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Old 12-27-2012, 10:09 PM   #1
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Default I Don't Understand Beer...Help Me Please

Despite the fact that I have brewed about 250 gallons of beer and probably drank 10 times that in my lifetime I really don't understand beer as much as I would like to. I know that my favorite style of beer is an IPA and I could tell you I enjoy the IPA at one local brewery more than the other but can't really tell you why. I don't know what "pine" or "floral" tastes like. I know I enjoy a local vanilla porter but I don't know what makes it different from other vanilla porters.

It's only since I started brewing about 5 or 6 years ago that I really began to enjoy and become interested in the different beer styles. When we are out I can certainly find my way around a beer menu better than any of my friends but I still want to learn more.

I understand I could experiment with my brewing but, to me, it probably makes more sense to learn from beers that are already available. To make 5 gallons of a beer I may or may not enjoy doesn't make sense. I am thinking hops may be a good place to start since IPA is my preferred style but I don't know how to go about it. I know there are several lists of the "best beers" out and maybe I could give some of those a try but I still want to know what makes them the best and if I like or don't like them I still want to understand why this is...what makes the beers different that I like and don't like.

So with all that said, how did you learn to better understand beer?

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Old 12-27-2012, 10:46 PM   #2
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i would suggest getting your hands on as much brewing/beer literature as possible.

here are a few books that really helped me:

Brewing Classic Styles
Designing Great Beers
Brew Like A Monk
Tasting Beer

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Old 12-27-2012, 10:52 PM   #3
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+1 to the books listed by android. Also, always read the descriptions on the bottles or go online to look at how the brewers describe then beer as you are drinking it. Even better is to find beers that feature one single type of hop so that you can start to identify and pick out specific hops. You could also do a search on here for SMASH (single malt single hop) beers and brew one up.

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Old 12-27-2012, 11:09 PM   #4
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Download the bjcp guidelines and start from the beginning. Make it a quest to get your hands on two of the commercial beers in each sub category. Sit down with them and start drinking.

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Old 12-27-2012, 11:11 PM   #5
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The suggestions above are great. Another one is to check out the Beer Judge Certification Program's style guide: http://www.bjcp.org/stylecenter.php

They have detailed descriptions for all the major styles including popular commercial examples of each style.

Also, do you have a good beer bar or bottle shop where you live? I'm lucky to have a few in my area that are outstanding, with 50-odd rotating taps and educated bartenders that make great recommendations. I seem to be putting their kids through college, but that's another story....

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Old 12-27-2012, 11:14 PM   #6
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when you are brewing, taste the grain before you brew with it, that will give you an idea you can expect to get out of the grains. As far as hops go, smell them roll them in your hands and get a good wiff.

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Old 12-27-2012, 11:24 PM   #7
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Another good book to look at is Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher. He also wrote Tasting Beer that Andrew already mentioned.

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/biab...g-pics-233289/

http://www.amazon.com/Tasting-Beer-I...s=tasting+beer

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Old 12-27-2012, 11:41 PM   #8
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+1 to all of the above - great books (I have every one of them) and great suggestions. One thing that has really helped me over the past 2-3 years with IPA's is to do some brew experiments - get a base recipe and change small aspects of it. THere are lots of great recipes out there (northern brewers dead ringer recipe, recipes on this forum from the recipe page - like zombie dust clone, for example). But, use something like dead ringer recipe. Then go back and change it up with different hops. Or, add a pound of flaked oats to experiment with mouthfeel, etc. Limit the things you change so you can really taste the difference between each batch. It really helps a lot. The HBT recipe section has some great recipes listed and perfected - I would start there.

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Old 12-28-2012, 12:08 AM   #9
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One could also brew a 5-6 gallon sized batch and then split it into 2 separate 2-3 gallon fermentors using a different yeast for each one to help understanding some of how yeast will affect the outcome of a recipe.

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Old 12-28-2012, 12:29 AM   #10
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join a brew club, they get to taste a lot of different beers and discuss them.

Analyze the clone recipes of beers you've had that you liked and try to pinpoint the flavors your picking up on, whether it be hops, yeast, malt, or something else entirely.

Learn to discern between fresh and stale flavors. A lot of times I think a beer is mediocre until I have it on tap and suddenly it's like a whole different beer.


Another book suggestion, "brewing Better Beer" has a lot of insight into the way a beer tastes.

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