I posted this to an online homebrewing forum, and thought it worth reposting here as well:
For anyone who hasn't been paying attention, the acronym 'RDWHAH' gets tossed around here a lot...it's pretty much my stock response to most questions posted here, as well as a solid philosophy of life. ('RDWHAH' = "Relax, Don't Worry, Have A Homebrew'--which I think Charlie Papazian came up with BITD)
Seriously. This isn't rocket surgery. If you're getting angsty, you're doing it wrong. Remember there are still cultures that make their beer by chewing up grains, spitting them out so the salivary amylase converts the starch to sugar, then letting native airborne yeasts do their thing. They catch a buzz off of it just like any beer, and without software or hydrometers or anything.
Beer=Alcoholic beverage made from fermenting sugars whose primary source is from grain—as opposed to from fruits, vegetables, honey, et cetera. Got a source of grain-based sugars? Got other sugars to add in just for fun? Got yeast? Then you'll get beer--I swear.
I (and my friends and family) have enjoyed, and finished up, pretty much all of the hundreds of batches of beer, cider and wine I've ever made. I can think of two experimental beers I dumped post-bottling and one or two that I forgot about and left in secondary so long I just didn't care to bottle them, but otherwise, wherever I began, I ended many months later with two cases of empty bottle once again.
Don't worry about re-creating something fabulous that someone else has made. That's one benchmark for sure, but if no one ever struck out on their own, we'd still be drinking just murky ales, or that saliva-based stuff I mentioned above. Go for a style, but don't be a slave to it...most great styles were created from a need to adapt to local resources, not for any noble adherence to the rules.
And Reinheitsgebot? ...Don’t even get me started! It's not about beer purity; it was about protecting interests. It's like passing a law saying "you can henceforth only make soup from water, salt, onion and frog. Anything else is not soup."
The list of things you can brew with/from is pretty much endless, and just to mention a couple I will say pumpkin (messy), red beets (great color, gotta cook 'em, mash 'em, and then, well, mash 'em) mint in lieu of hops (absolutely awful, but re-brewed into a kick-ass stout) sorghum syrup (disappointing, but had promise) an entire watermelon (blenderized first--did you know that once strained, it only leaves about a fist-size lump of solids?) and basically anything else in the house that contains or could be converted into fermentable sugars or has an interesting flavor or aroma (I'm looking at you, spice rack).
My basic point is: Follow the basic instructions and observe basic rules of cleanliness and sanitation common to cooking and canning. There is no reason for this wonderful pastime to accrue any stress or worry or angst. It should relieve you of stress. If you are worrying about it YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.