Creating a Recipe and Developing a Beer Palate

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jkmcd3

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What's Up Everybody,

So I have been brewing for a while now (almost 7 years). I started all grain brewing maybe a year ago. There for a while it was just something to do, a hobby. Though since I started all grain brewing I feel its more than that now. I really want to understand all the ins and outs of... well... all of it. And I am sure most of you know that it can be pretty over whelming!

I have not yet gotten to the point of creating my own recipes, not sure why, maybe a little intimated by it still? I am sure that I am capable. I have plenty of books and of course this forum that I can use to help. I guess all this to ask:

What helped each of you understand what flavor profiles all the different malts, hops and yeasts offers?

For instance: Lately I have been splitting my 5 gallon recipe into two 2.5 gallon recipes and then pitching different yeasts. This has been fun and helps me understand the different profiles and flavors that different yeast strands can bring.

I thought about buying a bunch of different malts and just boiling them up like a tea and then tasting them with no hop or yeast additions to get an idea of flavor profile?

I read a very neat article about brewing a light body beer and then doing a single hop for all three additions to get an idea of flavor and nose from a single hop profile.

Not sure if all this just confuses people more or if it has the potential to be helpful?

Does anyone have any insight how they grew their beer palate to get a taste for different malt and hop profiles for some of us wanting to understand how it all comes together better?

Not sure if this posted in the right section?

Thanks in advance.

John
 
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I don't consider myself an expert at recipes -- far from it -- but I think it's really important to know what each ingredient tastes like and be able to detect at least some of them in your beer. Then you know you really like/dislike certain elements and that will help you make a recipe you enjoy.

Perhaps an easier way to start out is find a recipe you like and give everything a taste before you put it into production, so each grain before it goes into the mill and give each hop variety a good whiff. Then try to detect those same flavors/aromas in the finished product. Then figure out what you think the recipe needs more or less of or what additional ingredients could make it better. You don't always need to reinvent the wheel.
 

duboman

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I too am not an expert in recipe design but am going through the same learning process. I have found the book "Designing Great Beers" by Ray Daniels to be a great help as well as reading and referencing the BJCP style guidelines.

When I find a beer I am interested in brewing i usually try to find a commercial example of said beer and sample it and make notes on what I detect in flavor, aroma, bitterness, etc.

I have also spent time at my LHBS, I know the General Manager and he has kindly let me chew on some grains from time to time to get a feel for the flavors of different types of grain. For hops I find that if you get whole leaf you can crush one up in your palms and really get a sense of its attributes.

You can also brew a SMaSH-single malt and single hop style beer. This helps isolate one variety of malt and hop and really lets you taste the flavors of just those ingredients. I have tried this with a few different varieties but only in very small batches, like 1 gallon.

Also read as many reviews as you can that define a beer. It is a very long learning process because of the myriad of ingredients there are to choose from. I find that taking good, detailed notes on each of my beers is important and each time I go to brew the same beer again I try to tweak just one element of the grain bill or hop addition to get closer to what I want.
 

Wicked Daddy

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As Duboman stated, a SMaSH brew will help you with understanding a very simple recipe and then you can build on it. When I first started all grain brewing, I brewed an all 2 row pale and cascade hop batch with just one ounce of cascade at 60 minutes and a basic yeast, WL001. That beer was so good. From there, I reduced the pale malt by a pound and added some Crystal 30L. Later I did different hops and other different grains. To be honest, the original SmaSh is still a favorite. Sometimes less is more.

I also love to experiment. I know that the average grain bill for a beer in a medium gravity range is going to be around 22 lbs (I brew 10 gal. batches now). I'll dream up a mix of grains and hops and yeast, use basic mashing temps (152 -155 seems to work well most of the time). I pitch bittering hops early in the boil, aroma hops later, etc. I've taken a liking to pitching 2 or 3 different yeasts that I'll combine in a single starter (big flask) get different fruit esters, dryness or attenuation character. I approach these recipes without knowing what the real end result will be but I write everything down and take my gravity measurements throughout the process so I can monitor outcomes. A couple have turned out less than spectacular but drinkable nonetheless. Quite a few have turned out amazing. I say take the leap and take good notes so you can replicate the good ones and review what may have gone wrong in the "bad" ones.

As far as training your palate... my sister and brother-in-law are both well known chefs and they both taught me a neat and fun way to train your sense of smell and taste. First, write down all the flavors and scents that are often described in beer. Stick with the high level basics; bread, coffee, chocolate, nuts, corn, citrus-grapefruit, green apple, banana, also fresh grass, pine nuts, pine needles, roses and other flowers, etc. These represent the basics of the tastes and aromas you'll encounter. buy a small amount of these items, or acquire them somehow and put them into separate cups. Then blinfold yourself (or close your eyes) as someone hands them to you for smell testing. Get really good at recognizing them. Then mix them, first in twos and then more so as to challenge yourself to identify the different smells when they are combined. The trick to fully using your nose to identify aromas is to keep your mouth open slightly while you breathe in through your nose. Don't sniff but breathe in slowly but deeply so the scents can fully stimulate the nerves. Taste buds are olfactory as well and stimulate the same area of the brain. This is why you keep you mouth open. If you can train your nose, your taste will follow.

My wife and I have had alot of fun doing this and we still practice at it. It makes the beer drinking experience and the brewing experience that much better.
 

ChemE

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+1 on Designing Great Beers and +1 on SMaSHes. Some of the best beers I've produced have been smashes :) Speaking of which, I really need to bottle my Munich/Saaz SMaSH!
 

archer75

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Playing around in beersmith has helped me understand things. Along with their blog and tweets and podcast it has helped a lot. And I have a bunch of emails I've sent myself at work on hops, grains and yeast and when things are slow I study them. I also get zymurgy and brew your own magazines.
 

grndslm

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There is only one way to "develop a beer palate", IMHO.... and that way is to be scientific.

Only change one thing in your recipe from batch to batch, and that one thing is... HOPS!!!

My friend and I are using the same 6-lbs light LME, the same US-05 yeast, and even the same amount of hops in each 5-gallon batch we brew. The only thing that changes is the type of hops.

Our last 3 batches, picked by my buddy, were (2 oz) Liberty, (2 oz) Hallertau, (2 oz) Northern Brewer.

Our current 3 batches, picked by myself, are (2 oz) Amarillo, (2 oz) Zythos, (2 oz) Cascade.

I have decided that our next 3 batches will be based off of Rogue's Brutal IPA, but with a little more science than previous batches..... (6 oz) Crystal w/ US-05 yeast, (6 oz) Crystal w/ Pacman yeast, (6 oz) Crystal w/Pacman yeast and dry-hopping???

Then after that, we'll likely try to figure out a way for cheap temperature regulation to get the Pacman yeast at their optimum 62 degree temps...

A good palate is all about relativity. And the more changes you make, the less relative your experience and understanding can possibly be.
 

Voodoo_Child

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Great advise all around. Another thing that has helped me as far as hops is to look up recipes of commercial beer I'm drinking. I look at the hops and say "ok, it has the bittering of blank, the flavor of blank and the aroma of blank.

I did this with Flying Dog's Snake Dog IPA and now I know it's most likely bittered with warrior at 60 and 30, and the rest is Columbus.
 
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