Thursday, November 3, 2011

Designing A Beer

As a novice brewer with limited capital to invest in this hobby I haven't bought every book in the beer making library. I do not have a copy of "Designing Great Beer". I can however offer eight months of wisdom, common sense, and Hollywood catch phrases.

"If you build(brew) it, they will come." - Mysterious Corn Field, Field of Dreams. Almost with out fail my friends will tell me I've made a great beer and gladly drink the free beer while we sit and watch movies, talk, or watch sports. If I grill and give them free beer they'll tell me I should be a professional brewer. Good friends make bad judges, but good drinking buddies. The moral here is to worry less and have fun more; if you brew it your friends will drink it.

My first step in making a beer is to decide on a style. Having a style can be a good guide in selecting malts, yeasts, and hops. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) has defined style guidelines that can be helpful to follow in designing a beer. I take this guide line and compare it with other sources including Brewing Classic Styles, Zymurgy Magazine, and BYO Magazine. Special mention here goes to BYO's web page, as they offer several style guides and recipes. With ideas about the style, and the help of a few recipes, I take my personal experience a long time beer drinker(7 years) and formulate a basic recipe. I proof this recipe against available literature. Fine tuning is done after I bounce the recipe off of the brew boards at beer advocate.

(read more after the break)

To help others through this I'll run you through the first recipe I created for my all citra IPA. I created this recipe in Beersmith v1.4.

I started by setting a new recipe up in beer smith and setting it to the correct style, American IPA.

The BJCP statistics for this beer are:
OG: 1.056-1.072
FG: 1.010-1.018
IBU: 40-75
SRM: 6-15

This gave me a good guide for just how much hops I should be adding to my beer and what amount of pre-post fermentation sugars there should be.

Vinnie from Russian River(Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Blind Pig IPA) has a free article from Zymurgy detailing how to make a double IPA that has some great tips. He suggest a clean yeast like the Chico strain, and a simple malt bill of caramel malt, cara-pils, and 2 row pale malt. This is consistent with some of his other writings where he suggest that no more than 5% of a malt bill be caramel malt.

So I know my recipe should contain no more then 5% caramel malt; I'll pick 40L because it's a middle of the road example. I'll match that with cara-pils for some head/body. The remainder is 2-row pale malt, I prefer Briess 2 row organic.

11.5# 90% 2-row Pale Ale Malt
10 oz 5% Caramel Malt 40L
10 oz 5% Cara-pils

There are a variety of hopping techniques that you can use: first wort hopping, early hoping, continuous hopping, hop bursting, and so on. I chose to hop burst my IPA based on the demands of my target audience with a dry hop as well. Jamil Zainasheff outlines hop bursting wonderfully in his article about late hopping. (also free from zymurgy) So knowing I wanted to use Citra hops in a single hop brew gave me the nail, and having decided on a rough technique after reading that article gave me the hammer. I put them together to make a hop schedule which worked for me.

.25 oz 8.5 IBU @ 60min
2.0 oz 33.8 IBU @ 15 min
2.5 oz 25.1 IBU @ 7 min
1.25 oz 0.0 IBU @ Flame Out
1.0 oz 0.0 IBU @ Dry Hop

Flame out and dry hop additions don't yield a calculable IBU because the calculations fall to zero when the time is zero; they definitely impart flavor, aroma, and possibly some bitterness (I feel another experiment coming on). You can see the full recipe here.

With the hops, and grain bill selected I designed the beer in beersmith to be higher in alcohol, and rich in flavor. I gave a touch of extra room for user error in the mash by calculating my mash efficiency @ 65% in case I failed to mash correctly and didn't get the extraction I needed.

I wanted to have a beer with medium body so I let beer smith handle the calculations and I made a beer using the software. Since that time I've learned more about mouth feel and finishing gravity but I'll leave that up to the experts to quantify.

My Process Summed Up:
Create a concept, theme, or ingredients.
Find out more about the style, and find recipes 
Try beers, identify things you like and don't like; keep notes
Make a Recipe, bounce it off your friends
Brew! If you've sanitized well you'll make a drinkable beer
Take notes on your beers, learn from them.

There you have it. My novice process for designing recipes is by no means a end all be all for recipe design. Experienced home brewers can and have written books on the topic and I'm just trying to help my friends.

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