Recipe design 101

Hey, Brewers.
I’m stuck in a rut and want to learn more. Do you have any recommendations for learning about designing/planning/creating recipes?

I’m looking for trusted materials that gets into Grains/Malts A + Hops B = Beer C.
A sort of “best practices” guide.

In case you can’t tell, I’m an extract guy and will continue down this road a while, but I want to try new things.

Any advice?

“Designing great beers” is a good book. Goes into each style, describes a bunch about it, and gives you information about what malts/hops various successful brewers use for that style.

I’m a big fan of searching out various existing recipes, then finding commonalities, and almost doing an average of them. If you look at ten different versions of a session IPA, for example you’ll start to see patterns. That’s how I’ve been learning, anyway.

A couple of other notes… BU/GU ratios are pretty fundamental. That’s a ratio of bittering units to OG. Definitely get some sort of software/calculator to figure out estimated gravity, IBUs, etc. I used a free one on my smartphone for a while, but it started to get buggy, so I moved on to Brewsmith, which is more full featured than I’ll need for a while.

Also, this forum is great. Take a stab at designing something, and post it here. You’ll get tons of feedback from really experienced folks.

I’m a big fan of “Brewing Classic Styles.” Great recipes for every style that are proven to taste good. When brewing a style I’ve never brewed before, I often start with the recipe in the book. Ultimately things get tweaked, but that’s one of the books I used before creating my own personal recipes.

Awesome, thank you.
I watch the forum, but get lost when people post a recipe. All I think is, “yeah, that sounds like beer”

I started by exploring one style at a time. My process kind of goes like this:

  • Pick a style I like
  • Purchase any books available on the style and read them (careful because some books have outdated dogma)
  • Search online for anything about them, especially newer info
  • Get a list of classic commercial examples and try them
  • See what I can find out about each one to differentiate why I might like some and not others
  • Start to put a recipe together
  • Post it here for feedback
  • Take a first stab at brewing it
  • Tweak away and brew again

You don’t have to follow this order, and some stuff can be done in parallel. I enjoy this process as much as the actual brewing. I don’t get much out of brewing clones, although I’ve done a few.

I’m still kind of following this process every time I start working on a new style.

I do a lot like johnnyb pointed out. I also found out, there are base malts and then specialty malts. To me, thats like an artist creating a painting…. Base malt is the canvas on which you start. There are some breweries that tell you whats in the bottle yer drinking, not the amounts, but, then you get to tweak up a storm…. Peeps can tell you HOW they do their brew, and you’ll follow it and have different results. So its also how your system, and methods add to your version… Sneezles61 :cheers:

If there’s a commercial brew I like, I’ll start looking for clone recipies of that beer. From there it’s usually just experimental tweaks. Can I make it with more or less alcohol? This clone has more crystal than that clone, what difference does that make? …

After making a clone, it’s fun to get the commercial brew again and compare. Especially if you can bring in someone who doesn’t know which is the commercial example, and which is your spin…

Another vote for Designing Great Beers.
Reading that book about 10 years ago or so was a major catalyst in me taking my beers to the next level.

As others have stated Designing Great Beers “rocks”. I started with a basic stout recipe and tweak it a bit more every time I brew it again; it just keeps getting better i.e. closer to my personal tastes. My refrigerator always has stout in it no matter what else is in there.

I’d advise you to start with a simple recipe-minimal ingredients- and then add or change one thing at a time.

Brew on!

Thanks for the series-style research ideas!
This has been really helpful.
I just bought the book and can’t wait to dig in.