I’d just like to talk a little about my personal philosophy of brewing beer in this post. I’ve been brewing for five years now. I love brewing because it combines science and art; the idea that a process can be highly methodical and also creative.
A lot of this is drawn from the e-book that I sent out as a reward during the Kickstarter campaign.
Recipes are a great way to start when learning to brew. Proven recipes brewed properly will make great beers. Recipes are only a starting point, though. Your direction and style as a brewer creates your beer. Beer is subjective and while most of us can agree on the basics, it’s up to you to discover what you like. Search for it.
If you’re just starting out or new to a style, recipes are a great way to learn about a beer. As you move along, you can learn what you like. You can read about different malts, but only when you use them can you discover what they really are. You can then design your own beers, and develop your own style. I like to explain beer in terms of direction and dimensions. When you create an interpretation of a style, you choose a direction you want to go in. For example, let’s say you are going to brew a porter. Do you want to move towards a roasty, drier beer? Maybe you would prefer a sweeter, more caramelly version? It really helps to have an idea of where you want to go. You choose the direction.
Once you have a direction, the dimensions of the beer help you achieve your goal. A beer’s dimensions make up its flavor. For example, let’s say you want to brew a sweeter, smoother porter. You want to emphasize chocolate, caramel, and toasty dimensions. You accomplish this through keeping the bitterness low, using a small amount of chocolate malt and roasted barley, a moderate amount of medium caramel malt, a UK-style base malt, and a less attenuative yeast. You create your recipe and brew it, and then taste it. Does the beer go in the direction you wanted? What changes, if any, would you make?
I use the term dimensions because it is helpful in explaining your goals as well as your limiting factors when creating a beer. You don’t want a one-dimensional beer, but a five-dimensional beer will probably not be preferable either. Without a clear sense of direction, the beer can become convoluted and the flavors muddled. With some beers, you want to create complexity, but with others, you want to leave room for your ingredients to shine. For example, my favorite stout is just base malt and roasted barley.
Brewing is process of constant learning. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and always try to learn from your mistakes. Brew some single hop IPAs to learn about hops. Interested in sour beers? Brew one, they’re pretty hard to mess up. Pick a yeast strain and brew with it until you know it inside and out. Overall, have fun, and be confident in yourself!