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Brew a bunch of different styles or pick 1 or 2 and really master them?

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HappyFermentations

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So I'm pretty new to brewing/making alcohol and started in the middle of September - but in that time I've done 3 AG batches, a Graff, 4 ciders, an Apflewein, a Shiraz, a Banana Wine, Blueberry wine, 2 JAOM and a Joe's Quick Grape Mead. (When I start a hobby I kind of go 150% for as long as I can until I get bored and move on to something else).

A couple days ago I was reading some online advice for new brewers and they mentioned picking one or two recipes and really sticking with them until you have them down and make it "your" beer as opposed to making every style under the sun. I really like the variety that I'm getting and the fact that in a month or so I'll have about 5-6 different drinks I can grab from the fridge and share with a friend at any moment - but I can definitely see the benefit to picking a couple styles and really getting them down and excellent. Any thoughts?
 

Kharnynb

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make a good "house beer", something reasonably basic and that you will improve over time.
For example i've adopted Deathbrewer's northern brewer/vienna smash as my house ale :p

then, next to that, experiment as much as you want, and cycle by seasons.
I always have aging beers going, like the west vleteren 12 clone from this site and generally a porter as well.
 

Rhumbline

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I like having a variety of brews, but there's really no wrong answer to your question.

I tend to gravitate towards Saisons and Stouts, but there's a huge amount of room for experimenting within a style. Personally, I have never brewed the same recipe twice because I like experimenting.
 

mblanks2

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Brew what you want. If you find a particular recipe you want to call your house beer then brew it, tweek it and make it your own.
I've been brewing since 2013. Brewed 3 extract kits and been all grain ever since. I've got 30 recipes that I've brewed and continue to brew depending on the season and what I want up next. Don't limit yourself just have fun with it.
 

Knkbrand

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I have been brewing for 3 years, and I have only repeated one recipe. I like variety, but that is just me. No wrong answer for this one.
 

Qhrumphf

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There's benefits to both approaches. If brewing a different style every time is combined with both researching that style, researching recipes for that style, tasting commercial examples, etc, then while you likely won't master any of them right away, you'll learn a hell of a lot about various styles in the process, including maybe finding something for a house beer you weren't aware of or didn't previously know you liked (as well as maybe learning what to stay away from).

On the other hand picking one style or even one specific beer and working it over and over and over again will help you nail down recipe formation, allow you to pick out the contributions of individual ingredients better, and really help you nail down your process to consistency.

Neither one is wrong. And you can also do both. Brew an American Brown. Brew something new. Brew another American Brown. Brew something new. Etc, etc, etc.
 

unionrdr

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I've found that the home brewer can learn something from every brew, regardless of style. But each time you brew the same style, try to keep good notes & change what you didn't like about the last version. you'll eventually get it the way you like it. Then keep brewing that one per season or whatever. Move on to another one & tweak that, ad infinitum. :mug:
 

mrgrimm101

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I like the former approach. If you brew many different styles, then what you are taking away from it is experience in the process. Besides a few variables, most styles will be brewed in basically the same manner. This will allow you to "master" your brewing process, and it will allow you to try many different styles..some of which you may never have known you like.

This will also allow you to potentially choose 1 or 2 "house recipes" that you can brew again and again. I brew the same IPA every spring and the same stout I brew every autumn. The rest of the year is open to try new things and experiment with previous recipes.
 

MattyIce

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I started off brewing everything that sounded awesome. Lately, I have been tweaking the same repeatedly.
 

beergolf

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There really is no concrete answer to that question.

I would suggest figuring out which styles of beer you like. Do your research. Drink a lot of the highly recommended brews from that style. I know that there are styles that I really do not care for , so I do not brew those styles. Then when you pick a style, search for good recipes in that style, and note the similarities and differences in the recipes. Maybe brew a few of them to learn what each one tastes like. For example if you pick an IPA, you could brew something like Bell's Two Hearted Ale. Then because it is brewed with all Centennial hops you can figure out what they taste like. If you like a commercial brew, look on their website and you will find that they often give away which ingredients they use to brew that beer. Brewing is a lot like cooking, in that you will gain experience with each brew (take good notes) and eventually you will understand what works and what doesn't. For example I brew a lot of Belgians and saisons. Those styles are very yeast dependent, so you can easily make the same brew but use different yeasts to get an idea of what each yeast brings to the brew.

I like a lot of variety, so I do brew many different beers. If I am going to have a few beers in an evening I very rarely have two of the same. I always have about ten different beers in my beer fridge. I do have a several recipes that I have improved on by brewing them several times and tweaking them until they are what I like. They go into the rotation occasionally.

