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Old 07-08-2008, 01:54 PM   #1
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Default The art of perfecting your brew? When do you know it is ready for the big world?

I have been pondering for a great length of time, about a month now, how do breweries and home brewers a like know when they have it, that beer that is ready for the real world?

I have been brewing for almost 2 years now and I've probably brewed over 30 beers, some of those 30 being repeats of recipes to perfect them. I've researched BJCP guidelines, formulated my own recipe, compared my written recipe to hundreds of other's written recipes, reformulated my recipes, brewed the recipe, tasted the beer and compared it to other beers in that style and even sent it off to competitions.

I would love to work on perfecting one recipe, also want to brew new beers, but with the pinch on my pocket/wallet can't do so. So my question to everyone is how do you know when you have perfected a recipe to the point where one might say this is as good as the big boys? Also, if anyone works for a brewery, how does a brewery go about knowing they have a beer that will blow their brew drinkers away?

Please let me know.
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Old 07-08-2008, 02:11 PM   #2
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I've found that tasting as many people on the beer other than yourself is key. Send them in to as many competitions as you can, and make sure you get scoresheets back. Isolated wins and losses can be completely a product of one or two weird judges, but if you average it out over a multitude of comps and have consistent success or failure, you'll be able to more objectively judge the readiness of your beer.

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Old 07-08-2008, 02:35 PM   #3
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I've found that tasting as many people on the beer other than yourself is key. Send them in to as many competitions as you can, and make sure you get score sheets back. Isolated wins and losses can be completely a product of one or two weird judges, but if you average it out over a multitude of comps and have consistent success or failure, you'll be able to more objectively judge the readiness of your beer.
Ok, which I've done with a few of my beers that I felt I would like to pursue a greater interest in. I typically take the judges advice, whether it be too malty, too hoppy, needs less of this flavor or more of this flavor, the color needs to be adjusted, and make those changes in the recipe by adding or reducing the grain/hop bill percentage in the recipe. Now I guess what stems from this is it better to re-brew the recipe or post it and have individuals tweak the recipe? I say this with the intention of is it better to brew smaller batches until a recipe is perfected or use the method of theorizing the recipe is perfected?
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Old 07-08-2008, 03:23 PM   #4
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another point to consider is can you repeat the recipe and keep the taste the same. consistency is what the "big boys" rely on to keep their customers.

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Old 07-08-2008, 05:03 PM   #5
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another point to consider is can you repeat the recipe and keep the taste the same. consistency is what the "big boys" rely on to keep their customers.
I have read a good deal of books and I have gotten the hint that consistency is key. I keep track of the brewing process, temperatures, time, gravities. But, the true question is does it become key to keep logs of cooling times (time between finishing boil and cooling to the temperature to drop yeast), a daily temperature log of outside and inside the fermenter? Those sorts of things, I guess what I get at from that comment is do you really need to micromanage your beer from boil to bottle? And if so what is key to keep it consistent to "roll with the big boys" as one might put it?
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Old 07-08-2008, 05:31 PM   #6
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Lot's of great answers here. I think you need to keep track of all of the factors that ultimately affect the final product, in regards to quantitative characteristics. This will ensure consistency. Then, you can consider input from others. This is more the qualitative factor. If it's judges, you'll get a more objective response (one would hope). If it's friends, etc., it will be more subjective. Unless they're a beer geek, they're going to have some sort of bias one way or another. This is where it can help to develop good reliance on your own palate.

I'm sort of working on that same concept (perfecting a beer/style). I start with certain ingredients, methods, etc. that are proven to accomplish what I want in the beer, then tweek it a bit on the next batch until I'm happy with it. I've also had a beer that I knew was exactly what I wanted on the first batch... and learned not to mess with a good thing.

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Old 07-08-2008, 07:40 PM   #7
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...what is key to keep it consistent to "roll with the big boys" as one might put it?
The key? Being able to duplicate every aspect of the brewing process from grain to glass, every single time, from season to season, year in, year out. Yes, that means mash temperatures, ingredients (to include hops AA%, calculated for age & storage), amount of yeast pitched, ferment temperatures, all of it.

The key to commercial brewing is consistency. Around the Mid-Atlantic, at least; I'm sure there are some areas and some breweries who pursue a more "vintage" process (meaning that different wine vintages have different characteristics). When customers fall in love with your flagship brand, you don't muck about with it unless you absolutely have to!

Quote:
how does a brewery go about knowing they have a beer that will blow their brew drinkers away?
By selling rafts of it. Sorry for the glib reply, but that's it in a nutshell.

Breweries fortunate to have a tasting room or pub attached have an advantage, in that they can brew a one-off batch and put it before the walk-in customers. Other breweries will release a brand in a very limited fashion. If demand skyrockets, they know they're on to something.

Back in the days before hop bombs became commonplace, the brewery for which I worked released what was at the time an insanely-hopped version of their IPA, as a limited-release seasonal only. Demand became so intense that it eventually overtook all other brands as the flagship beer. That sort of took us by surprise; but eventually it made the brewery move from the standard porter, APA, and ESB into a "flavor-bomb" niche, to include BIG beers, Imperial Stouts, IIPA and big Belgian styles. Now that brewery is doing very well for itself indeed!

Simply put, you never really know until you put your product in front of paying customers. The litmus test is whether or not they pony up the hard-earned for it.

Cheers,

Bob
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:11 PM   #8
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When do you know it is ready for the big world?
as soon as i taste the finished product

not all of them pass the test, but i've got a few beers that the world would love.
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Old 07-08-2008, 10:45 PM   #9
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Ok, which I've done with a few of my beers that I felt I would like to pursue a greater interest in. I typically take the judges advice, whether it be too malty, too hoppy, needs less of this flavor or more of this flavor, the color needs to be adjusted, and make those changes in the recipe by adding or reducing the grain/hop bill percentage in the recipe. Now I guess what stems from this is it better to re-brew the recipe or post it and have individuals tweak the recipe? I say this with the intention of is it better to brew smaller batches until a recipe is perfected or use the method of theorizing the recipe is perfected?
I wouldn't keep tweaking the beer from contest to contest in the beginning. I'd brew consistently, and then enter it into a bunch of contests. That way you'll see trends. If you enter in 10 contests, and 8 say that the malt is too strong, it's pretty safe to say your malt is too strong. If only 1 or 2 judges say the malt is too strong, then it may just be their preference. Imagine if you had the "perfect" beer, and the first contest's feedback said to cut the hops in half let's say, and from then on you got mediocre beer reviews, you'd be up the creek without a paddle. You'd probably never restore the hops to it's original intensity.

There's a reason why metacritic is so popular. It averages out anomalies and tends to show a better synopsis of what it's reviewing. Take a similar approach to your beer.

Also, you're ready to go commercial when you're licensed. Never forget about that!
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Old 07-09-2008, 12:20 AM   #10
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My vote is really just for consistency. Taste being subjective, there's no such thing as a "perfect" beer. But if you can make it the same every time, you can find the audience for it.

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