We love experimenting as much as possible. Especially if one of us comes up with a wild and wacky idea. In rare cases we’ve lucked out and nailed the recipe on the first batch, but more often then not we’ve found that the results are generally “good”, but need some tweaking here and there. These tweaks are usually made because it either doesn’t quite meet the vision we had in our head or it just didn’t go over well with others (we are trying to appeal to the masses after all). So here’s some quick pieces of advice that have worked well for us when perfecting our ever evolving line up.
Make one change at a time
This is probably one of the best pieces of advice we’ve received and was given to us by a friend and fellow club member. Whether it’s the combination of grains, hops, yeast, or even the temperatures used, all these factor into the resulting beer. It’s important to remember that there’s a lot of different things that happen on the chemical level when brewing beer. One small tweak to any one of those details could drastically change the overall flavor. Limiting your changes will help you get a better handle on what works and what doesn’t. It may take more time, but the results will be worth it.
Be a scientist
Even if you’re only making one tweak at a time, keep a journal of all of your brew days and approach your brewing scientifically. This is particularly important when a brew doesn’t go as planned and events transpire that may affect your beer. More often then not the results from these mishaps are not ideal, but on occasion they may be beneficial. Best to write it down so that it can be replicated in the future.
Get opinions from others…and not just the nerds
Even the sharpest palettes have short comings and while the more experienced home brewers may be able to pick out more subtleties then most, you may be surprised by the feedback from the casual beer drinker. Even the description of what their tasting can be much more informative since the language they use is often much less technical since they are less familiar with the brewing process. It also helps to gauge the accessibility of your beer, especially if you’re trying to nail down something more sessionable and easy to drink.
Use BJCP guidelines
Just because your beer may not fit into a BJCP category doesn’t mean it’s a bad beer, but if you are trying to dial in a particular style of beer then reading through the guidelines for that style could provide some clues as to what’s missing or needs adjustment. We’ve found the “Vital Statistics” section particularly useful when first designing a recipe. Sometimes the “Ingredients” section will even provide you with a shopping list if you want something more authentic.
Clone recipes are useful
Personally, we’ve never had much interest in cloning or brewing a clone recipe. That being said, if you really like a certain character of a commercial beer, they can provide good insight into achieving similar results. Finding a good clone recipe can also give you a good starting point to put your own spin on a recipe or may provide you with the last piece of the puzzle with a beer you’ve been developing.
Hope these help.