So brew a few beers that you like and tweak them to your liking. Then brew some different beers to try them. Maybe you will find a beer that will end up being one of your house beers.

Each and every time you brew you will learn something.
 

Oginme

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I like having a variety of different styles around. I set my brewing schedule up well in advance to reuse yeasts and capitalize on bulk purchases of base malts. Of course, I will brew about 25 to 30 times from November to May, mostly 10 liter batches of recipes that I am developing and quick turn around items like milds, ipas, scottish ales, etc. which I use to grow yeast for future recipes and for larger (20 liter) batches of those recipes I want to hang around for a while. Brewing that often gives me chances to stock up on many styles so I don't have a 'dry' spell during the late spring, summer and early fall months.
 

Malty_Dog

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It comes down to each brewer I guess. I like variety and have been brewing a little over 3 years now. I brewed something different every batch (until Edwort's Rye IPA ;)) for the most part. I've come to realize that I always want to have a pale ale on hand...so that's what I'm going to take and try to "make my own" and do more repeatedly. But I still believe that "variety is the spice of life" and will vary my other brews. Typically I've got at least 4 options every time I open the fridge.
 

jwalk4

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I have 1-3 standbys of solid, "everybody loves 'em" beers.

Other than that, I brew to the season.
Light beers for the spring and summer; ambers, browns, and blacks for the autumn and winter. Brewing helps keep me in touch with the seasons because I brew outdoors.
 

iijakii

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I usually have a pretty sessionable pale on tap, but besides that can't say that I do. I always love hearing the new guys try to get super serious like they're a brewpub, talk about their "house yeast" and everything 10 brews in.

Brewing the same thing over and over really lets you tweak a recipe to personal preferences, but it's not going to magically make you a better brewer over any other beer, don't get why that's always repeated.

I feel like homebrewers try way too hard to clone commercial practices and don't take advantage of the benefits of not being monetarily contained. Experiment! Do what you want to! Throw a random ingredient in a beer because why the **** not?
 

hanuswalrus

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I really like experimenting w/ hop combos so I tend to brew an IPA every other batch. I find myself wanting to try a new style every other brew.. IPA - Oatmeal stout - IPA - Barley wine - IPA - ESB, etc.
 

slym2none

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I always love hearing the new guys try to get super serious like they're a brewpub, talk about their "house yeast" and everything 10 brews in.
Heh - I am maybe 12 brews in, and my house yeast is Nottingham from a packet.

:ban:
 

Yesfan

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.............Brewing the same thing over and over really lets you tweak a recipe to personal preferences, but it's not going to magically make you a better brewer over any other beer, don't get why that's always repeated.............
Totally agree. If anything, the recipe that gets brewed the most will more than likely be your best beer because of the tweaking and/or correcting any mistakes you made the last time you brewed it.




I like the option of both. There's one or two recipes that I've brewed that I want to keep in rotation (Bell's 2 Hearted is one example, Northern Brewer's extra pale ale is another). Then there's the one recipe I find here and/or a vendor who's released a new kit that looks promising.


My weak link, unfortunately, has been English beers and browns. I love a good brown ale, but (with the exception of the last batch) I've not been able to make one that really wowed me. They've either been drinkable or just flat out sucked. I'm hoping this last batch is a sign of me turning the corner.
 

doug293cz

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I like the former approach. If you brew many different styles, then what you are taking away from it is experience in the process. Besides a few variables, most styles will be brewed in basically the same manner. This will allow you to "master" your brewing process, and it will allow you to try many different styles..some of which you may never have known you like.

...
What you brew is not as important as how you brew. Mastering your process is the key to brewing mastery. In order to master your process, you must be able to achieve predictability of the outcome. You need to:
  • Master mash temperature control. Be able to hit your strike and mash temperatures, and adjust temps during the mash.
  • Learn enough about water chemistry and your own water make up to be able to adjust your mash pH to a specific target.
  • Learn how to measure the conversion completeness of your mash in order to get consistent mash efficiency.
  • Get consistency in your sparge process, in order to be able to achieve consistent mash efficiency.
  • Consistent mash efficiency will allow you to predict and achieve your target pre-boil SG consistently.
  • Be able to measure pre-boil and post-boil volumes accurately, and hit your target volumes consistently.
  • Learn how to pitch an adequate amount of healthy yeast, and get adequate wort aeration at pitching.
  • Control your fermentation temperatures consistently.
You don't have process mastery until you have consistency and predictability. You can't master a style until you have process consistency. You won't know if you have consistency unless you measure carefully, and take good notes every time you brew.

