Craft The Perfect Draft - Going From Mash To Glass

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I never know what's going to trigger it next, getting a new piece of brewing hardware, an article or chapter in a book I read somewhere or possibly over a few beers shared with friends or maybe even a change in the weather, but some subconscious event manages to let me know which style of beer to brew next and how to go about brewing it the best way. Call it inspiration or intuition but once a decision's been made it's off to learn as much as possible about the origins of the beer style, who is currently brewing the best example of it today and what it'll take for my beer to finish as close to the style as possible.
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A stop at the BJCP Style Guidelines website provides the official descriptions of all the major beer styles including their color, flavor and style related characteristics and some insight into the beer's origins. Of course brewing exactly to any beer style doesn't begin and end with just creating a great recipe, although it's pretty important to have one, it also takes a lot of thought and planning around the entire brewing process used. Experienced brewers know how important each individual step in the brewing process is when brewing a great tasting beer and how the outcome of one step can affect the outcome of all the steps that follow.
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Reading between the lines of the BJCP style descriptions and comparing them to the well known descriptions of malted, unmalted, specialty grains and hops you can pretty much determine what you'll need to add to the kettle. Even the yeast selection is pretty straightforward because companies like White Labs, East Coast Yeast and Wyeast all offer strains of yeast that have been specifically cultured to ferment nearly every known style of beer. Of course in order to coax the best color and flavors from the combination of grain, yeast and hops taking a closer look at the beer style's geographical origin will provide clues about the most suitable brewing water profile to use in the mash and kettle.
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When it comes to brewing water it's no longer a secret just how important a beer style's brewing water profile is when it comes to producing a really outstanding beer. Today information on brewing water chemistry has never been more reliable, readily available or easier to use in our beer than at any other time in brewing history. Once out of the fermentor the beer is ready for packaging and whether its force carbonated or naturally carbonated the level of carbonation in the beer has to be within the guidelines of the style of beer. Conditioning and storage of the beer are also important steps in the process, they allow the beer to develop and retain its peak flavors and characteristics.
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Then there's the non-glamorous side of brewing, the part of brewing that doesn't get a lot of press, much attention on the forums, or in books or publications. It's safe to say that brewers actually spend more time cleaning and maintaining their brewing gear than they do brewing beer. From mash tuns to kettles, to fermentors, kegs and bottles, keeping things squeaky clean and in good working order for the next brewday is also part of the brewing process. Brewing a great tasting beer involves a lot more than just the hours spent on brewday because they really are only a percentage of the overall time it takes a beer going from mash to glass.
Vince Feminella [aka: ScrewyBrewer]
www.thescrewybrewer.com
[email protected]
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h-bar

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That one picture looks like gen chem notes! Were you taking a class? As a chemistry PhD student, it grabbed my attention :)
I too tend to get totally engrossed in the details of a certain beer style before I attempt it. I'll read articles and old HBT threads until I'm confident enough to brew the style I have in mind.
 

ScrewyBrewer

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@h-bar great question the page of notes were just one of many that I created while learning the finer points of water properties. It was a subject that I put off learning about for a very long time, in fact if I hadn't moved and lost my brew room for nine months I may never had taken the time to learn about it at all.
Today I can honestly say that brewing beer using modified brewing water has made the single largest impact on the quality of the beer I brew. It wasn't too long ago when I read a post from a brewer saying how he stripped down his brewing water using an RO filter and then rebuilt it from scratch before using it to brew. At the time I had convinced myself that I had no interest at all in adding so much additional work to my brewday. Little did I know then that my thinking would soon change, now I rebuild my brewing water for every beer I brew and love it.
 
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