Saturday I went to the Columbus Brewing Company's Big Brew. CBC mashed a large quantity of wort (using an East India Pale Ale recipe) and gave it away for free to homebrewers that showed up. The homebrewers were encouraged to boil the wort in the CBC parking lot using their own equipment, and a potluck lunch was planned for after the beer-making.
In all, about 40 people showed up. There was a huge assortment of equipment on display, as each homebrewer had a slightly different setup. Some guys used plain stockpots, some guys used dedicated brew kettles with outlets and thermometers, and some guys used converted kegs ("keggles"). Some guys took gravity readings before and after the boil, some guys used spectrometers, and some (like myself) only took a single post-boil reading. I saw several styles of immersion chillers, counterflow chillers, and more.
I followed the hop schedule from the recipe, but lots of guys went off-recipe. I used pellet hops, but others used whole leaf. Some added malto-dextrine, some added other stuff I didn't catch. It was really interesting to see so many different techniques for producing essentially the same result: beer.
Most of the brewers were members of the Scioto, Olentangy and Darby Zymurgists club. I've been on the mailing list for some time, and have learned a lot from simply watching the dialog between more experienced brewers. It was particularly reassuring to me to see so many of these more experienced brewers at the Big Brew doing the same stuff I do. It's not that I think I'm deficient in my brewing -- rather, it's nice to know that these more experienced brewers don't have any specific tricks or techniques unknown to me.
My post-boil beer had an original gravity of 1.072, so it should be a pretty healthy beer. I'm looking forward to kegging and dry hopping it. I don't know if I'll be able to be patient enough to let this condition for the recommended several months before drinking it!