Once you have achieved (or are well on your way to) process consistency, then you can brew whatever you want, and be pretty sure of a good outcome.

Edit: added yeast and aeration bullet.

Brew on :mug:
 

z-bob

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Brew a bunch of different styles or pick 1 or 2 and really master them?
I'm asking myself the same question. I've been brewing for about a year, and my recipes are all over the place. I think I'm gonna settle down and focus on saisons for a while (one of the few styles I can brew year-round) but I still have lots of dark beers in my backlog. I just brewed a porter a couple of days ago.

I'd like to find a style that I like that I can brew with the local water. (is there such thing as a dark saison? Just pilsner malt plus Midnight Wheat to combat the alkalinity)
 

bkboiler

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sometimes it's good to go deep within a style range..e.g. if you get on a kick for English ales: there are several different English styles and altering the hops and malt will give you an appreciation for how those changes affect the end brew (example: dark mild vs British brown ale).
I found that brewing simple beers that other people had perfected the recipe on allowed me to dial in my process before formulating my own recipes was practical. and it gave me some understanding of how certain brewing ingredients affect the final flavor.
also it allows you to not have your head explode trying to learn every technique under the sun so quickly...(ex: decoction mashing, lagering, etc..)
 

chickypad

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I'm definitely in the brew what you want camp. Like a lot of the others I don't believe you need to brew the same recipe over and over to gain experience or master techniques, though if you find one you think is awesome certainly go for it.

I tend to re-use certain grainbills a lot because I've hit on a few that I really like, though I change the hops and yeast up frequently so that I'm rarely brewing the exact same recipe again and again. I have no idea how many distinct recipes I've brewed but there are only 2 that I can think of that I have intentionally brewed exactly the same more than twice (and that is at the request of a picky spouse :) ).
 

m00ps

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I'm asking myself the same question. I've been brewing for about a year, and my recipes are all over the place. I think I'm gonna settle down and focus on saisons for a while (one of the few styles I can brew year-round) but I still have lots of dark beers in my backlog. I just brewed a porter a couple of days ago.

I'd like to find a style that I like that I can brew with the local water. (is there such thing as a dark saison? Just pilsner malt plus Midnight Wheat to combat the alkalinity)
Black saison is kind of like a Black IPA to me. Its basically just taking an IPA recipe and getting it black while keeping the unfermentables and roast in check. Another thing to consider is how the hop or yeast flavors will work with the roast

@iijakii
that's why I cringe to call my favorite IPA recipe my house one. Same thing with the pale ale my buddies keep demanding I remake. But what else and I supposed to call it in reference to all my other recipes that I havent brewed +5 times?
 

TexasDroughtBrewery

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make a good "house beer", something reasonably basic and that you will improve over time.
For example i've adopted Deathbrewer's northern brewer/vienna smash as my house ale :p

then, next to that, experiment as much as you want, and cycle by seasons.
I always have aging beers going, like the west vleteren 12 clone from this site and generally a porter as well.
What hops do you use with your vienna smash?
 

Rhumbline

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A good way to get into some experimentations is to split a batch and use different yeast strains to get an idea of how they can effect the taste with everything else being equal.

I did a Saison like that and was pleasantly surprised by the difference. Both beers were good, but quite different.

Happy Brewing!
 

FatDragon

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I tried new stuff almost every brew day for my first two years. By the end of year two, I realized my beers were no better (and often even worse) than what I had been making when I just started. I'm trying to focus on a couple beers right now for, if not mastery, than consistent quality. The loss of variety is paying off with better beer. If you always follow established recipes or really have a knack for putting together a great recipe every time you brew, more power to you, but if you're just kind've stumbling around like I was, some focus will make a big positive difference.

I've been letting my weirdness out on other projects lately to keep the feeling of variety going. I've got two meads in the works, been fermenting hot sauce and sauerkraut, getting sausage making tools for Christmas, and cheese making is on the near horizon, but since beer is the central hobby for now I want to do it right so I'm trying to nail down a couple good beers before I start branching out too much again.
 

hikemor

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Over the short time I have been brewing, I have settled on house pale ale and english bitter recipes that I brew ½ to ⅔ of the time. These give me drinkable, inexpensive beers. The rest of the time, I experiment with other ale styles. Just finished drinking a batch of pale ale and started a batch of english bitter and have a batch of altbier in the fermenter. I’d like to add a brown ale to my rotation but have not had luck with brewing one I like a lot

My equipment is pretty basic so I stick to brewing simpler beers. If I want something more complex like a lager or high gravity beer, I can buy it from a store by someone that can do a better job than I can. Also, I’m not stuck with 2+ cases of something of which I will grow tired.
 

myerstyson

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I have 3 brews I keep improving. I call them my house beers. Then I brew others to try out and some others as seasonal.

