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Scared to death to brew my own recipe

I have been brewing extract kits from Northern Brewer for 3 years now. All 10 batches have been successful, always 5 gallons of carbonated drinkable beer. I have a hardcore homebrew store near my house in NJ and have only bought supplies from them, but never ingredients for a batch. They have a huge selection of hops and other ingredients. Way overwhleming.

My dilemma is that I know the Northern brewer kits are good, but want to increase my depth as a brewer by not only impressing my friends with homebrew, but actually creating a beer of my own.

I am leaning towards an amber or pale ale, but that can quickly change to a stout.

Any suggestions on this first step outside the conforts of this site would be great. Maybe I should just copy an ingredient kit, or just gamble and create from profiles I believe are good together???

Work off of a recipe that you like but wished it could be just a little bit… Imagine a pale ale recipe that could use just a little more crystal and bit more bitterness bite in the end. Just an example idea, but this is where it all starts. Most people will tell you to only change one factor at a time. This is good advice, so that you can keep tabs on the changes without getting too confused. Hope this helps. Don’t be afraid…it’s just beer.

I agree, don’t be afraid. Every homebrewer eventually puts their own recipes together and some are great and some require extra work. When I wanted to put a recipe together I usually consulted one of my recipe books (Beer Captured, maybe Designing Great Beers) and look for something similar and then maybe tweak it towards my tastebuds. Remember that yeast strain can dramatically change a beer’s profile so maybe take an existing pale ale recipe and then, for example, use a Belgian yeast and call it a Belgian Pale Ale. You can also post your creation in the recipe forum and ask for direction from the board. Guarantee you’ll get some helpful feedback. Cheers.

Tweaking a recipe is a great way to start, I will also suggest picking up “Designing Great Beers” by Ray Daniels. Absolutely imperative if you are going to be doing your own recipes.

Starting with something simpler like a pale is a good idea too. A good guideline would be something like 90% 2 row 10% of the crystal of your liking and bitter to about 30 ibus.

Absolutely.
It may take a few batches to find your groove, but once you know your ingredients there’s really no mystery to brewing (if it were so hard, you wouldn’t see so many new brewery startups. :mrgreen: ).

You can use published recipes as a guide as you get up to speed but the real key is just hunkering down and brewing with an eye towards experimentation. Do smaller batches if you feel more comfortable doing so, but make each batch a focus on a different ingredient as a variable.

You’ll eventually get the hang of it.
I’ve brewed nothing but my own recipes for almost 30 years now.

I also wanted to point you to THIS

current thread where some very good brewers are discussing “simple recipes” and how everything in your recipe should be there for a reason. Many seasoned brewers have taught me to put simple recipes together. As mentioned above, use mostly base malt (or base extract)… things like pilsner, munich, wheat, vienna, etc. and use a light hand when using specialty grains.

+1 on all points above.

I’ve never done an AG kit, I started AG by taking advice from the chapter on formulating recipes in How to Brew (
http://www.howtobrew.com
). He’s got good tips in there on what constitutes an Ale vs. Pilsner vs. Porter vs. Stout, etc. He also has good descriptions of malt and hop flavors/aromas.

What I’ve been doing lately is picking a good brew and trying to clone it. The brewery webpage will often have pretty good descriptions of what malts and hops are in each of their brews. If you need pointers you can use Google or Hopville to find a clone recipe.

My advice would be to get a kit from your local homebrew shop. Surely they have their own recipes/kits that you could follow if it is such a great homebrew store. That way you could check out their ingredients and make sure of quality, and you could also not just rely on NB recipes/ingredients. I have done this recently with my nearest shop and am happy I tried someone elses stuff.

I agree from what The Professor said - start with a recipe that you like, or one that you want to experiment with. It will give you a feel for how the ingredients play together. Also I’d recommend not trying to change too many things at a time or you won’t be able to judge the effects. What you’re doing now is sort of like the difference between hamburger helper, and attempting to replicate it yourself - in the former you’re following the recipe, in the latter you’re actually cooking. There are a million recipes available online.

I brewed a couple of my own recipe batches last year. One was a copy of the NB American Amber kit, but with Safbrew T-58. I did it to try dry yeast, and also to try to see if I could get an obvious yeast flavor contribution. Sure did - just like the description it definitely gave it some spicy flavor. Another one I made was a brown ale, and I used a pound of chocolate malt so it was deep brown, but didn’t have the roasted/burnt flavors of a stout. That one has been in the bottle for about a month and it has turned out to be something that I really like. I didn’t want to use half a pound and then have half left over.

I also recommend checking out the hopville beer calculator (free online). It will let you play with your recipe, match to judged styles if you want, and then you can see what the final product tastes like. It also helps that some breweries are telling you their IBU’s and SRM’s so you can calibrate your taste buds for when you go it alone. Good luck. RDWHAHB or something like that.

