Originally Posted by gator
i'm kinda curious whether or not most people when starting out clone some brews they dig, getting a better feel for the process and then move on to creating recipes that are mostly your own or did you just jump in feet first?
I'll start by saying the best part of brewing is that you can do whatever you want.
But I think recipes are a great idea. Not necessarily clones, but you had better start with some sort of guidlines or targets. If you just throw **** together it's unlikely you will make great or even good beer, and it will also be hard to determine whether your recipes, or your process, is holding you back.
Clones are good because it gives you something to shoot for.
I personally work a lot from Jamils' Brewing Classic Styles book. As opposed to some recipe books all of his have won awards in their respective categories - so you know that they are good. And many will be very close to commercial examples.
For every beer I make 'to style' I try to make something of my own, blending the techniques from styles that I like.
If you know "the ins and outs" of making almost every style, there is no limit to the beers you could produce.