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Old 01-07-2010, 05:15 AM   #1
Dec 2009
Sunnyvale, CA
Posts: 165
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I don't just want to make a good beer. I want to begin to learn how the various ingredients/methods affect the taste of the beer. What is the best strategy for achieving this? Should I stick with a single recipe and then just tweak the ingredients (yeast, hops, etc.) one by one with each batch? Should I try drastically different styles? Or should I just brew whatever I feel like?

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Old 01-07-2010, 06:23 AM   #2
Aug 2009
cincinnati, ohio
Posts: 296
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You asked two different questions. One was about ingredients one was about styles.

I know when I started brewing I didn't have a clue what most styles tasted like. My path was simple read through various recipies in a style usually a clone. I'd buy the original and drink one day of brewing and say this is what I'm trying to make. As a result I've brewed beers ranging from simple apa all the way to a rasputin imperial stout. I loved everyone I've brewed. Last year I brewed 65 or so gallons of beer not counting appleweiss. I've learned a lot about styles but not nearly enough about ingredients. I mean I do have an apreciation for what certain grains do. Like what 60l will do vs carspills.

From what I've read if you want to learn ingredients. You need to do S.M.A.S.H brews or single malt and single hop brews. You only change one thing. I've read several threads where folks do 2g or smaller batches to try out different hops or various base grains.

But seriously, brew what you like. You don't want to brew 5 gallons of beer you don't like even of its a completely awesome beer.
I've brewed a couple beers where a few people simple hate the style like a hefe I brewed with a German hefe yeast strain. I loved it style haters did not.

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Old 01-07-2010, 06:56 AM   #3
arturo7's Avatar
Apr 2007
Huntington Beach
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Brew the same basic recipe several times and change one or two variables each time. This will work for extract or AG. When I started I did half a dozen batches with pale malt extract, cascade hops and WLP001 yeast. I varied the amount of extract, the amount and timing of the hops, and the ferm temps. Some of the batches tasted alike some didn't.

If you jump around with different styles you will definitely taste a difference but you won't necessarily know, for example, how your hop schedule affects the end result.
Hey, knock that shvt off. We're drinkin' here.

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Old 01-07-2010, 01:11 PM   #4
wizardofza's Avatar
Jun 2007
Buffalo, NY
Posts: 383
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Try tasting the malt itself.

Seriously - you'd be surprised by how much better you'll be able to pick out certain characteristics in a beer by eating the raw ingredients.

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Old 01-07-2010, 02:09 PM   #5
lowlife's Avatar
Jan 2009
Posts: 654
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Originally Posted by wizardofza View Post
Try tasting the malt itself.

Seriously - you'd be surprised by how much better you'll be able to pick out certain characteristics in a beer by eating the raw ingredients.
This is good advice.

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Old 01-07-2010, 02:15 PM   #6
beergears's Avatar
Oct 2007
somewhere west of Boston Harba'
Posts: 999
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tasting malt.. by way of making dog biscuits?
You are looking at the hole in the doughnut and not the doughnut itself.
You primates are so predictable.

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Old 01-07-2010, 02:34 PM   #7
XXguy's Avatar
Dec 2008
Southeastern PA
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Pick out a kernel or two of grain from the grist & chew on it.

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Old 01-07-2010, 02:39 PM   #8
Nov 2009
Hammond, IN
Posts: 110

Originally Posted by wizardofza View Post
Try tasting the malt itself.

Seriously - you'd be surprised by how much better you'll be able to pick out certain characteristics in a beer by eating the raw ingredients.
I'm in the same boat as gannawdn, and had never even thought about tasting the basic ingredients. Would it be better to chew on a few kernels, or steal a little malt from the mash tun and give it a sip?

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Old 01-07-2010, 02:55 PM   #9
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
Revvy's Avatar
Dec 2007
"Detroitish" Michigan
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One way to do this is by brewing a series of SMaSH beers (Single malt and single hop) One base grain and one hop. Usually these come out as pale ales or Ipas. You could do as many variations of this as you wanted. You could also do a five gallon batch of this, and split it into 2 batches (or 5 i gallon batches) and ferment with different yeast.

Another option would be to use the same amount of base malt say 6-8 pounds and add a pound of a crystal to the recipe and make a series of beers with different combos as well.

Just don't change too many variables at one time, or you will not be able to discern what variable is doing what.

this is not limited to ALL-GRAIN BREWERS ONLY you can SMaSH with extracts as well....

Some liquid extracts, expecially the lightest lovibond ones are SINGLE MALT as well.

Northern Brewer #20053 NB Organic Light Malt Syrup...Or even using XLT DME and a single hop would be an extract alternative.

Or a base extract + a couple ounces of steeping grain and a single hop. This isn't quite a smash...but you can use that to get an idea of how a steeping grain flavors a base of extract.

But there all 100% single malt (non blended/non hopped) Liquid extracts as well.

William's Brewing even offers Marris Otter LME. MARIS OTTER EXTRACT 8 LBS @ Williams Brewing

Briess offers an all Pilsner Malt Extract Pilsner Malt Extract | MoreBeer

So you too can play the SMaSHing game, it's not the sole propriety of the world of AG.

When I posted this info before someone remarked that some of these extracts aren't pure single grain ones, that they actually are a blend. Though there are organic 100% single malt extracts available but I'm not sure where.

No matter if it is blended or not, the concept is the same. A consistent base malt extract with a consistent single hop. As long as the ingredients are the same age, and preferably from the same batch, an extract SMaSH experiment would be educational.

It's a great way for everyone to get more control of their process, AND to get a feeling for how ingredients work with each other.

When I posted the links to the single malt extracts, a couple brewers told me they were going to do the extract smash...I haven't heard how it went.

Just take lots of notes.
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Old 01-07-2010, 03:09 PM   #10
Jazz Hands!
mmb's Avatar
Feb 2008
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You could always do the 10 grains thing. Get the percentages of the grain in your mash and then use 1 for 10% all the way up to 10 grains and then chew them up.

It's interesting and gives you a hint of what the beer flavor will be.
Black Phantom Brewing Company

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