I see so many recipes with 4,5,6 or more hop varieties in them. How on earth can a newb figure that stuff out?? I have been making my own recipes with some success with 2 varieties at most. Does it really matter if there are a ton of different ones in a recipe?
It can help or hurt. The best way to learn about a hop is to due a signal hop batch.
What exactly is that? (sorry)
Make a pale ale and just use 1 hop. Use that hop for your bittering, flavor and aroma additions so you can tell what it adds to a beer. After you do a few of these you can start to mix and match to try and get the flavors you are looking for.
I agree that 4 or 5 different hops is usually unnecessarily overwhelming, and 2 or maybe 3 hops is typically sufficient complexity. People always want to make things way more difficult than they need to be. Same goes for hop additions, where sometimes you see additions every 5 minutes or at 5 or 6 different points during the boil plus dry hopping. Baloney. Use a few hops up front for bitterness, then add a whole bunch more at flameout, and you’ll be in great shape. For an IPA.
Single Malt and Single Hop (SMASH) brewing is an excellent way to learn about ingredients and has been discussed on the interwebs ad nauseum. If you really want to know what an ingredient does for you, there’s really no better way than to single out that ingredient, brew it up, and see what you get.
If you want specific suggestions for a certain recipe, jot it down and we’ll reply, with reasons why.