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Old 03-30-2010, 05:46 PM   #1
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Default Getting to know your ingredients?

I'm a new brewer, and the amount of possible ingredients available is quite overwhelming. With all the different grains, hops, and yeasts out there, how does one become acquainted with how each individual ingredient affects the characteristics of your beer, be it taste, body, aroma, etc? I could brew the same type of beer a few times, using different hops with each brew, for example. But then I have all these identical batches that only differ with the type of hop used (and this isn't taking into account different hop schedules).

How did some of you become acquainted enough with your ingredients that you're able to put together decent recipes on your own?

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Old 03-30-2010, 05:55 PM   #2
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I think it's experience. I was at BMW picking up some supplies last Friday and one of the guys (Nealf) just glanced at it and mentioned it was light for an IPA - which it was. I was pretty impressed as I can't do that yet.

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Old 03-30-2010, 06:05 PM   #3
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Experience plays a large part. I mean, I can tell you what Munich malt tastes like, but if you haven't tried it yourself it's not something you can understand yet. Sometimes, simple batches are best so that you can learn what each ingredient brings.

Helpful resources are books, like Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels, and computer software like Beersmith. In Beersmith, a brief description of each ingredient is included to help you choose a "fruity hop" or a "bready" malt, for example.

I like a simple list, too, just to get an idea of what I might want. I like this one: http://www.angelfire.com/pa/beerandweather/grains.html

One last resource I like is this: http://www.bjcp.org/stylecenter.php
Those style guidelines will tell you the basic "rules" of each beerstyle and descriptions of what ingredients are included. They give you commercial examples, too, so you can see what a "dortmunder export" is!

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Old 03-30-2010, 06:33 PM   #4
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The best way to speed up the experience-gathering phase is to drink lots of craft beer from breweries that publish what ingredients they use, and doing a lot of split batches where you vary one ingredient at a time.

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Old 03-30-2010, 06:44 PM   #5
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For getting acquainted with hops, I suggest Single Malt and Single Hop (SMaSH) beers. Pick a base malt like American 2-Row, Maris Otter, Munich 10, Vienna or Pilsner (among other base malts). Design it like a BJCP blond with 15 IBUs (Rager) from 60min addition, 7 IBUs from the 30 and 2 IBUs from the 1 minute. Pick a clean Cali ale yeast or neutral English yeast.

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Old 03-30-2010, 08:27 PM   #6
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1 -Great excuse to drink as many craft brews as possible if you know their ingredients
2 -You have a good idea by brewing identical batches and just changing one ingredient (Basic Brewing Radio did this as an experiment with about a half dozen samples with the only difference being the yeast -check out their podcast)
3 - You can read all you want, but especially for hops, "pungent, citrus,etc" descriptions really don't tell you much. You really need to taste the stuff. I mean, WTF does "pungent" tell me ? I taste pinneaple from Columbus hops and grapefruit from Cascade, so the generic "citrus" doesn't help either...

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Old 03-30-2010, 09:01 PM   #7
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I guess I have some drinking, er, I mean R & D to do

Thanks for the tips.

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