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Hardest beer to brew well

As I’ve been planning out various methods to try to get a palatable, consistent, authentic version of a Berliner Weiss made, I’ve been wondering what other brewers considered to be the hardest style to brew and brew well.

I think the american “lite” stuff is the hardest but I really don’t have much desire to try brewing them. I think there is more latitude in other styles. That is not to say berliner is easy although I would think with advancements of sour beers it should be easier than it was before.

It’s the consistent part I’m struggling with, but I have heard people say pilsners a lot since there’s nothing to mask off flavors.

Most commercial pilsners have a lot of hop bite in them, not sure if that’s to style or not, but it would seem to mask some of the off flavors.

Brewing a beer well is a matter of knowing the style, knowing what you want the beer to be, repetition and process improvement. I don’t think you can assign a label of “hardest beer to brew well” to any one style. That would mean people would be bragging about being able to brew style X and having won so many medals because they can brew style X sooOooOOOoo well.

Ask some of the more experienced people here how many times they have to refine and brew a recipe before it’s to the point of what they imagined it to be. My guess would be at least 5 - 6.

Might as well throw the false label “hardest beer to brew well”, out the window.

If you read this BYO article
http://byo.com/stories/issue/item/747-helles-style-profile
, you may come away thinking that helles might be the toughest style to make. You’re supposed to make it with just one malt (pilsner) and one hop (preferably noble) but the beer is supposed to be a delicate balancing act between a deep, malty mouthfeel with a dry finish. I happen to have a helles on tap right now and it’s probably the best one I have brewed. But I cheated because I added some Vienna too. Helles is pale, it’s a lager and it doesn’t have much going on so flaws stand out. I can’t say it’s the toughest to make but it’s on the short list. Cheers.

[quote=“Ken Lenard”]If you read this BYO article
http://byo.com/stories/issue/item/747-helles-style-profile
, you may come away thinking that helles might be the toughest style to make. You’re supposed to make it with just one malt (pilsner) and one hop (preferably noble) but the beer is supposed to be a delicate balancing act between a deep, malty mouthfeel with a dry finish. I happen to have a helles on tap right now and it’s probably the best one I have brewed. But I cheated because I added some Vienna too. Helles is pale, it’s a lager and it doesn’t have much going on so flaws stand out. I can’t say it’s the toughest to make but it’s on the short list. Cheers.[/quote]
I’d say helles is one of the hardest styles to brew as well and I always put a pound or 2 of vienna or munich in mine as well. My last helles had a honey grahams character to it that was pretty tasty.
I’ve been chasing that flavor you get in something like Weihenstephaner helles, but I think it’s chasing shadows. There’s just no way to get that flavor I don’t think…

Most commercial pilsners have a lot of hop bite in them, not sure if that’s to style or not, but it would seem to mask some of the off flavors.

Brewing a beer well is a matter of knowing the style, knowing what you want the beer to be, repetition and process improvement. I don’t think you can assign a label of “hardest beer to brew well” to any one style. That would mean people would be bragging about being able to brew style X and having won so many medals because they can brew style X sooOooOOOoo well.

Ask some of the more experienced people here how many times they have to refine and brew a recipe before it’s to the point of what they imagined it to be. My guess would be at least 5 - 6.

Might as well throw the false label “hardest beer to brew well”, out the window.[/quote]

Let me give an example for clarification: Berliner Weiss got me thinking about the question because I was trying to figure out how I wanted to go about producing a full sour mash and monitor its acidity without introducing oxygen. Others might suggest some of the spontaneously fermented beers or gluten free beers that depend on grains that don’t gel until the mash is hot enough to destroy the enzymes.

