Not at all to takeaway from the excellent set of resources that Glen has built up with the library, http://www.forum.realbeer.co.nz/forum/topics/the-library
, here's my top 10 list of things that I'd suggest people do, based on my newbie experience -
o If you really want the taste of good craft beer, I'd probably start with all grain. I appreciate both the additional startup costs (you can take short cuts), the learning curve and the fact that there's probably been many extract brewers who have kicked the arse of all grain brewers, but to my mind, there's nothing better than all grain brewing. Get your local home brew store to mill your grain for you, and use something like BIAB (brew in a bag) to save money. If you really, really aren't keen for this, make sure you just use extract, speciality malt and hops. Anything else and you'll be disappointed and more likely to give up at the first post.
o I read as much as I possibly could. If you only have a small budget, read John Palmer's How to Brew online. As much as Charlie Papazian is a lord of homebrewing and writing about beer generally, I didn't find his books quite as fulfilling. When you get more established, buy Jamil Zainasheff's Brewing Classic Styles and Ray Daniels' Designing Great Beers. While I got so much value from the former, I think I get more value month by month by a Brew Your Own magazine subscription. I love it!
o If you're going to get a starter kit, buy something you can ferment in, a pot that you can do full volume brews (25L+), hydrometer, a measuring cylinder and a thermometer. Everything else is pointless, heat pad included, and you can save until the next time.
o Don't screw around with the sterilizing crap Brewcraft trying to sell you. Iodaphor or Starsan is your best bet. If you can't find either, look harder - don't fall into the Brewcraft trap.
o As soon as you have cash, buy a kegging system. It really saves on time. The start up costs are high, but it adds a lot of pleasure to your drinking and your geek factor to friends who visit. You'll need a fridge capable of fitting a corny keg (likely 2 or 3) so you can cold condition/chill your beer. You don't need to add external taps to your fridge straight away. Buy kegs from Stephen Plowman, buy replacement o-rings, cobra taps and tubing from craftbrewer.com.au, buy a wrench to fit the keg connections from Repco.
o Don't get too confused with yeast starters. If you have access to fresh liquid yeast, use that, pitch what you have and don't bother trying to re-use. If you can do back to back brews, pitch on to a yeast cake. If you are going to wash the yeast cake, make sure you wash it with bottled water (unless you want to boil up the water and let it cool yourself). Pitching dry yeast is fine. Stick to S-05 for dry yeast and you probably won't go too far wrong.
o Avoid worrying about target gravities, temperatures within 2 degrees, IBUs and volumes to begin with. You get what you get, and you'll probably not notice the difference because you're so stunned with making drinkable beer. Part of the joy of brewing is the unknown variables - sure, you can work those out later in the line.
o Copper is expensive. Immersion chillers are a fun DIY project, but if you can create an airtight seal on your pot just use the no chill method.
o Take the simplest route possible. Single infusion, batch sparge. Higher temperatures for body, lower temperatures for drier beer.
o Spend time reading the forums on realbeernz.ning.com - smart people are happy to give advice. You'll have to invest some time reading archived forum posts. Do your reading, then post questions.