For my first two recipe’s I follwed a local HB website, after that and ever since I have created my own recipes. For the first 18 months I had no idea about the BJCP, IBU’s, diastatic power, balanced beers etc etc. But the beers I made were all drinkable. Maybe not competition winners, but they certainly taught me about making beer.

I failed sometimes and I learned from my mistakes, I experimented, I familiarised myself with different ingredients and their capabilities. Slowly but surely I learned to brew the right way, but the most important lesson was about experimentation and not being confined by any boundaries, perceived or otherwise.

Now I read everything I can get my hands on and I take that info onboard. The best thing you can do is to have a crack at it. Nothing can replace hands on experience and if you enjoy the beer you make, then you’ve succeeded.

I’m currently making crystal in the oven. I’m not very experienced with it. I’ve recently toasted, roasted and stewed and there’s slight apprenhension, but if it doesn’t work i’ll try again. It makes me a better brewer.

Best of luck with it!

Another thing I picked up when I was a newbie… taste the grains! If you ever find yourself with access to the various grains (and they’re not sealed up in a bag or whatever), pop a few kernels in your mouth and chew them up. What better way to find out what BISCUIT or AROMATIC or AMBER MALT tastes like. If you like the flavor, you’ll probably go for a beer that employs that grain as well. There are also a bunch of recipes on my site that many brewers have taken and futzed with. Link is below, go to RECIPES.

[quote=“gr8tefloyd”]I have been brewing extract kits from Northern Brewer for 3 years now. All 10 batches have been successful, always 5 gallons of carbonated drinkable beer. I have a hardcore homebrew store near my house in NJ and have only bought supplies from them, but never ingredients for a batch. They have a huge selection of hops and other ingredients. Way overwhleming.

My dilemma is that I know the Northern brewer kits are good, but want to increase my depth as a brewer by not only impressing my friends with homebrew, but actually creating a beer of my own.

I am leaning towards an amber or pale ale, but that can quickly change to a stout.

Any suggestions on this first step outside the conforts of this site would be great. Maybe I should just copy an ingredient kit, or just gamble and create from profiles I believe are good together???[/quote]

What I have done on occasion is to look at the recipe sheet on the NB site and then plug the numbers into Promash and tweak from there. Then I go to the local HBS and purchase the grains, hops and yeast that I need and brew it up. A lot of my recipe ideas come from Beer Captured or Clone Brews and even the Ray Daniels book mentioned before.

When I was thinking about recipe creation the first thing I did was download Beersmith. Then I picked a style and researched basic grain and hop guidelines. For this I found that the book Designing Great Beers was an excellent resource. Once you have the basic grains/extract and hops you want to use you can just plug them into Beersmith or any other program like it to make sure that you stay within the style guidelines (If that matters to you). Also, by using a program you don’t need to know any of the mathematical formulas to which are interesting to know but not necessary if you can just plug it in.

getting some recipe software or app will take a lot of the mystery and fear out of the equation.

I feel your trepidation. I just started putting together and brewing my own stuff. I’ve also found that using brewing programs can help as a guide, whether you want to be within style guidelines or just use it for calculations (style be damned!).

I concur with other people saying that there is nothing scary about it. You can start off with tweaking other recipes. You can also always run your recipe by people on the forums and they’ll critique it.
:cheers:

Thank you to all you mad brewers who have answered. I have relaized that i should not go too far off of the beaten pah or it might turn into a monster of a liquid. Better a bit safe than go gung ho and try to be a hero. And considering i dont even measure my alcohol content during my brewing, I will stay away from all math related advice for now. I will slightly tweak something i like from NB, or maybe try the websites or books mentioned. Thank you to all. Will get to it asap.

What’s the worst that could happen? Tossing a batch? That’s just another reason to brew again, sooner.

As stated, I agree with changing one or two things at the most from a beer you are familiar with. Then, just grow from there! Good luck!

I’m experimenting on my latest batch, which is only my third.

Picked up the NB St. Paul Porter and added some cocoa powder to the last few minutes of the boil.
Just hitting week 2 in the primary so I have no clue how this will come out: could be a mess, could be good. OG was a little higher than expected so that freaked me out a bit.

But it’s just a tweak, and if I didn’t do it I would always wonder…

“Designing Great Beers” by Ray Daniels is a must-have, must-read book for all homebrewers. If you haven’t got it and read it yet, do it!! It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it changed my life, and it certainly improved the quality of beers that I brew. Is it a perfect book? No. Does it contain guidance for every beer style known to mankind? No. But it’s an excellent launch-off point to get you going.

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