There are different ways to think about what makes something “hard”. For example, I’m not sure I’ll ever have the tenacity to even attempt a gueze. I’ve got my second lambic aging now, but will I ever make it to a third and then have enough of all three to get a meaningful blend going?
I’ll be attempting my first Eisbock this winter, but I have to hope my schedule and the weather sync to where I can do the ice concentrating step properly. And that is only after I manage to make a really good bock to start with.
Berliner Weiss could be listed as a hard-to-brew beer, but mostly because there is so much contradictory info on how to brew it, and the only thing they all have in common is they use non-conventional techniques. I did some research on that style earlier this year, and from what I could gather, you could achieve the goal with any of several very different methods. That said, I only tried one, so I won’t consider myself an expert.
Helles intimidated me when I first tried it, but since I got fermentation temperature under control, I’ve not had a bad result. That beer is all about getting the yeast to behave.
Believe it or not, the beer that has given me the most trouble over the years has been an oatmeal cream stout. I finally gave up on trying to produce anything that was close to a Samuel Smith. Wish someone could tell me how they are made.

RC I agree that its subjective not only to style, but to taste as well as process. Maybe I have difficulty producing an amber ale that is balanced… maybe because the style dictates it, maybe because I’m more sensitive to hops/malt, or maybe because I don’t boil long enough to fully isomerize the hops…
I think this is exactly what sets breweries apart from one an other and why most brew a limited amount of styles. AB has their process and recipe down, so they brew what they brew. Most craft brewers won’t touch it because its difficult for them. Of course AB won’t touch IPA’s because (for multiple reasons) they aren’t set up to brew it right. Some breweries excel in brown ales, some pale ales… they might find the other styles “difficult.”

[quote=“rebuiltcellars”]
Believe it or not, the beer that has given me the most trouble over the years has been an oatmeal cream stout. I finally gave up on trying to produce anything that was close to a Samuel Smith. Wish someone could tell me how they are made.[/quote]
Oh yeah, I’ve had trouble brewing a good oatmeal stout. Sam Smith is the sh*t, the benchmark of the style in my opinion. But it’s really hard to get that flavor because of the yeast used, the fermenters, and the water, I’m thinking. All about the terroir on that one as well as getting that German lager flavor on Weihenstepher and the like.

[quote=“Loopie Beer”][size=80]RC I agree that its subjective not only to style, but to taste as well as process. Maybe I have difficulty producing an amber ale that is balanced… maybe because the style dictates it, maybe because I’m more sensitive to hops/malt, or maybe because I don’t boil long enough to fully isomerize the hops…
I think this is exactly what sets breweries apart from one an other and why most brew a limited amount of styles. AB has their process and recipe down, so they brew what they brew. Most craft brewers won’t touch it because its difficult for them. Of course AB won’t touch IPA’s because (for multiple reasons) they aren’t set up to brew it right. Some breweries excel in brown ales, some pale ales… they might find the other styles “difficult.”[/size][/quote]

Pretty much agree. Most smaller brewers don’t do a wide variety of beers probably because of a limited skill set (specially considering that so many of the new startups grew out of homebrewing).

I think I disagree about AB, however. They have the facilities, the chops, and some of the best master brewers in the business and they could probably make killer examples of just about any “style”. The problem is just that they seem a bit timid about it. Some of their specialty beers have actually been pretty decent (even if a bit restrained). I have no doubt whatsoever that if they really wanted to, they could out-craft the best craft brewers out there. Of course, even if they did, the nature of the business and of beer geeks is that no matter how good the product is, it would be rejected by a lot of beer lovers simply because AB made it.

Overall, given the fact that they can turn out so much of the difficult to make light lager (not only with amazing consistency from batch to batch but also with consistency from plant to plant), I have no doubt at all that they have the capability to make world class examples of just about any type of beer. And my guess is that we’ll see more specialties come from AB, and they may even get a bit bolder and less restrained. But I’m also fairly certain that their real moneymaker and main focus will always be the yellow fizzwater that calls itself ‘king’ (even as the crown seems to be getting a bit rusty). LOL.
:cheers:

Assuming that you mean “tastes good” when you say “brew well” then I think the hardest beer is gluten-free using only gluten-free ingredients (not with barley and ClarityFerm for instance).

Gueuze. Multiple years, spontaneously fermented, turbid mash, barrel-aged, and blended.

