beers to make these very delicious strong brews that are still being made by monks today. Some craft breweries made headlines with adding bizarre new ingredients (Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout with Wynkoop, Cereal stouts with Black Bottle, Prairie made a beer with spaghetti and a beer called Chicha with Dogfish head that uses human saliva and corn) Feel free to ignore authority and make a cherry wheat beer or a bourbon barrel aged stout!
DIY- It may look ugly as sin but you may save some $$ just by getting a little crafty. Many homebrewers pride themselves on their inventions during brew day. Some brilliant ideas even come up a few beers in! So do some bad ideas, but that’s part of the fun.
Explore the beer aisle and taprooms- Chances are if you want to make beer you’re probably already well versed in the world of craft beer and imports. Unfortunately the mass produced boring stuff is still widely drank but for those of us unplugged from the matrix, there’s a world of inspiration out there to base your homebrews on. Plus it’s fun to try to see how close you come on cloning. Some breweries even post the recipes online or host competitions to brew at their brewery (or serve at Great American Beerfest as a Pro-Am member).
Enter a competition!- After getting into the hobby a homebrew competition is a great way to get some unbiased honest feedback on your beer. Ranging from free to $10 per entry, all you have to do is send some bottles of your beer unmarked for a blind tasting. A few weeks later you’ll get a scoresheet with feedback. If you do well enough you may even win a medal or ribbon.
Join a club or two!- Clubs weren’t on my list for a while. I joined a sponsored club from one of my go-to shops and it’s been a lot of fun! It’s great doing bottle shares with people in the hobby some trips involved going to a hop farm to pick hops, and there’s been some fun themed meetings.
Some of My Favorite Resources
Once you go all in on the hobby you’ll find yourself with a few questions regarding methods, flavors, hop characteristics and so on. Fortunately there are libraries of information out there and these are just some of my preferred go-to resources. Quick Disclaimer: I am not sponsored or paid nor do I get a commission on these resources…(however any homebrewing product maker wants me to test something I’ll gladly do it!)
r/homebrewing- This is Reddit’s online brewing community and it’s like one big digital homebrew club.
Brulosophy- This is much like the Mythbusters of homebrewing. If you ever wonder if squeezing the bag is a bad thing or if leaving too much headspace in your fermenter will affect the beer, this site tests those questions.
Brew Like a Monk- Are you a Belgian Beer fan? If you want to know how the monks that produce beers like Westvlettern, Orval or Chimay (or American beers inspired such as Avery’s The Reverend) make their beers this book is a great read.
Homebrew Forums- Always the first result when Googling various homebrewing questions. Years of archive posts for self-help. Sort of my WebMD for homebrewing.
AmericanHomebrewersassociation.com– If you’re a member you can find a recipe archive, view upcoming competitions, access to the forum and lots of helpful articles ranging from builds to practices.
Beersmith- There’s a few brewing software programs but this one I use. Just plug in your recipe and you should get what your target gravity should be as well as how the recipe falls into the category with bitterness, color and gravity.
Clone Brews– Imitation is the best form of flattery and this book is full of clones of commercial brands of beer.
This was a bit long but I will gladly post how-to entries on things like re-using yeast, de-labeling bottles, recipes and such as this section grows!