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Old 01-16-2013, 01:27 PM   #1
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Default Good Recipes vs Bad Ones??

Hi All - I've brewed for just over a year now and made some really good beers... and a few not so good. But the recipes sounded so delicious! I guess I just want to know if there is any way to look at a recipe and say, "this isn't going to turn out well." I'm brewing about once a month and have done three all grain recipes now. The first one I just tried the other day after 21 days in the bottle, and it was just meh. A SMaSH ale with Maris Otter, Nugget hops & Nottingham dry yeast. I was so looking forward to it since it smelled so heavenly in the mash. Any ideas?

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Old 01-16-2013, 01:39 PM   #2
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Can you post a little more about the recipe? Also what you feel it's lacking after tasting it. MO and nugget sounds promising.

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Old 01-16-2013, 01:48 PM   #3
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I think it just comes from experience, like cooking. Over time you get to know what ingredients will seem to work together or not. You can look at a food recipe and gauge what you think it's going to taste like, same with beer recipe, if you're familiar with the ingredients. And I think that comes with experience.

But remember, taste is SUBJECTIVE, one person's heaven is another person's hell. Take a look at Cheezy's Caramel Cream Ale on here, there's very few people in the middle on that one, people either extremely love it or extremely loathe it.

Just because YOU don't like a recipe, or a beer, doesn't mean it's a bad one, it just means that it's not in line with YOUR palate.

On here, and I guess other web sites too, the best way to gauge a recipe is to read the comments, to get an idea if it's been brewed by more than just the brewer, and what folks think about the recipe.

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Old 01-16-2013, 02:21 PM   #4
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It does seem it comes down to experience and learning what you do like. That said there are going to be some "meh" beers when you are trying new things. No big deal. Just take notes, try to be as descriptive about what you don't like about it and then try and figure out why you don't like it. As for the MO/Nugget SMaSH that can be a pretty simple process because there are only three ingredients. What don't you enjoy about it? Is it a certain flavor/taste/aroma? Or is it just boring, because that can be the pitfall of SMaSH beers IMO.

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Old 01-16-2013, 06:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revvy View Post
I think it just comes from experience, like cooking. Over time you get to know what ingredients will seem to work together or not. You can look at a food recipe and gauge what you think it's going to taste like, same with beer recipe, if you're familiar with the ingredients. And I think that comes with experience.

On here, and I guess other web sites too, the best way to gauge a recipe is to read the comments, to get an idea if it's been brewed by more than just the brewer, and what folks think about the recipe.
Totally agree, Revvy. Solid advice. Both brewing experience and tasting experience - i.e., get commercial beers where you can find their recipes or ingredients and try to distinguish between them. Side by sides are very helpful.

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Just because YOU don't like a recipe, or a beer, doesn't mean it's a bad one, it just means that it's not in line with YOUR palate.
True, assuming it's produced well (i.e., not skunked, fusels, oxidized, etc). I have many beers I've made that I can't put down a sip and other homebrewers love them. And vice versa...some I love, that no one else seems to enjoy.
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Old 01-16-2013, 08:33 PM   #6
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Thanks everyone - maybe it's just a bit boring right now... I'll try other bottles week by week and see how it goes. I did rack 2 gal of this over Jack-Daniels soaked oak chips for a few weeks... maybe that version will be more interesting. I will let you know.
Once again, thanks - love this forum!

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Old 01-16-2013, 09:01 PM   #7
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I'm a big fan of simplicity and subtlety in recipes. When I first started making recipes my thought process frequently went something like "if a little caramel 60 is good, a lot of caramel 120 will be great!!". Dumpers, all of those. Now I'm much more inclined to try a *little* of something, see how it affects the overall taste, and make adjustments from there. Which brings me to another point; make the same recipes twice with the adjustments from tasting. Keep bottles from the first time if you can, so you can go back and say "wow, a little more ______ made this beer a lot more ______".

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Old 01-17-2013, 12:01 AM   #8
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Look up a clone recipe whenever you are sipping on a new commercial beer. It helps you identify flavor associated with ingredients.

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Old 01-17-2013, 03:04 PM   #9
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I'm not a fan of putting a high importance on the recipe (as far as ingredients). The recipe is important for sure, but I find equally so, or even more important is your brewing process (wort preparation, through to fermentation and packaging). There are some ingredients that play better together than other combinations - absolutely - just like in cooking. As long as the ingredients are in balance, the beer will turn out great if you use good technique.

As far as evaluating a recipe, it is relatively simple.

As far as grains go, the key is understanding what adding a specific grain adds to the beer. There are lots of fairly accurate descriptions of what flavors, body, etc. the various malts add to a beer. The only tricky part (and it is not that tricky) is knowing how much of each to add to meet your goal. Check a recipe to see if it contains a large amount of a particular malt - mostly this applies to specialty malts. More is not always better. This is a clue that the recipe might be out of balance (too much a particular flavor - unless that is what you want)

Hops are a bit trickier to really get a good grasp of as there are so many with such a variety of flavors. Here I would say the most important thing is discovering if there are any hops you love, and any hops you hate. Then avoid, or use those. Some combinations are better than others, but I have not really met any that were bad - except for the few hops I know I don't like (and that is style dependent). In evaluating a recipe, just ask your self, are the IBUs in the range I like (for the style), then do the amounts of hops used (if used) for flavor and aroma fit what you like. This will take a little brewing experience on your own to figure out what you like. There are no calculators (yet) out there that can predict how much flavor and aroma you will get from a specific hop addition so it initially is a bit of trial and error - but a fun series of experiments.

Not part of the ingredients, but fermentation is very important and a bad fermentation can ruin a perfectly good recipe. Warmer? Colder? Primary only? Secondary? All these, and more, have an influence on the flavor of beer. There are some general guidelines out there for how each of these affects the flavors. Choose your fermentation conditions accordingly. I can't over emphasize how important this is.

The real trick then is when tasting a beer, to be able to decipher what parts of the flavors are simply from the ingredients and what parts are from how the beer was made. This is a true art! And this is probably more important in evaluating a less than stellar beer. Was it the recipe, or the process? Say the beer tastes thin. You look at the ingredients and see (beyond the appropriate amount of base malt) a 1 lb of wheat, and 8 oz. of crystal 60. This in theory should be plenty of ingredients to have good body, so in this case the process is likely to blame

Once you have an idea of the problems then you can address them. There are two ways to do this. Keep the process the same, and add more (or less) ingredients to correct what is lacking (or too strong). Or, you can keep the recipe the same, and modify the process to achieve your goal. The latter may include what temp(s) you mash at, what temp(s) you ferment at, etc. And of course don't forget the choice of a little bit of each. Tweaks to both the recipe and the process!

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Old 01-17-2013, 04:51 PM   #10
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Thanks for the great thoughts pjj2ba - a lot to think about there. This was a SMaSH al with MO & Nugget, fermented with Nottingham. It was my first AG brew with my newly constructed cooler mash tun. The mash went great, the wort SG was in the right range, the boil was vigorous for 60 min. Since it was an ale, I just fermented it (plastic bucket) in my closet where the temp ranges from 63-68F give or take. 14 days in primary, racked to secondary 14 days then bottled. Very careful with sanitation throughout.

Anyway, as I said, I'll just keep trying one a week to see how it conditions and let you know. thanks again!

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