Brewing to Style vs. Extreme

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Pschof

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So what is the general feeling on this board about brewing to style vs. doing DogFish Head-style crazy experimentation? I suppose one question is what people are actually trying to do with their brewing hobby and why (replicate/tweak beers vs. discovering something new). But another is just how often people are happy with what they get when they throw together ingredients without quite knowing how it will taste ahead of time.
 

flyangler18

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I enjoy experimentation and maverick brewing though I typically brew to style; however I always ask one thing: if you aren't brewing a specific beer to style, don't call it that style. That only manages to confuse the drinker.

If you hand me one of your creations and say it is an ordinary bitter, I'm already preparing a mental checklist of attributes to measure it against. If it's dramatically different from that checklist, I'll be dismayed and it won't fare well in my analysis, while it may be a tasty beer.

To relate an anecdote: I judged American Light Lager recently at a competition. One of the judges raved about how this one particular entry had lots of prominent malt and hop character - pretty much the antithesis of 1A. How do you think it fared?
 

Stoopidwon

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As of right now I just brew what I know I'll drink. I'm not ready to brew 5 gallons of something I'm not sure I wanna drink....I will probably brew 2.5 gallons of anything that I just wanna try.
 
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Pschof

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How often do people like whatever it is that they concoct when they get creative? My experience is that I tend to like beer and beer-related drinks. So it is pretty hard to disappoint me.
 

corvax13

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I recently started brewing small 1g batches just for this purpose - taking left over ingredients from a couple brews, adding in some experimental stuff. So far so good.
 

Tonedef131

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I look at styles as the proven methods and ingredients that work together. This is a great way to learn what works, what doesn't, and why. People should go through and brew the styles, this will teach them the basics then they can build on it or off of it to come up with their own crazy ideas.

Brewing crazy is the spirit of homebrewing to me, but the people who do it the best are the ones who took the time to master the styles first. It's like in French cooking you have to master the mother sauces before you can create your own unique dishes.
 

Windigstadt

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I'm fairly new to these boards, so I can't really speak for anybody else, but I'll offer these two thoughts. The first is obvious: brew what you like. Brewing crazy beers can be fun and challenging, and I applaud those who are up for experimenting if that's what they want to drink. I also think there's something to be said for brewing things you can't pick up at your neighborhood liquor store; hell, that's what got me into brewing. However, my second thought is this: brewing to style can be an excellent learning tool. Shooting for a known target allows you to best evaluate your brewing skills and will allow you to better formulate recipes when you do decide to brew something crazy. Remember that Picasso painted some incredible "conventional" paintings when he was younger; it's not like he just started painting crazy cubist stuff the moment he first picked up a paint brush. So do whatever floats your boat, but I think that brewing to style from time to time will improve both your technique and your recipe formation.
 

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I look at styles as the proven methods and ingredients that work together. This is a great way to learn what works, what doesn't, and why. People should go through and brew the styles, this will teach them the basics then they can build on it or off of it to come up with their own crazy ideas.

Brewing crazy is the spirit of homebrewing to me, but the people who do it the best are the ones who took the time to master the styles first. It's like in French cooking you have to master the mother sauces before you can create your own unique dishes.
That's how I am. I'm still learning to brew all of the styles, and figuring out what I like or dislike in each style. I'm not a total style nazi, but I do brew pretty close to style. If not, it's still a recognized style, but maybe with my own touch. Like, an "Imperial Amber"- an amber, just bigger and hoppier.

I'm not experienced enough yet to go hog wild and just throw stuff in a brew. I have a friend who does- she will use heather tips, candi sugar, molasses, etc, for lots of brews. She loves to experiment. I hate her beers, and think at best that they're weird, so she's not really influencing me to follow that path!
 

Revvy

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How often do people like whatever it is that they concoct when they get creative? My experience is that I tend to like beer and beer-related drinks. So it is pretty hard to disappoint me.
Good question.

My take on this is that there is a difference between true experimentation and throwing things together "willy nilly." I have noticed on here is that a lot of noobs think what they are doing is experimentation, when in reality they are just throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and hoping it sticks.

Throwing a bunch of stuff in your fermenter and seeing what you get at the end, and ending up making an "is my beer ruined" thread is not the same thing as experimenting.

To me, in order to experiment truly, you have to have an understanding of the fundamentals. You have to know how the process works somewhat. You have to have an understanding of how different ingredients or processes affect the final product. You may even need to know, or at least understand something about beer styles, and what goes into making one beer a Porter and another a pale ale. And where your concoction will fall on the continuoum.

