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Old 01-30-2008, 06:11 PM   #11
zoebisch01's Avatar
Nov 2006
Central PA
Posts: 5,182
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Just something to keep in mind, is that like anything you do on your own your path to success may be littered with failures. You can dramatically reduce those failures, first off by following the 'rules' and if you brew 'in style' you are more likely going to be starting from a more normal combination of ingredients....however you most likely won't make anything truly unique (although I always wonder what hasn't been done eh?...probably not much, most things have been done). *shrug* brew what you like....
Event Horizon ~ A tribute to the miracle of fermentation.

Brew what you like. Do this, and you will find your inner brewer.

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Old 01-30-2008, 08:06 PM   #12
Dec 2007
Posts: 92

A lot of my early recipes were from The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing. That would have been in about 1992 or '93. The Internet was nothing like it is today, and I don't think I even had a shell account until 1994 or '95, so there was much less information readily available. I did try tweaking a few recipes and making my own up, but I have to say they were not my best efforts.

These days, I usually am inspired by something I taste or a wild idea, so I then start researching the style or flavor I want, mostly online. This time, for example, it's Chimay's Cinq Cents which has me fired up, so I'm looking at Tripels. I read a bunch of recipes and such about what I'm trying to do, and take all the best parts to build my own derivative recipe. These are turning out to be the best beers I've ever made, and in several cases, better than the commercial beer which inspired the experiment.

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Old 01-30-2008, 08:07 PM   #13
Jul 2007
Arvada, CO
Posts: 132

I like to go through my brewing books for ideas; primarily Designing Great Beers and Radical Brewing. I also check out websites that have recipe pages (including this site!) and pay attention to recipes that won some kind of award or jsut sound interesting. There's a lot of great information out there. When I first started, I pretty much brewed "to style" and still like to try out classics. Brewing several different beers to style is a good, safe introduction to learn about ingredients and process variables. Experience is golden with this hobby.
Happy Brewing!

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Old 01-30-2008, 08:09 PM   #14
Half-fast Prattlarian
GilaMinumBeer's Avatar
Jan 2008
Posts: 59,687
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Usually I'll develope a recipe that fits my mood and then after it's done figure out which style it resembles closest. Problem is, that when you really look closely style tend to be really close anyway and vary by only a few characteristics.

This didn't become a realization until I had developed a spreadsheet that allowed me to choose ingredient from what I have on hand, and from there it would sort out what styles typically include said ingredients. It was really shocking to see the commonality and how little variance there is between some styles.

The key, IMO, is to keep your recipes simple. All to often I see guys who throw a little bit of everything in, don't like the end result, and then ask what happened (why isn't this beer this way or that way.).

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Old 01-30-2008, 08:22 PM   #15
Maniacally Malty
DeathBrewer's Avatar
Apr 2007
Oakland, CA
Posts: 21,790
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i brewed a few clones from Beer Captured and although they none of them were a perfect clone, they gave me tons of information on how ingredients affect flavor.

i've made lots of mistakes and used too much of certain ingredients (rye, acid malt, etc.) which told me alot about how they taste as well. really, screwing up is the best way to learn.

i'm constantly designing recipes even if i don't brew them. i'm constantly reading and checking out other people recipes online. i've gotten quite good at it in a relatively short period of time and the majority of my recent brews have been fantastic.

just dive in, experiment (but keep it simple) and you'll learn alot.
Easy Partial Mash Brewing - Stovetop All-Grain Brewing

"Death is always with us." - Brewpastor

We will remember...

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Old 01-30-2008, 08:38 PM   #16
Here's Lookin' Atcha!
TexLaw's Avatar
Sep 2007
Houston, Texas
Posts: 3,670
Liked 28 Times on 26 Posts

I also go to Designing Great Beers when I am thinking about a recipe. However, no one has mentioned the Classic Beer Style Series. If you are interested in a certain style, or something along the lines of such a style, you really ought to check and see if it's covered in that series. They are amazing books that get deep.

I also like to look at many different recipes and play around with the different ingredients. I am at a point where I can look at a recipe and get a pretty good idea how that beer will come out, and I can vary it in my mind to the same result. I manage to get pretty close, but I've had a lot of experience. The only way you will become adept at formulating recipes is to do a lot of research in books and beer. You have to learn, first hand, what each ingredient and process does to a beer. Then you can start to put them together.

So, do like DeathBrewer said: Dive in and keep it simple. Pay attention, and you will find your knowledge growing exponentially.

