Principles of Good Beer Recipe Design

by Brad Smith on September 8, 2021 · 0 comments

Today I focus on some of the principles of good beer recipe design, and how they can help improve your beer. As many of you know I’ve been doing presentations and classes on the topic of beer recipe design for some time now, and thought it best to summarize some of the key elements below:

  • Focused Goal – You should have a focused goal for your recipe that can be expressed in a single line, which could be as simple as “A light bodied pale American lager” or as complex as an “Atomic jalepeno flavored hop bomb”. Write down the goal before you start, so you can focus your efforts on achieving it.
  • Simplicity – A great beer recipe should use the ingredients needed to achieve the flavor profile desired and no more. Every ingredient should have a purpose, and anything extraneous to your goal should be eliminated. For example, almost all beer styles can be made with no more than a base malt and 1-2 specialty malts.
  • Ingredients Selected for Flavor and Aroma – Some people fall into the trap of using the “latest” hot hop or “chocolate” malt to give beer a chocolate flavor (hint: chocolate malt tastes nothing like chocolate). Like a good baker, you need to be very familiar with the flavors and aromas that come from various malts, hops and yeast so you can combine them properly. SMASH brewing is a great way to learn more about individual components.
  • Balance – The finished beer flavors and aroma should be balanced along several dimensions – whether it is the hop-malt balance, aroma balance, gravity-alcohol balance, etc… This does not mean every beer is at the same point in the scale. For example an IPA would be decidedly on the hoppy side in terms of hop-malt balance. However, it should not be a hop bomb that is too bitter to enjoy, it should still have a balanced hoppy bitterness and aroma that is smooth and drinkable.
  • Techniques that Support Your Beer- I look at brewing techniques the same way I look at tools in a toolbox. Everything from adjusting mash temperatures, mash pH, hop boil times, whirlpool hopping, water profiles, dry hop schedules, fermentation profiles and temperatures – these are all tools you can use to tweak the final results. For example adjusting mash temperature will change the fermentability of the wort and can lead to a full or light bodied beer. Knowing which techniques give which result can help you decide when to apply them depending on specific beer you are brewing.
  • Be an Expert Beer Judge – Its not surprising that many of the best beer judges are also the best brewers. You don’t have to become a certified judge, but you should practice judging every beer you sample, even casually. You want to train your brain, nose and taste buds to identify great flavor combinations, flaws, off-flavors and ingredients so you can judge and improve your own beers.
  • Perfect Your Beer via Iteration – While variety in brewing is great, you can really only perfect a recipe by brewing it again and making small adjustments to see the results. So if you have a favorite style or brand, try brewing it, judge it and then adjust it to make it better.

Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube for more great tips on homebrewing.

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