To me it's like cooking or even Jazz. But going back to the cooking analogy. Coming up with a balanced and tasty recipe takes some understanding of things...just like cooking...dumping a cup of salt will more than likely ruin a recipe...so if you cook, you KNOW not to do that...it's the same with brewing...you get an idea with experience and looking at recipes, brewing and playing with software how things work..what flavors work with each other, etc...

I brew other people recipes, I try to create "to style" recipes but I also like to play around, like a Sam Calagone or something. Usually these are done as 2.5 gallon rather than 5 gallon beers.

I have two recipes that I have been experimenting with for years. One is the Ginger Orange Dortmunder that I have talked about, on here. Every spring I try to brew this for summer, and I try different things, I still haven't nailed getting the taste of orange to stay in the forefront while at the same time getting the ginger bite and even a hint of clove. SO each year I tweak. In fact this year's batch was so bad that I didn't share it with anyone and am still choling the bottles down.

The other tweaking recipe I have been playing with is a "Chocolate Mole Porter" This year it won honorable mention in one contest, and great comments by the judges in another. I use my own blend of Chili powder, mexican hot chocolate disks and cayenne pepper. Although it did OK, it's still not where I want it. So having played with it a bit more I know what I need to try next....Basically upping the chocolate this time.

My brown ale in my pull down is a "done" recipe to style, BUT having nailed the base beer, if you look at the thread I also have played with it a bit...adding some smoked grains, and even racking over bourbon soaked oak chips, BUT the base recipe, as is, is Great, and a lot of folks have brewed it and agreed. So this one is really like a Jazz solo within an existing composition. I can get a little funky or creative with some of the elements of it, but I can also return to the fundamental underlying theme of it.

That to me is the essence of creating...I have gotten to a point where I understand what I am doing, I get how ingredients work or don't work with each other, so I am not just throwing a bunch of stuff together to see what I get.

I have an idea of what I want it to taste like, and my challenge then is to get the right combination of ingredients to match what is in my head. That's also pretty much how I come up with new food recipes as well.

:mug:
 

david_42

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When I brew a style, I brew to style. If it's not to any style, I'll give the derivation. I would never hand someone a pint of Stiffy and call it an IPA or a Scottish Ale. It's the bastard offspring of both. Bend Rod Rye is another example. It's derivative from Hop Rod Rye, a rye IPA. The gravity is lower and the bittering higher than most Pales, but it has more hop flavor/aroma than a Ordinary Bitter.
 

schristian619

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I think it depends on what your goals are as a brewer/homebrewer. If you are simply looking to make beer, thats easy. For me, I beleieve the best way to learn about the process and what works together is to brew to style. Most of my beers are to style, although i do have a couple of "experimental" beers. I brew every other weekend and every other brew day or so, I pick a new style (running out of new ale styles now though). I research the style and make my own recipies for every new style. I compare them to some commercial examples if availble and see how on point mine turned out. Some of my best beers to date were styles I had never even tasted before (kolsch and dunkelweizen). My next adventure will be a doppelbock (new style for me and my first lager).
 

chucke

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Style vss extreme??
A little of both; but mostly somewhere in between.
There’s a Chocolate Banana Weizenbock (reinheitsgebot) bubbling away not too far away.
 

dfohio

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I look at styles as the proven methods and ingredients that work together. This is a great way to learn what works, what doesn't, and why. People should go through and brew the styles, this will teach them the basics then they can build on it or off of it to come up with their own crazy ideas.

Brewing crazy is the spirit of homebrewing to me, but the people who do it the best are the ones who took the time to master the styles first. It's like in French cooking you have to master the mother sauces before you can create your own unique dishes.
I totally agree with this statement.

I think it is perfectly fine to brew extreme. However, I think its even more impressive to pick a brand of beer that exemplifies a style, taste the beer and then use your knowledge of brewing that style to clone that beer.

That is my ultimate goal.

If you can do this, then you could likely visualize how an extreme beer might taste and then keep tweaking until it's perfect.
 

northernlad

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Since you brought up DFH, I must say the first time I had 90min IPA I did not care for it at all. The second time I had it I got it.
I am still working through understanding brewing to style, but my intent is to challenge myself and other people with beer.
To style: Yes
Extreme: YES
 

CGengo

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Personally, I don't have the experience to brew off-style or at least not off-recipe. When I can brew with relatively consistent quality and have most of the styles that I enjoy under my belt then I'll start playing around with the recipes. That said, I agree with Revvy and my idea of creating a unique beer is taking a great base recipe and adding an accent (like chocolate, vanilla, coffee, smoke, wood, fruit, etc.) as opposed to starting from scratch.
 

