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Scared to death to brew my own recipe

+1 to the book Designing Great Beers. My girlfriend bought it for me for valentines day this year and it is terrific. Very helpful for designing simple and traditional beers and so far I’ve tossed together a good brown porter and a kolsh.

I did 2 kits and went on to constructing my own recipes, 62 batches later I will never look back. There is something completely satisfying about knowing that you’re drinking something that is 100% your creation.

Points of advice:

  • Find a program. qbrew, brewpal, brewr. It doesn’t really matter as long as it has a good database and it makes sense to you. Pick a style that you want to make and it will give you BJCP parameters as to color OG, FG, ABV, IBU etc and then just tweak your ingredients to fit the parameters (or not!).

  • Start simple. You are on the right track with pale ale. Two row and a bit of crystal. If you start with stouts or ambers, you’ll be playing with a lot of specialty grains which can be fun but also much more complicated.

  • Try to isolate everything. I love brewing single hop IPAs to get an idea of how one hop does on bittering and aroma and flavor. I use the same malt bill and yeast for this process to make the hop the only variable. I keep notes on whether or not it bitters well, what is smells and tastes like to me and suggestions for what styles each hop would work well in. Do the same thing for grain and yeast too. Really nail down every piece of the puzzle.

  • There is no shame in picking a starting point. You’re not going to know how much rye is too much, or what the difference is in between the malt bills on baltic porter v. chocolate porter v. robust porter v. smoked porter. Find a recipe that sounds good and tweak as you see fit (like it smoky, add more smoked or peated malt etc.).

  • Don’t get disappointed. You will brew some serious swill. There’s no doubting that. But it’s important to remember that if this were easy, everyone would do it. Make sure to learn from your mistakes and relish your victories.

  • Keep notes. If a recipe didn’t turn out like you wanted, make a note. 1338 sucks, hate the flavor. Don’t ever put 6 pounds of peated malt into a 5G smoked porter again. Nelson Sauvin tastes like tree sap and gym socks. Whatever it is, write it down. This is particularly important because our hobby involves consuming alcohol and you may find difficulty remembering the brilliant hop combo revelation that you had at 0.24 BAC at 2:30 in the morning. (maybe you don’t roll like that but I sure do).

  • Make what you want. I have a lot of BMC type friends that all have Blue Moon guzzling wives. I’m not going to make a light lager and I hate wheat beers. It’s your setup and your labor. Brew what you like and if they don’t want to drink it, they can go pick up a 89 pack of piss in a can.

  • Relax, have a homebrew. Trite cliche, but also a good thing to remember. This is a hobby, it’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable. If you’re stressing about it, take the day off, sit in the sun and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Huzzah! (I kinda felt like William Wallace right there)

When I want to try a new recipe of my own I first make a 1 gallon batch as a tester. I invite friends over when its ready and use them as my testing rats. This way I never waste 5 gallons on the rats.

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