I don't know if my beer is great, but if you compared what I was doing before to what I have now, there is a noticeable difference. And to me, it's night and day.
My point is, proper pitch rates will definitely improve the beer, at the very least.
That's what I'm starting to think, exactly. What I've made so far, even my friends like it better than store bought. Maybe to a purist, it's not "perfect", but like you say, it's probably like art...very subjective. I notice the same thing with growing my own vegetables...they always taste better than store bought. Do they truly? Maybe not, but my mind is saying so, and who am I to argue with myself? lol Point is, just because my prior batches have seemed "omg great" to me, scientifically speaking, I'm sure those batches have, in reality, been just so-so, and my mind is convincing me that they're superior (when they probably aren't).
And dtapke: I've tried plastic brew tanks (glorified buckets, really) and both glass and plastic carboys. I've also altered my recipes in various ways to see what changes work best for me. I haven't done enough batches yet to form a lot of opinions, but I'm working on it. I've learned the basics, now I'm tackling things more scientifically, 1 at a time, starting with yeast.
So, moving forward... If I learn how to nurture yeast before Brew Day so I can start with the proper
amount of yeast, I expect my quality will be an order of magnitude better. And I imagine consistency will improve, too.
So I've been doing tons of reading in blogs & forums and everything is starting to gel, but I feel there's still tons to learn. This weekend, I'm staring some experiments with growing yeast, mostly following advice from other people, but also following some of my own hunches. It'll be fun. There'll be some flops, but I don't mind...mistakes are just learning opportunities. And people like you guys--here and elsewhere--have collectively been wonderful at filling in the blanks concerning all that I've read so far. (I'm ordering the book on yeast next week, too.) As I learn, I'll be back here asking for advice on overcoming my mistakes, have no doubt.