Baldy_Beer_Brewery

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If brewing to style and entering competitions is your thing, right on.

But for me, I care about brewing to style just slightly more than I do about Reinheitsgebot. And that ain't much.
 
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Pschof

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I've done maybe a dozen beers. Maybe half were done by following a recipe. Most of the rest by adjusting things in a recipe (adding Munich malt to make it more toasty, adding grain/extract to increase the abv, etc). In a couple of cases, I just sort of imagined something that I would like to try, and then poked around on the board here to try to figure out how to achieve it. In those cases, I basically made up my own recipe, did some guess work, made various mistakes, and then observed the outcomes.

I have to say, I learned a lot by doing the last thing. While following recipes and brewing to style has produced, for me, quality beer, there is some sense in which I don't understand why it turned out the way it did. Of course, I can read books about these things, and learn why the stout I brewed tastes so good. But my day job consists of a lot of reading and systematic meticulous thought. So I've sort of enjoyed learning about beer piecemeal--- beginning with a vague idea of what I want, wondering what will happen if I throw some ingredients together, and then trying to figure out what, if anything, is wrong with how I am going about it.

Not that this is the "right way." It just seems like many here were arguing that learning usually occurs best when brewing carefully to style or whatever.
 

pjj2ba

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Another vote for "Yes". I brew mostly to style, maybe 2 "big" beers a year, and then several off-the-wall beers each year. EVERY beer is an experiment though, some just more risky than others.

I do at least one brew per year using bread for half the fermentables - I'm slowly working on perfecting this recipe, like Revvy and his orange ginger beer.

Lately I've been messing with deep frying or sauteeing hops, in conjuction with 20 min. boils (for AG brews). I recently made a beer where I did the sparge AFTER the boil - ALL of the grain was boiled.
 

Revvy

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Another vote for "Yes". I brew mostly to style, maybe 2 "big" beers a year, and then several off-the-wall beers each year. EVERY beer is an experiment though, some just more risky than others.

I do at least one brew per year using bread for half the fermentables - I'm slowly working on perfecting this recipe, like Revvy and his orange ginger beer.

Lately I've been messing with deep frying or sauteeing hops, in conjuction with 20 min. boils (for AG brews). I recently made a beer where I did the sparge AFTER the boil - ALL of the grain was boiled.
I'll trade you beers to perfect....I'm kinda getting tired of striking out on getting the orange the way I want....:D

For the next batch I'm going to try infusing a few ounces of lactose with orange peel...
 

pjj2ba

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Zoebisch (hasn't posted in a while) is working on a CreamsicALE that has a nice orange flavor to it. He said he saves and dries up the peels from a whole bunch of Clemantines and uses that. I think I may still have one bottle around that is probably 8 mo. old. I'll have to chill it down and see how it has aged.
 

Revvy

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Zoebisch (hasn't posted in a while) is working on a CreamsicALE that has a nice orange flavor to it. He said he saves and dries up the peels from a whole bunch of Clemantines and uses that. I think I may still have one bottle around that is probably 8 mo. old. I'll have to chill it down and see how it has aged.
I did the clementines and other orange peels on a couple batches, I did a mixture of the dried sweet and bitter from the lhbs on the last batch.
 

MultumInParvo

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I don't think I have brewed a beer to style yet. I just get too tempted to add something else in. Sometimes its just more grain, or hops, other times its left over oats. I would need more self control than I currently have to actually brew to a specif style. They're really just guidelines anyways, right?
 

JeremyCT

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I'm pretty much only interested in making weird wines. I picked a few pounds of dates yesterday, and am looking forward to making wine from them. I like the idea of turning the plants growing near my house into tasty booze.

I know darn well I'm not going to make a pinot noir anywhere near the level I could get for a few bucks around the block. Having that knowledge in my head takes away some of the fun for me.


Beer though;
Stouts are sounding pretty damn romantic and enticing to me, so I think I may start one soon. It'd be my first shot at a beer. I'd still have a hard time sticking straight to the recipe though. I just like weird too much.
 

GilaMinumBeer

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I rarely brew to the guidelines. And 5 gallons of experimentals is hard to swallow sometimes. so, I usually do 1 gallon of those to prove the recipe.
 

GuitarBob

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Anyone got any extreme recipes? I'm really interested in hopless brewing and I think I might try that for my next beer.
 
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