Jargon, Expectations, and the Fear of Failure

I bottled beer last weekend. I'm not a master home brewer--in fact, this was my first batch. I've wanted to try my hand at brewing for quite awhile, but reading about brewing had left me confused. I wondered 'what, exactly, is a tun, and do I need one?' and 'is sparging a good thing or a bad thing or even a thing at all?' and kept putting off the plunge into home brewing out of sheer confusion and worry. I wound up receiving a kit and a book as a present. In combination, those two gifts gave me the confidence to start my first batch. The confidence came from a few realizations. First of all, jargon aside, all I really needed to do was boil water with stuff in it while keeping my equipment nice and sterile. Whether I thought of my pot as a 'tun' containing 'wort' or just some nice hot liquid proto-beer was just semantics. I could delay learning the jargon until well after I was drinking my first batch.

Second of all, people who didn't know the first thing about chemistry, or even hygiene for that matter, had figured out how to brew beer by accident, and then proceeded to get pretty good at it. If virtually every civilization on the planet had figured out how to make some version of beer or wine before learning how to write, well, surely I could figure it out with the help of a kit and a book.

Finally, I realized that the worst likely outcome if I totally screwed everything up was nasty tasting beer. The entire point of brewing is to make alcohol, and the nifty thing about alcohol is that it tends to kill the little nasty things that would kill me. There are places where you don't want to drink the water, but the booze is generally at least not deadly.

With those thoughts in mind, I ignored the jargon (pot: yes; tun: no) and lowered my expectations (non-deadly: yes; award-winning: no). I started to brew beer. On Sunday, my first batch was ready for a quick taste test to see if it was ready for bottling.

The small portion I drew out of my Little Beer Keg tasted like pretty decent (albeit flat) beer. It hasn't killed me yet. Now I have about a case of my very own home brewed beer carbonating in bottles, and in a couple of weeks I suspect I will have perfectly drinkable, non-poisonous beer I made myself to enjoy. Win!

Whether you are brewing beer or writing a novel or knitting sweaters or any other artisanal pursuit, you can only learn the jargon as you go, not before you embark on the journey; and you're first attempt will certainly be inferior to your later efforts. That reality is no reason not to give your interests a try. You just have to set off and calibrate your expectations accordingly.