Originally Posted by TexLaw
I also go to Designing Great Beers when I am thinking about a recipe. However, no one has mentioned the Classic Beer Style Series. If you are interested in a certain style, or something along the lines of such a style, you really ought to check and see if it's covered in that series. They are amazing books that get deep.
+42! Let me give you an example. Say you want to brew a classic English-style Special Bitter. In Terry Foster's Pale Ale
, you'll not only find how to brew one using modern ingredients, you'll also learn why pale ale developed through history and how to serve pale ale in the traditional way - the section on cask-conditioning is only slightly less detailed than my copy of CAMRA's Cellarmanship
Well worth the ten bucks, IMO! Eventually I'll collect the entire set, even though there are some styles I never brew, just because I voraciously devour information.
Plus, there are styles in the Classic Styles series which Designing Great Beers
What got me brewing in the first place, back in 1994, was economy. I was poor, and in my area quality beer was bloody expensive. The mountains of Central PA were a good beer wasteland; what you could get was imported and twice to three times as expensive as domestic industrial brews. But this was just after I left active service in the US Army, where I had sampled lots of different quality brands.
So, long story short, I wanted to drink the stuff I used to buy all the time but was now too poor to purchase even if I could find it. So I got The New Complete Joy at the library, assembled some gear and went to it.
Back then, I brewed those recipes from NCJOHB that looked tasty, and for which I could find ingredients. Since then, I always start recipe formulation with a specific goal in mind, and go through a process.
1. What time of year do I want to drink the beer? Thus, in late March I might brew a Witbier, an Old Ale, or Trappist style. Witbier to drink while it's fresh, the others to age until the snows of winter.
2. What do I have in stock? I try to always have a session beer ready to drink. Sometimes that's challenging, but nevertheless...
3. What do I have in stock? I mean by way of ingredients. If I only have 6 pounds of Briess Gold LME, some Willamette and a packet of Nottingham, trying to brew a Tripel is pretty much pointless. But an American Blone Ale, OTOH...
Anyhow, when trying to make new styles, it's usually because I had a commercial example of the style and found it intriguing. In other words, I rarely if ever try to brew something if I don't have an available, drinkable
reference to guide me, even with a book or award-winning recipe.
So I guess you could say I try to clone. I'll get some samples of styles benchmarks - for example, SNPA if I was after an APA - drink them, read up on recipes and techniques, take one of the recipes, tweak it so's it's mine, and brew up. When it's ready, get some more samples of the benchmark, drink 'em side by side, and see how well I got there.
These days, I flatter myself that I can figure stuff out fairly easily, and formulate recipes in my fevered brain. But there are still areas where I have little experience; if someone were to force me to brew a Doppelbock, I'd have to hit the books. ;-) But American, English and Belgian ales I think I can fly solo.