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Old 01-05-2012, 04:53 AM   #1
mrpeccator
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Default What are the fundamentals of brewing?

One of the things I have noticed in way too much lurking on this sight and my 13 AG brews is that there is not a consensus or emphasis on what the fundamentals of recipe design are. I would love to get to the point where I can come up with an imperial/ oaked/fruit/smoked/category 23 beer with a pile of ingredients that is awesome but I am pathologically incapable of attempting such things until I grasp some serious recipe fundamentals.
I'm all for experimenting (I'll drink nearly any beer. Repeatedly.) But some beers I've had lately are reminiscent of first graders attempting calculus: random experiments with no fundamentals and a taste to match. I'll start the list:

1: Don't overly complicate things. A recipe with 5 different hops and 7 grains sounds cool and is fun to brew (so are all beers!) but the subtlety is lost with so many ingredients. A well designed beer in nearly any style does not need a cornucopia of malts and hops. Pilsner Uruquell is a SMASH after all.

Edit: The question is about the fundamentals of recipe design. I was drinking EdWort's apfelwein at the time. And it seems like brewing a bunch will help.

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Old 01-05-2012, 04:54 AM   #2
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0. Beer happens in fermentation, so pay close attention to yeast.

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Old 01-05-2012, 04:57 AM   #3
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2: Don't be afraid of failure. If you're shooting for Urquell, don't bother to experiment. But if you want to create something never tasted before, you're going to have to make mistakes.

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Old 01-05-2012, 12:20 PM   #4
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To be honest, my recipe formulation normally goes like this: check out Brewing Classic Styles for a reference point. Then straight to Designing Great Beers for tweaking. Once I have a recipe, I make sure that I have the space to ferment it at the proper temperature. Then it's off to the races!

That being said, sometimes making a beer with a lot of ingredients is okay, so long as they all work together to be greater than the sum of their parts.

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Old 01-05-2012, 01:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrpeccator View Post
One of the things I have noticed in way too much lurking on this sight and my 13 AG brews is that there is not a consensus or emphasis on what the fundamentals of recipe design are. I would love to get to the point where I can come up with an imperial/ oaked/fruit/smoked/category 23 beer with a pile of ingredients that is awesome but I am pathologically incapable of attempting such things until I grasp some serious recipe fundamentals.
I'm all for experimenting (I'll drink nearly any beer. Repeatedly.) But some beers I've had lately are reminiscent of first graders attempting calculus: random experiments with no fundamentals and a taste to match.
Are the beers you are trying commercial? Homebrew? If homebrew are they yours or other peoples? IMO the fundamental ingredients for making beer, in order of quantity are: Water, malt, hops and yeast.

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Originally Posted by mrpeccator View Post
I'll start the list:

1: Don't overly complicate things. A recipe with 5 different hops and 7 grains sounds cool and is fun to brew (so are all beers!) but the subtlety is lost with so many ingredients. A well designed beer in nearly any style does not need a cornucopia of malts and hops. Pilsner Uruquell is a SMASH after all.
I basically disagree with this completely. Comparing a SMaSH to a complex beer is a little silly. I have had plenty of SMaSH beer and most of it is OK at best, there are a few real great combinations however. I would be happy to bring up a few examples of commercial brews that ARE complex and difficult to recreate like Smithwicks. I also have a few great recipes of my own creation that are far from simple but taste great, are complex and people I know constantly ask for them. Spice is the variety of life and by artificially planting the seeds of "KISS" in someones mind you may be seriously limiting a creation.

Assume that you have no baking knowledge and I were to put you in a kitchen that had every known baking ingredient on the planet in it and said "Make me a dessert from scratch." How do you go about figuring out what is what? You check out a few recipe books sitting on a shelf and taste what you think would be good before adding it to the recipe. This does not guarantee that your creation will be good or that anyone will even like it.

I think people mainly struggle with recipe creation because they do not know what the particular ingredient is bringing to the recipe. The best advice is to get familiar with the individual ingredients. Taste grain, make hop teas, familiarize yourself with the different ingredients.

Click on this link: Recipe Database - Home Brew Forums, choose a style, sort by views and see what others have done. After reading a few of the most viewed recipes for the style you should be able to create a mingled recipe of your own fairly well. Also software can help. I like to use Brew Target, it is free and does what I need it to. It has programed parameters for a style, even cat 23 beers are based off of a style normally.

I think trying to hammer out specifics is nearly impossible because everyone brews differently and has different equipment and the different styles change the parameters to greatly for "basic guidelines".


Best of luck.
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Old 01-05-2012, 01:40 PM   #6
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0. You get out what you put in
I fixed that for you
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Old 01-05-2012, 01:49 PM   #7
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3. Attention to Detail

This applies from recipe development to carbonating, and every stage in between. Many of the mistakes, issues, and questions posted on the forum are due to a simple failure to follow instructions or existing guidance. Not double checking ingredients, wrong temps at mash, forgetting to pitch enough yeast, wrong fermenting temps, and everything else are due to lack of attention to detail. Yes "relax, don't worry, and have a homebrew" may be the common mantra. Yet, a certain level of effort and focus needs to be applied if you want to make consistently good beer.

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Old 01-05-2012, 03:05 PM   #8
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Build up from a smash or even do split batches to test dry hopping and yeasts. Its taken me well over 20 batches of testing to get to my final recipe for my IPA, but I already know what it will taste like and why all the ingredients I used are in there.

You really need to do smashs to understand the fundamentals of brewing, tastes from each grains, mash temps and their affect on the finish of your beer, etc. Experience really is how you understand the fundamentals. Books help, so does this site, but its all about trying it for yourself.

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Old 01-05-2012, 03:29 PM   #9
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I my limited experience, there are way too many brewers making odd things to worry too much about it. Chances are if you make it, someone will like it.

That said, reading LOTS of recipes and descriptions will give you a good idea of how much of something you will need in a recipe to get a certain flavor/attribute.

Reading designing great beers, radical brewing, clone beers, etc. will only assist you.

You will probably won't have a perfect recipe until you've done it a few times with tweaks. And it's key that you get a brewing process consistent so you can have a fair comparison between the different versions.

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Old 01-05-2012, 04:25 PM   #10
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I suppose my frustration is a product of understanding the process of brewing on my system, but being unfamiliar with some of the tenants of creating a recipe. I want to produce beer that fits my taste and something I can be proud to share, something that is a unique and quality product from my brewery. The recipe database is overwhelming and a small cadre of recipes are proven. Sounds like I should read Designing Great Beers first.

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