Its a fair question, but not an easy one to answer because everyone’s definition of “well” is different.

For the last 6 months, I have been trying to brew something reasonably close to Heady Topper. Without much success. I have been producing excellent juicy IPA’s, which have been lauded by my friends, family and fellow judges, but its still not what I want. So I brew Vermont IPA’s well, but not well enough for what I am going for.

But someone else could say that 8oz of flameout hops and US-05 could be brewing an IPA ‘well’.

My gun-to-head answer though is Helles. Gueuze gives you some latitude via blending.

Northern Brewer just released a Heady Topper clone kit, in both extract and all grain…

American Light Lager (cat 1A) is one of the toughest because there is nothing to hide behind (flaws).

Northern Brewer just released a Heady Topper clone kit, in both extract and all grain…[/quote]

Not to sound arrogant, but I would guess my attempts are closer than our sponsor’s…particularly since it uses US-05… EDIT: must have been looking at the wrong kit.

SECOND EDIT: Finally was able to find the clone kit on the site. Recipe looks identical to Bear Flavored’s clone. Hopefully brewers can get close with it! Gotta love a pound of hops.

Northern Brewer just released a Heady Topper clone kit, in both extract and all grain…[/quote]

Not to sound arrogant, but I would guess my attempts are closer than our sponsor’s…particularly since it uses US-05…[/quote]

A bit off topic but the liquid yeast option is “Vermont Ale Yeast”

[quote=“The Professor”][quote=“Loopie Beer”][size=80]RC I agree that its subjective not only to style, but to taste as well as process. Maybe I have difficulty producing an amber ale that is balanced… maybe because the style dictates it, maybe because I’m more sensitive to hops/malt, or maybe because I don’t boil long enough to fully isomerize the hops…
I think this is exactly what sets breweries apart from one an other and why most brew a limited amount of styles. AB has their process and recipe down, so they brew what they brew. Most craft brewers won’t touch it because its difficult for them. Of course AB won’t touch IPA’s because (for multiple reasons) they aren’t set up to brew it right. Some breweries excel in brown ales, some pale ales… they might find the other styles “difficult.”[/size][/quote]

Pretty much agree. Most smaller brewers don’t do a wide variety of beers probably because of a limited skill set (specially considering that so many of the new startups grew out of homebrewing).

I think I disagree about AB, however. They have the facilities, the chops, and some of the best master brewers in the business and they could probably make killer examples of just about any “style”. The problem is just that they seem a bit timid about it. Some of their specialty beers have actually been pretty decent (even if a bit restrained). I have no doubt whatsoever that if they really wanted to, they could out-craft the best craft brewers out there. Of course, even if they did, the nature of the business and of beer geeks is that no matter how good the product is, it would be rejected by a lot of beer lovers simply because AB made it.

Overall, given the fact that they can turn out so much of the difficult to make light lager (not only with amazing consistency from batch to batch but also with consistency from plant to plant), I have no doubt at all that they have the capability to make world class examples of just about any type of beer. And my guess is that we’ll see more specialties come from AB, and they may even get a bit bolder and less restrained. But I’m also fairly certain that their real moneymaker and main focus will always be the yellow fizzwater that calls itself ‘king’ (even as the crown seems to be getting a bit rusty). LOL.
:cheers: [/quote]
Proff this waz the "other"reasons I was referring to. But I still believe a big part of it is the “not broke don’t fix it” mentality. I also agree that even if the produced a beer better than Heady or Pliny that people would never admit it.

For me a good Foreign Export Stout seems to be my White Whale.
Almost 3 years ago, on my 4th batch ever, I took NBs Cherry Stout kit, played around with it, and came up with something that to me tasted like Lion Stout- my alltime favorite stout. I’ve
tried it twice since with poor results- in fact dumped 1/2 of batch #2 it was so bad. Batch #3 is better, but still far off from what I’m looking for. I’ll keep plugging and at one batch per year, maybe after another 5-6 years I’ll get it right.

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