Hobbies always start with just a simple interest. Nobody knows how to excel in their chosen hobby right out of the gate, but as long as they know what questions to ask, they're off to a good start.
At this point, I have a solid idea of how the brewing process goes, but I couldn't recite it for you off the cuff. I've never really been one to stick to a recipe or even ever really require a whole lot of direction when the process seems intuitive, as like pitching a tent or building something simple. I've got enough mechanical / creative aptitude to sort of fudge my way along.
Cooking, which is really all brewing actually is, is also a hobby of mine. I can generally sit and think about the different ingredients I have and how they'd taste together. I make marinades and soups and stews usually just by feel, and nine times out of ten, they come out good to fantastic. There's always the one dud, but hey, nobody's perfect.
When it comes to cooking, you can't be afraid to experiment, but you also need to know how far is too far. pretty much anyone would tell you that mixing say chicken with ice cream probably isn't going to result in a master piece. But that's because everyone knows what ice cream and chicken taste like. Now say chicken and rosemary with perhaps some thyme, sage, and basil, that sounds pretty good. I'd imagine you could get a little creative and mix in some lemon or honey or soy sauce, etc... Peanut butter? I'd be willing to try I suppose.
I also have a solid enough handle on cooking times, and what food looks like when it's done. I know by looking at the dish if it needs a few minutes based on the color, the texture, the type of juices it's "leaking" now... Chicken will ooze pink juices when it's not done. If you stab a chicken leg and the grease is clear, it's done.. .And then you can put it on for another 10 minutes on low broil to crisp it up.
But where brewing is concerned, I'm still such a noob, that unless I'm following a recipe with ingredients that were specifically ... uh, specified... I'd be screwed.
But like I say, you gotta start somewhere. Nobody knows everything at the start of a hobby, and at least I have a good idea of what a good beer tastes like. The next step is to learn to identify what ingredients make what kinds of flavors and have what kinds of impacts when they're added AND WHEN they're added.
I'd like to get to the point where I can look at something in a store, and say "Hmm... I bet if I added that to my boil about three minutes before I'm done, it would make the brew taste like this-that-or-the-other. And if I bottle it with a half a teaspoon of honey, and a quarter teaspoon of corn sugar, it'll be carbonated a little more than a Harpoon, and a little less than..." You get the idea...
My problem here is two-fold right now though... (One) a brew takes a long time from start to finish as compared to a chicken dinner. When I'm done with my experiments, I can eat it, and taste all the different ingredients, and such. A brew... it's sometimes months or more before it's ready to taste, and (two) I can't remember sh*t. By the time it's done, I'm worried that I'll have a hard time remembering the smells of the ingredients and thus not be able to really associate what they smelled like with what they ultimately taste like.
I'm thinking when I do brew, that I should probably get a little extra of each ingredient, to smell / taste when the brew is finally done.
Do any of you other home brewers do this?? Any input is welcome.