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Do you brew 'by default' or 'on purpose'

After watching numerous YouTube videos and many real life demonstrations of all-grain brewing, it seems there’s two crowds of brewers, those who ‘brew by default’ and those who ‘brew on purpose’.

The default crowd seems to go through the steps or follow the directions without knowing the how or why and without measuring. Whatever happens, happens. They don’t try to influence the brew in any way.

The on purpose crowd seems to put effort into influencing their brew with water manipulation, detailed sparge calculations, yeast starters, etc…

Is one way right or wrong, probably not. Does one produce better beer than the other? Sometimes maybe…

Are you a ‘default’ brewer or an ‘on purpose’ brewer?

I’m definitely ‘on purpose’, measuring and planning to the smallest detail.

on purpose. that way i know exactly what i’m doing, and can more easily re-create a great brew. It also lets me trace any mistakes i may make.

I dont think anyone can argue that the “on purpose” brewer makes better beer - certainly more consistently.

I’ll argue that there are to many variables and in no way can you precisely measure everything. So everyone is brewing “by default”.

I started as an on purpose brewer, and as I honed my technique I slowly became a default brewer. I think I learned the “range of adequacy” when I was purposeful, and now I default within that range. I still measure hops, grain, and water, but I’m not very precise about minutes or additions, and don’t measure pH or anything along the way. I haven’t kept notes in a very long time.

This is sort of the way I learned to cook and grill. When I first started cooking as a kid I would carefully measure teaspoons and tablespoons, but now I pretty much know how much of what tastes good. When I first started grilling, I had grill thermometers and probe thermometers at the ready, but now I know what appropriately cooked meat looks and feels like.

I research each batch for weeks to dial in everything just the way I want it, then go on autopilot during the brew day.

+1 to this

I do the same thing and it is maddening the amount of time I will spend researching recipes and such. I am still a new brewer so it is a lot of figuring out amounts of adjuncts and what grains need to be mashed versus steeped.

I brew with a purpose since I want to create my own recipes that I can brew multiple times.

I kinda like the fact that each and every batch is unique. I’m still on the lower-end of the learning curve; I try to be purposeful, but not anal. If I need 0.5oz of hops and have a 1oz sack, well “that looks like half” My wife and I brew together, and we want it to be fun.

My wife used to work for a major pharmaceutical company where she produced drugs through a very similar process to brewing. (more like distilling really) SHE knows how to produce from stacks of procedures using incredibly precise measurements, while collecting samples at every step of the process and ensuring quality and consistency. That’s purely applied science.

My grandmother, was an amazing cook. People say Irish Cuisine is a contradiction of terms; but you’ve never eaten her roasted leg-of-lamb and potatoes. It would make you want to eat until you burst; you would weep with gluttonous joy. Then she’d pull out a homemade pie, and you knew you had to find room somewhere for that too. She never had a recipe for any of it; Her amazing food passed from this world when she did. That was pure art.

I’m an engineer by profession. What I’ve come to learn, is that pure science is too sterile; pure art is too inconsistent. The greatest achievements of man happen when the art is perfectly blended with the science. So it should be with homebrew. Brewing great beer needs many of the aspects of pharmaceutical production AND awesome cooking technique.

And seriously, if your not involved in the grain farming, can you REALLY ensure the consistency of your grain down to the point where measuring to the ounce is worthwhile?

[quote=“JMcK”]Brewing great beer needs many of the aspects of pharmaceutical production AND awesome cooking technique.[/quote]+1 As a former chef and current chemical engineer, applying both disciplines to making beer not only makes me happy while doing so but also makes a quality product.

+1.060!

I try and measure everything and take notes…i look at it like brewing on purpose is the science side of brewing and brewing by default is the art side…so i try and mix the two.

+1.060![/quote]

You’re close to understanding me.

Denny, your BVIP recipe has changed many times, even in the large BVIP thread on this forum there’s at least 2 or 3 variations. Why do you change your recipe? Taste, flavor, water, etc… This must mean that you brew on purpose.

If you were brewing by default you would just be going through the motions and hoping that it turned out the way you intended each time you brewed it.

Brewing by default = hoping that it works; hoping to brew what you intend
Brewing on purpose = tasting, measuring, adjusting and knowing that you will brew what you intend

Brewing by default isn’t just art.
Brewing on purpose isn’t just science.

Brewing by default is just plain ignorant perhaps lazy but never stupid.
Brewing on purpose is both art and science.

Brewing on purpose is both art and science.[/quote]

Art is the expression of creativity and imagination…science is a systematic study of general laws…so i quess you are right

[quote=“PupThePup”]Brewing by default is just plain stupid/lazy (that may be harsh and overstated but I’ll leave it for now).[/quote]Not “may be” but is - buying a prepared kit and simply following the directions to make beer is an example of default, but it’s not stupid or lazy, it’s how a large percentage of brewers start out.

I’m pretty sure “stupid” and “lazy” are terms that never describe going through all the trouble it takes to make your own beer when you could easily just grab a sixer at the corner store.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t very dedicated brewers who put enormously more care and effort into their beer than a kit-only stovetop extract brewer does. But rating the effort involved on a 100 point scale, we’re talking about the difference between 80 and 95 here. . . “stupid and lazy” would be all the stuff in the sub-10 range: guzzling beer while watching mindless TV, guzzling beer while playing video games, guzzling beer while farting around on the Internet, and all the other things I like to do when I’m not brewing.

