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The Art of Creating Recipes

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laiced

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First off, I am not 100% sure that this is the correct forum for this post, but I thought it fit.

Being a noob to the brewing community and craft, I would like to know what goes in to the thought process of creating a new recipe. I understand that a lot of it is experimentation (or will be on my part at least), but I was interested in how creating a beer recipe works, perhaps in relation to cooking. I consider myself an amateur foodie and I love to cook, experiment, and create new recipes/flavors - the difference being is that I usually know what flavors I am working with when I cook....so far, that is not the case with brewing.

Feel free to explain your thought/labor process, where your inspirations come from, and how you have come to know the different flavors associated with brewing.
 

o4_srt

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1. Purchase "designing great beers" by Ray Daniels. Read cover to cover.

2. Purchase/download brewing software

3. Pick a style, and formulate a starter recipe using brewing software

4. Brew said recipe, taking diligent notes

5. Drink and critique, also taking notes while critiquing

6. Tweak recipe and repeat step 4-6 until it's where you want it.

It may be helpful to brew small batches while formulating a recipe. Keeps the cost down.

To get a feel for the flavors, try eating some of the grain before you brew with it. Gives you a good idea of what flavors it lends to the final product.

Smell is the biggest factor with hops. Since smell and taste are dependent on one another, get a feel for the smell of different hop varieties.
 

weirdboy

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The difference is that you have a lifetime of experience developing an understanding of the flavors contributed by various foods and spices. You just need to sample the grains, smell the hops, etc. With yeast the only thing I know to do is try different yeast varieties on the same wort to see how it turns out. And then do the same thing again, only at different fermentation temperatures.

Just like with cooking different techniques have an impact on the final product. How long you boil, mash temperatures, fermentation temperature, etc. also have a huge effect on how your beer ends up. Doing some basic SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop) recipes where you vary only one or two factors at a time will really help you develop a sense of how those small changes can affect the final product.
 

Bmorebrew

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As a scientist, I like the advice given thus far. One key during experimentation is to change one variable and note the deltas as a result. For example, come up with a recipe that is right down the middle of the lane for a particular style. Pale ales tend to be easy for this. Brew it. Taste it. Take notes. Then brew it again, but this time change one thing. ONLY one thing! The hops maybe, or one of the grains, or the yeast. That is the benefit of doing smash recipes.

Changing yeast can be easy if you brew if you happen to have several Mr. Beer or similar small fermenters. For example, see if you can't do a big 5.5 or 6 gallon batch and then divide it into two or three separate batches and just pitch different yeast into each one.

Also, go pick yourself up a 12 pack of that new Sam Adams Deconstructed, it will give you a little idea about the five different hops they use.
 

scinerd3000

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Get yourself beer smith and use it to play around with different profiles for calculating your recipes. Also the malts chart on the home brew wiki is indispensable for learning as well and the BJCP style guidelines. Once I decide on a style based on the flavor profile im looking for, I will see what base grains are normally used and deviate accordingly from there. Keep records of what you do and tweak it as you go since award winning recipes don't usually happen the very first time brewing them (although it has happened). Taste and smell the grains your using for a general idea of flavor profiles as well as smelling the hops you will be using. Research and find out other people recipes and experiences to then use tword your own. Beer advocate magazine, Brew your own, Zymurgy magazine are all good basics for getting to know different styles, ingredients and methods...
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Malts_Chart
http://www.bjcp.org/docs/2008_Guidelines.pdf
 
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Yep, just like cooking, you need to develop knowledge of what each ingredient will do for a beer, how much you need, and how the flavors interact with each other.

I started with a bare bones simple pale ale that I liked. I then brewed that same recipe with one additional ingredient over and over again until I had sampled all the grains I was interested in. It took a long time, but the experience was fun and I'm a much better brewer now. I can still create a stinker, but the vast majority of my new recipes are very good beers because I can "taste" them in my head before I even put the grains in the crusher.

The biggest lesson I learned: Small changes make a big difference. Too little of something is generally a good beer that can be made better. Too much of something is generally a tough beer to finish.
 

ChshreCat

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When I cook something for the first time, I usually look up a bunch of recipes for the dish I want to make, see what's common among them (things that are basically required for the dish to be that dish) and what's unique to some of them (accent items that make them different from the basic version of that dish). Then when I cook, I don't refer to any of the recipes and just create my own using things I liked from what I'd read earlier.

When I create a beer recipe, it's something similar. I'll research recipes for the style I want and see what you pretty much have to have for it to fit that style and then decide on what I think of as the accent items to make my beer my beer. For instance, when I wanted to do my APA I'd read that Mighty Arrow uses honey malt and I really liked that beer so I decided to include honey malt in mine. Same with the Amarillo hops. Base malt and target OG and whatnot were taken from many of the recipes I'd read.

When I wanted to make my Double Chocolate Oatmeal Snout, I knew I wanted it to be very bitter with a lot of chocolate flavor. So, I researched dry stout recipes then added my chocolate and oatmeal to it.
 

jtakacs

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one of my favorite beers was a pure experiment to get a good feel for special b. i made an ESB with a single hop that i knew, neutral pale malt, neutral yeast and a 1/2 lb. of special b... it is very distinct... i love experimenting.
 

Yooper

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When I first started brewing, I found that one of the most intriguing parts was figuring out what I liked and why I liked it. For example, I loved cascade hops. Why? Well, they were citrusy and had a great aroma. But I didn't like fuggles hops. Becaused they tasted like soil ("earthy" is the word I've heard).

Then I noticed I liked beers that had Munich malt in them. I loved going to a homebrew store and just tasting some of the grains.

Once you know what you like, making recipes becomes easier.
 
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laiced

laiced

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This is all, as I am finding with most of my threads, incredibly useful information...thank you all and keep the info coming!

and a shameless plug for a time-sensitive question....

HERE
 

terrapinj

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aside from looking through the recipe database I also look up ingredients and clone recipes for commercial beers that I drink so I can get an idea of what they use that I may or may not like
 

bruin_ale

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exactly what ChsrCat said.. if I'm brewing a new style, I'll take a sample of about 5-10 recipes and see what's common (types of hops, different yeast choices, commonality in specialty grains, etc). Then use that information to formulate my own based on what I'm going for.
 

DregAddict

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Brewing software is really valuable in creating recipes. I use beersmith. It allows me to select a style, then it gives the general malts and hops in the style, as well as a range of original gravity, IBUs, and color to shoot for.

Also, it's no use trying to make a certain style if you don't know how it should taste, so make sure you taste good commercial examples of styles you are attempting.

Finally, the best thing about beer styles is they really mean nothing and are completely arbitrary, so you don't have to stick within their parameters.
 

cheschire

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My biggest lesson is (just like cooking), Less is more. At first I was adding pounds of different malts and half pounds of others and it tasted like fermented syrup. Dont throw 5 or 6 different grains all in one pot
 
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