Author Topic: Simplifying Recipes  (Read 6689 times)

Offline passlaku

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Simplifying Recipes
« on: July 12, 2012, 09:09:24 PM »
I saw Beechum's presentation on the http://www.northernbrewer.com/connect/2012/07/drew-beechums-brewing-on-the-ones/ youtubes and I agree wholeheartedly.  Here is the conundrum: we might aspire to brew parsimoniously but when you look at the gold winning recipes at the NHC the average recipe will have 5 malts (I don't know this about this year but past years have always demonstrated to be the case.). 

I wonder how we might reconcile the disconnect between the notion that we can make better beer if we keep things simple versus the reality that really complicated recipes seem to win gold at the NHC.  I know there might be the rare case of a simple recipe but I'd argue those are the exception and not the rule.


Offline tygo

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2012, 04:35:20 AM »
My opinion is that you can have several malts in a recipe but each one of them needs to be there for a reason and contribute something to the overall recipe.  Often when we see recipes with a ton of ingredients a lot of them are just thrown in there as an afterthought.

I think it's best to start simple when you begin formulating a recipe but through re-brewing and tweaking you may end up adding a few ingredients to get to get it to exactly where you want it.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2012, 05:53:28 AM »
Brewing a gold medal beer has very little to do with your grain bill. I'd say the grain bill is the least important part of brewing. I'd also wager most of those recipes with 5 different grains were developed through trial and error and incremental changes, not just throwing stuff together and hoping for the best.
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Offline beersk

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2012, 06:08:54 AM »
I'd also wager most of those recipes with 5 different grains were developed through trial and error and incremental changes, not just throwing stuff together and hoping for the best.
Sometimes that happens too, you get lucky and happen upon a killer recipe on the first shot. I know I have.
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2012, 06:20:06 AM »
The thing about award-winning recipes is that they were likely developed over several revisions. The takehome I get from Drew's talk is that you will likely have better luck designing a recipe on the fly or for a first revision if you keep things simple. Throwing in a pound of this and a pound of that on a whim probably isn't going to give you a focused result.

Once you brew a beer and say "I think it could use a pound of Vienna and a little flaked barley", that's a different story, because you have a defined goal for the specific modifications based on a previous beer.

One more extension I would make is that your "base malt" may be a combination of ingredients. For example - if you brew all your pale ales with a base of 45% 2-row, 45% MO and 10% wheat, and you are very familiar with how this works in a particular style of recipe, then you can treat this as a single ingredient from a recipe design perspective.
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Offline jeffy

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2012, 06:57:24 AM »
I often find that my best effort is the very first time I make a recipe, probably because it's when I do the most research and the most attention to detail.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2012, 07:43:09 AM »
Five malts isn't a terribly complicated grain bill.  You have a mix of two base malts to attenuate flavor and get in the ballpark for color, you have a little crystal/dextrin for some sweetness and/or body, a specialty malt to accentuate malt character, and a roasted malt for color adjustment or a little wheat for head retention.

Yes you can make good beer with one base malt and a little crystal, I do that with my best bitter.  I don't know if it would pass muster at comp level but it works for me.  Floor malted Maris Otter brings a lot of flavor, and British crystals have a lot of character.

This is kind of like comparing pot roast to beef bourguignon, they are both good but the fancy dish is generally going to win the competition.  Comps aren't the end-all of what is good beer in my opinion.  You have to stand out in a comp so there needs to be something in addition to the basics, and thats where the more over-the-top recipes shine.
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Offline dbeechum

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2012, 08:22:54 AM »
The thing I was hoping people would take away is at the end of the talk - the reverse Michelangelo principle.

Build your beers with the minimum of ingredients needed to get you there. Personally I think unless you're brewing a big stout you can probably brew a top notch and winning with 3 malts.

I still haven't cracked below 4 for a stout and one of my favorite crazy beers is the Gonzo that I mention in the talk. That thing comes close to being a Homebrewing Store and Pharmacy in one beer! :)

In other words, don't get hung up on the "one" thing. Hang onto the minimalist principle.

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Offline denny

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2012, 09:40:28 AM »
The thing I was hoping people would take away is at the end of the talk - the reverse Michelangelo principle.

Build your beers with the minimum of ingredients needed to get you there. Personally I think unless you're brewing a big stout you can probably brew a top notch and winning with 3 malts.

I still haven't cracked below 4 for a stout and one of my favorite crazy beers is the Gonzo that I mention in the talk. That thing comes close to being a Homebrewing Store and Pharmacy in one beer! :)

In other words, don't get hung up on the "one" thing. Hang onto the minimalist principle.

I absolutely agree.  That's one of the points I was trying to make in my Zymurgy article about recipe formulation.  Make sure you can justify each ingredient you use in a recipe and can imagine it's contribution to the overall flavor.  If you don't know why it's there, leave it out.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2012, 11:08:56 AM »
I don't think people are adding specialty grains blindly.  They read the nice description and think "that would help X beer style".  But too many and the flavor gets muddled.  i've been especially guilty of this when making dubbels.  I would use a combination of syrups and Special B and a couple other things and wind up with a beer with no particular direction.  In fact I think there was so much "flavor stuff" that it came out kind of harsh.
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Offline dbeechum

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2012, 11:45:46 AM »
Yeah, that's the "Brown" syndrome I was talking about.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2012, 02:31:01 PM »
Just watched the presentation through and I liked the ones idea more than SMaSH.  I see the utility of SMaSH but its no fun brewing that way and I brew as much for the enjoyment of brewing as for the enjoyment of drinking beer.

I didn't know lots of hops promotes heading, so I also leanred a nice specific tidbit.  And I have always used a lot of Magnum for bittering, in addition to the smoothness my thought was always that it was better to save those fancy aroma hops for the late additions.
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Offline denny

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2012, 02:36:26 PM »
I have yet to make a SMASH beer that I like.  They always just seem boring.  When I was at Beer Camp last fall, Sierra Nevada had a number of single hop (don't know the malt bill) beers on tap and I felt the same way about every one of them I tried.  Maybe I'm ruined....
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2012, 04:59:40 PM »
Schlaflys has a SMaSH night every so often (maybe in conjunction with the StL Brews) and I'd like to attend to get a better idea of what the different hops have to offer.  I just don't want to have to do it myself.
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Offline tubercle

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Re: Simplifying Recipes
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2012, 08:45:13 PM »
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