While every other end of our building process is rolling on right now we figured we would take a break and fully hash out a few of our next beers. But unlike some of the big guys (Looking at you Mr. Busch, and Mr. Cold as the Rockies) we like to be as transparent as possible, bringing each of you on a tour with us through each and every aspect of our process, hopefully making each and every one of you our Assistant Brewer in some way. Today we’ll be sitting down and talking over Recipe Development, one of the most important aspects of brewing, because otherwise we’d just be throwing random things into a pot and wondering why it always tastes so bad in revolutionary new ways.
Crafting a Style
The first step for us to decide which Style we’re going with. This helps narrow everything down from brewing a beer, to brewing an American IPA or a Belgian Blonde or a Scottish Stout, so we know the general ingredients we should be looking at as well as what beer histories we should be reading into. This does not mean we constrain ourselves to the style guidelines however, if we decide to make a German Lager we should be looking at mostly Pilsner malt, noble German hops, and a Bohemian Lager yeast, but luckily for us we aren’t subject to the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Laws), so if we want to throw in some bitter orange peel, and a handful of roasted cocoa nibs and make a American twist on the style, we probably will.
Malt – Where all craft beer begins
Now that we picked our style, we know where to look for our barley. While Macros tend to aim for as cheap of a grain bill as possible, substituting in cheap adjuncts (Corn and Rice typically) wherever they can to provide a flavorless yet cheap “Crisp, Refreshing, Cold as the…” beer. I’m always trying to go the opposite way, seeing if I substitute any of our grains such as 2-Row Pale barley for a more premium full flavored barley i.e. English floor malted Maris Otter or Golden Promise. These premium barleys help to create a more complex and full flavored beer regardless of price. I always start my recipes with this base grain decision, as it will end up being anywhere from 50%-90% of the grain bill in each recipe.
From there I decide whether I’ll be using any crystal malts, which are caramelized barleys, providing a sweeter flavor to the final beer. Depending on style I’ll look into our darker malts next, which range from Roasted Barley which tastes like a bitter coffee bean to Chocolate Malt which tastes like bittersweet chocolate. Sometimes its the simple color option of Black Malt which changes the color with very little grain usage or specialty products like “Midnight Wheat” which adds color and smoothness without the standard roasted malt bite.
The last grain going into the recipe are my specialty adjuncts including Wheat, Rye, Oats, and Flaked Barley. These are added for body and head retention in the beer, with each having its own unique characteristic such as ryes’ spice, wheats’ smoothness, and oats’ creamy mouthfeel.
Hops – The spice of craft
Whether I’m making a beer designed for hopheads at 100+ IBU or a simple 15 IBU Blonde, hops always have their importance in Craft Beer. Hops are used as both a natural preservative as well as for their flavoring and aroma oils. For me, hops need to blend well with the beer, as a harsh piney Warrior bite might be fine in our 10% ABV 90 IBU IIPA meant to be sipped on, but I rather have something far more subtle in our 4% Summer Pale Ale. Hops can definitely be one of the most expensive ingredients in a beer, which explains why Macros tend to avoid them and Craft Beer has embraced them, its okay Bud this hops for me. I look at the various oil levels in the hops to see how they should be utilized, whether I use hops higher in Myrcene which tend to have citrus, and floral characteristics or hops with higher Humulene which tend to have more herbal and subtle spiciness, with each being important for late in the boil for aroma or dry hopping.
Yeast & Fermentation- Craft beers workhorse
Yeast tends to be forgotten about yet it is possibly the most important aspect in brewing as it is the final decision maker on what style is coming out of the beer brewed. The exact same recipe put into 3 separate Fermenters with 3 different Yeasts would result in 3 radically different beers. Yeast determines which sugars are turned into alcohol versus which sugars are turned into various flavored esters verses which sugars are left alone for sweetness in the beer. This is paired with the fermentation profile, where we look and see how warm we want to ferment. If we ferment a beer warm we’ll be stressing out the Yeast resulting in some fun and funky flavors and aromas such as Banana smelling esters at higher temperatures, cider like flavors from too much acetic bacteria being present, or a very subtle but clean flavor from a cold (lagered) fermentation which Lager yeasts thrive at.
At this point we get to have fun, decide what else we want to throw in to really take this beer from Good to Great. Maybe some Blueberries into the Fermenter, maybe we want to let this beer sit for 3 months on a freshly dumped Bourbon Barrel, maybe even throw a handful of vanilla beans into the Bright Tank (Carbonating Tank). There is no end to creatively to beer, which is why we’re planning on having 15 taps rotating in our taproom, constantly something new, and always fresh.
Currently Fermenting: Weizenbock
Next Beer in Fermenter: Coffee Rye Imperial Porter
After that: Suggestions always welcomed.