Sorry for hijacking the thread with the Art v. Science debate; I think I follow where you’re going now…

Based on those descriptions the “default brewer” is a “shut up and do what you’re told” recipe follower. Art and science are delegated to the recipe writer or kit bundler. So I think I’m with you there, but “hoping that it works; hoping to brew what you intend” may be overstating it. Unless you’re going to shadow an experienced brewer in person, this is the BEST place to start learning. Master the technique first, then learn to freestyle. Hopefully the people who do this are in the learning mode. Then again, I know many people who are satisfied to follow their dinner recipes, so conceivably there should be many brewers happy at this point.

The on “purpose brewers” are definitely more advanced, and more educated in their craft. So they’re definitely taking control of the science, and hopefully exhibiting some art.

Maybe these are not really two different approaches to brewing as much as two different skill levels.

In the OP though you mention “measuring and planning to the smallest detail” and associated it with being an “on purpose” brewer, and that got me thinking about the all science and no art mentality.

So maybe the discussion is, as one becomes advanced, does their approach lean toward art or science? I think precision brewers can make consistently mediocre beer, (Bud.) But artists can be hit or miss.

I don’t get the distinction and perhaps I am being overly sensitive but there seems to be an implied judgment in the question. I am a very meticulous brewer, and work to execute recipes to the best of my abilities. I don’t care to invent my own recipes or experiment. There are so many good recipes out there (thanks Denny!) I don’t feel the need to create my own. More power to those who do! I am much the same in my cooking and I am considered by many to be an excellent cook.

Perhaps the difference is that between a craftsman and an artist. I consider myself the former and don’t consider my beer to be somehow lesser because I didn’t concoct the recipe. Is a ballerina’s performance somehow to be less valued because she didn’t choreograph the steps?

[quote=“Jeff4Amnesty”]I don’t get the distinction and perhaps I am being overly sensitive but there seems to be an implied judgment in the question. I am a very meticulous brewer, and work to execute recipes to the best of my abilities. I don’t care to invent my own recipes or experiment. There are so many good recipes out there (thanks Denny!) I don’t feel the need to create my own. More power to those who do! I am much the same in my cooking and I am considered by many to be an excellent cook.

Perhaps the difference is that between a craftsman and an artist. I consider myself the former and don’t consider my beer to be somehow lesser because I didn’t concoct the recipe. Is a ballerina’s performance somehow to be less valued because she didn’t choreograph the steps?[/quote]

Has nothing to do with whether or not you make your own recipes.

The question is are you purposefully effecting the outcome of your beer. (Not affecting but effecting).

[quote=“JMcK”]Sorry for hijacking the thread with the Art v. Science debate; I think I follow where you’re going now…

Based on those descriptions the “default brewer” is a “shut up and do what you’re told” recipe follower. Art and science are delegated to the recipe writer or kit bundler. So I think I’m with you there, but “hoping that it works; hoping to brew what you intend” may be overstating it. Unless you’re going to shadow an experienced brewer in person, this is the BEST place to start learning. Master the technique first, then learn to freestyle. Hopefully the people who do this are in the learning mode. Then again, I know many people who are satisfied to follow their dinner recipes, so conceivably there should be many brewers happy at this point.

The on “purpose brewers” are definitely more advanced, and more educated in their craft. So they’re definitely taking control of the science, and hopefully exhibiting some art.

Maybe these are not really two different approaches to brewing as much as two different skill levels.

In the OP though you mention “measuring and planning to the smallest detail” and associated it with being an “on purpose” brewer, and that got me thinking about the all science and no art mentality.

So maybe the discussion is, as one becomes advanced, does their approach lean toward art or science? I think precision brewers can make consistently mediocre beer, (Bud.) But artists can be hit or miss.[/quote]

Yes. However, even if you are following a recipe you can still purposefully effect the outcome with good brewing practices and perhaps experience/time/equipment is part of that.

Wow, not my intention. Sorry. :oops:

On reread I can see how my post could have come off as pompous, and that was not my intent. I am so far down on the learning curve you wouldn’t believe it.

I’m really interested in this thread because its not about what makes a good beer, it’s about good brewers. I’d love to hear more about what makes great brewers think they’re great; it will help me think about what to focus on for myself.

Wow, not my intention. Sorry. :oops:

On reread I can see how my post could have come off as pompous, and that was not my intent. I am so far down on the learning curve you wouldn’t believe it.

I’m really interested in this thread because its not about what makes a good beer, it’s about good brewers. I’d love to hear more about what makes great brewers think they’re great; it will help me think about what to focus on for myself.[/quote]

I think its kinda like playing guitar…first you listen then you learn…You get advice and help from more experienced brewers and apply what you have learned…building confidence in the brewing steps is important…but what i think makes a great brewer is about the passion as corny as it sounds… learning as many aspects of brewing as you can and repeating your process over and over…knowledge of ingredients and like mentioned before being able to combine science with art…but passion is key cause if it was not you would not take the time to learn all the aspects of brewing…This is just what i think…cheers

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