Beer is good for anything from hot dogs to heartache.

Drinking Frog Brewery, est. 1993

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Old 01-30-2008, 08:50 PM   #17
Beer, not rocket science
Brewpastor's Avatar
Feb 2006
Corrales, New Mexico
Posts: 4,574
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What they said.

Read everything you can get your hands on again and again, taste good beer and screwed up beer, brew with intent and record what you do, judge other people's beer and your own, compete so you can get unbiased feedback. Work with consistent ingredients and process. In short, do all you can to develop your bag of tricks.

Bottom line - enjoy every aspect of this great avocation!
Before I learned to brew I was poor, sober and lonely. Now I am just poor.

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Old 02-01-2008, 02:31 AM   #18
Kevin Dean
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Jul 2007
Frederick, MD
Posts: 1,352
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I personally brew "whatever". I told myself I was going to do a batch of hobgoblin and got tired of pouring in Maris otter, so I modified it and went out on my own.

If I've got stuff around that I don't want to go stale, I toss it in.

Take notes, and look for patterns.

It was said that the important thing is to know how the ingredients affect your brew and there's a ton of ways to do that.
Free State Project liaison to the homebrew hobby!

"What's your name? Well my mom calls me Son, and my cat calls me Meow, either will do." -- Sam Dodson of the Obscured Truth Network

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Old 02-01-2008, 12:06 PM   #19
Bob's Avatar
Nov 2007
Christiansted, St Croix, USVI, US Virgin Islands
Posts: 3,927
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Originally Posted by TexLaw
I also go to Designing Great Beers when I am thinking about a recipe. However, no one has mentioned the Classic Beer Style Series. If you are interested in a certain style, or something along the lines of such a style, you really ought to check and see if it's covered in that series. They are amazing books that get deep.
+42! Let me give you an example. Say you want to brew a classic English-style Special Bitter. In Terry Foster's Pale Ale, you'll not only find how to brew one using modern ingredients, you'll also learn why pale ale developed through history and how to serve pale ale in the traditional way - the section on cask-conditioning is only slightly less detailed than my copy of CAMRA's Cellarmanship.

Well worth the ten bucks, IMO! Eventually I'll collect the entire set, even though there are some styles I never brew, just because I voraciously devour information. Plus, there are styles in the Classic Styles series which Designing Great Beers doesn't cover.

Moving on.

What got me brewing in the first place, back in 1994, was economy. I was poor, and in my area quality beer was bloody expensive. The mountains of Central PA were a good beer wasteland; what you could get was imported and twice to three times as expensive as domestic industrial brews. But this was just after I left active service in the US Army, where I had sampled lots of different quality brands.

So, long story short, I wanted to drink the stuff I used to buy all the time but was now too poor to purchase even if I could find it. So I got The New Complete Joy at the library, assembled some gear and went to it.

Back then, I brewed those recipes from NCJOHB that looked tasty, and for which I could find ingredients. Since then, I always start recipe formulation with a specific goal in mind, and go through a process.

1. What time of year do I want to drink the beer? Thus, in late March I might brew a Witbier, an Old Ale, or Trappist style. Witbier to drink while it's fresh, the others to age until the snows of winter.

2. What do I have in stock? I try to always have a session beer ready to drink. Sometimes that's challenging, but nevertheless...

3. What do I have in stock? I mean by way of ingredients. If I only have 6 pounds of Briess Gold LME, some Willamette and a packet of Nottingham, trying to brew a Tripel is pretty much pointless. But an American Blone Ale, OTOH...

Anyhow, when trying to make new styles, it's usually because I had a commercial example of the style and found it intriguing. In other words, I rarely if ever try to brew something if I don't have an available, drinkable reference to guide me, even with a book or award-winning recipe.

So I guess you could say I try to clone. I'll get some samples of styles benchmarks - for example, SNPA if I was after an APA - drink them, read up on recipes and techniques, take one of the recipes, tweak it so's it's mine, and brew up. When it's ready, get some more samples of the benchmark, drink 'em side by side, and see how well I got there.

These days, I flatter myself that I can figure stuff out fairly easily, and formulate recipes in my fevered brain. But there are still areas where I have little experience; if someone were to force me to brew a Doppelbock, I'd have to hit the books. ;-) But American, English and Belgian ales I think I can fly solo.


Fort Christian Brewpub
St Croix, US Virgin Islands

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