I really like improving my house beers. My numbers can use work on some. I have one right where I want it and consistent (Pale Ale), another which I'm still going to experiment with (Kotbusser) and one just about there (London Porter).

If this Wee Heavy I just brewed tastes as good out of the bottle as it did on secondary day, that may be my all-around "winter warmer" every year. Holy **** was it yummy.
 

unionrdr

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I've been leaning towards the two bitters I've come to enjoy, now that I've tweaked them. The Cooper's English bitter with Munton's plain EL DME, & the Morebeer ESB kit. I like my PM Kottbusser as is, & the PM dampfbier is there too. We'll see how the mumme' goes for a gruit. APA's & IPA's are always good, even though I may change the hops used. Otherwise, the recipes stay virtually the same. :mug:
 

BrooklynTom

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As many here have said, there is no real answer. I like to try different styles. It has helped me find my taste. I have a house Belgium Pale Ale and a porter that are always in rotation. the other 2 kegs will have just about anything in them, from cider, hard root beer, Irish Red, stouts........and so on. I know I am late to the party, but, I am now getting into IPAs and will give some a shot next go around.
 

bassclefbrewing

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I would pick one to "perfect" but that doesn't mean you can't brew other beers while you are working on perfecting your recipe
 

whovous

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I think at least part of the answer is to maintain a critical view of whatever you brew. Too often, I see people saying versions of "I just made my first brew and it is better than anything anyone ever made before." With that kind of attitude, it does not matter if you make something different each time, or you always make the same thing, you are not going to get better.

I try to find things wrong with all that I brew, and to think of ways to do it better next time. I am focusing on a single style until I can no longer think of ways to improve it. Then again, I have a new style in the FC right now.
 

Terek

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I tend to stick to a few styles that i like, and brew them regularly. Then, hear and there, i will do something special. My 3 mains are an ipa, a rye ale, and a stout. Then every once in a while, i will do something different. Like this weekend, im gonna do a big pumkin ale, to age and be ready for next holiday season. In the spring, i will probably do a hefe, and a wheat something. But i tend to stick to the main 3. I have em down to a science, and i know what im gonna get every time i brew.
 

Terek

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I think at least part of the answer is to maintain a critical view of whatever you brew. Too often, I see people saying versions of "I just made my first brew and it is better than anything anyone ever made before." With that kind of attitude, it does not matter if you make something different each time, or you always make the same thing, you are not going to get better.

I try to find things wrong with all that I brew, and to think of ways to do it better next time. I am focusing on a single style until I can no longer think of ways to improve it. Then again, I have a new style in the FC right now.
this is so true. i have the complete opposite attitude. I search out the flaws. Everything can be improved apon, and i want to improve. My rye is one that i have tinkered with the most. it is a friend/family fav. and has won some competitions. My buddy came over the other night, and we cracked a few open. He was like "this round was awsome! best rye yet" all i said was "i taste too much grass.........next time, ill take a 1/4 oz out of the dry hop"
 

Gavin C

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Since starting homebrewing I've made lots of different styles.

I've made beers that I had never even heard of before I was a homebrewer. (That probably says more about my ignorance than anything else though.)

I think it's best to explore, at least in part, the vast array of beer styles available, broadening one's taste and knowledge horizons.

Variety encourages one to research styles, learning about different ingredients and brewing methods in the process. Putting theory into practice with recipe and process formulation is a lot of fun.

At the same time, each brew is a chance to refine our skills and brewing process and to try out new things. Keeps you eager for more brewing.

And never forget as I've recently learned.

"More Hops Better Good"
 

sputnam

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i started out brewing a different style each time i brewed. A year and 30 batches later I decided to perfect my favorites...I like that much better.
 

hotwatermusic

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You will probably answer that question on your own. There are benefits to both directions and as such you can keep that in mind as you develop your process.
I have a few beers I like and I try to brew when I get the itch. However, you also tend to stifle your ability to learn from your mistakes and problem solve when you don't introduce any new variables. You may learn a technique trying to brew an authentic Belgian beer that you will want to incorporate into that killer IPA you make. Brewing can be impossible to "get bored with" if you challenge yourself enough.
The flip side is that if you always make different recipes it becomes difficult to tell what changing one variable does for the finished product.
If you just want to always have beer on hand, the amount of cleaning and the attention to detail that is required just isn't worth it.
 

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