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Old 12-02-2011, 04:02 AM   #1
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Default Regional Styles - Regional Malt

I enjoy brewing to style. I am all for experimentation, but when I brew or drink a Pilsner or Triple or Bitter, I want it to be exactly that and not find any mango or chili peppers in it. I have enjoyed beers with those in, and part of homebrewing is doing just that, but I digress.

If I am brewing to style, how much consideration should I give to my malt choices? I love to use Marris Otter as my base malt for my ales, and Pilsner malt for lagers and Belgians. Am I going to see much difference in using an American malt for my American beers like California Common or American IPA? Am I being anal and splitting hairs, or am would this give me a bump to the next level?

Is striving for strict regional ingredients that important, or are there other areas to focus on first?

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Old 12-02-2011, 06:50 AM   #2
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Having judged at least 100 beers this year, I'd say to get all your other practices in line first:

1.Sanitation: This is the most basic of all needs for a homebrewer. If you're sure it's all sanitized, sanitize it again and then be sure again.

2. Temperature control: I can't tell you how many beers I've judged that have been absolutely ruined by lack of temperature control. If I have to taste around spicy phenols and banana/bubblegum esters, the recipe itself is playing second fiddle to the lack of concern for the yeast's optimal temperature range..

THEN AND ONLY THEN can you really start worrying about recipes. Don't have temperature control? Fine...brew Belgian Saisons (with the appropriate yeast) and suffer through leaving your thermostat on 68degF for a couple of months.Brew it, pitch at 68, and let it go. Otherwise, you're cheating yourself of making the best beers possible.

If you have these steps in line, then you can start thinking more about recipe formulation. This is what separates a 30 point beer from a 40+ point beer. Educated and experienced judges CAN taste a difference between American two-row and British Maris Otter. Hell, you can chew an American 2-row grain and then chew an MO grain and tell the difference. Does that mean you'll brew a bad beer by substitution? Absolutely not. But will it be true to style? Maybe but probably not (again, with experienced judges.)

I'm actually considering brewing an 'American Tripel' based on Gordon Strong's extensive Tripwire mash schedule. I'll use all American ingredients. Do I think it'll taste like a Belgian Tripel? Hell no. But that's not what I'm going for. I genuinely want to taste a finished beer brewed in Belgian style with all American ingredients. I know that style doesn't exist, but I really don't care. I know what I have in mind and I know what I 'want' it to taste like. And that, my friend, is what you need to keep in the front of your mind. In the most recent competition I've judged, I've tasted countless 'wacky' category 23 beers, all the time hoping for something that made sense and was remotely drinkable. It simply doesn't happen often. Everyone wants to put chili peppers and cacao nibs in an otherwise unimpressive beer. I continue to long for something truly unique in cat 23. Maybe your beer will be the one!

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Old 12-02-2011, 04:46 PM   #3
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I have brewed mainly European Bohemian pilsners and German lagers during the past 30 years. Once in a while an American pilsner. I brew strictly to the style. For the European stuff. I use malt from Best or Weyerman. Brews are triple decoction mashed. Paying close attention to water chemistry, Ph, rest, sparge and ferment temps. For American stuff I use Great Western six row with corn or rice. I don't think that what grain is used, is as important as following the techniques of the brewing style. However, I wouldn't use an Ale malt in a lager, and call it a lager. A few weeks ago. The local mini micro brewery invited all the HBSs, home brewers, and would be brewers to a seminar on learning how to home brew. The guy giving the seminar, in jest said. "All that is needed to brew beer is a can opener, a few diaper pails and a can of malt." Basically, he was right. There was a lot of home brew to sample. Mostly high octane ale, massively hopped, cloudy, and green. Brewed with graham crackers, lady fingers, oreos, potpourri, liquid smoke and fruit flavorings. Along with a multitude of bakery spices, nuts, chocolate and pie fillings thrown in. One group of guys brewed what they called BeeBop Bohemian pilsner. Made with Muntons light extract, cascade hops, honey and a couple of pounds of lager malt steeped. The beer was cloudy, rough, green and far from a pilsner. With an after taste of clorox and yeast gone haywire. The guys who brewed it, thought it fitting for the Holy Grail. Everyone was busily patting each other on the back, commending one another on their fine brew. It was a great time. Brewing to style goes out the window, when the mind to experiment moves in. If a contest would have been held. It would have been a judges nightmare.
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