Most of my blog posts will be about the mechanics of actually making the beer but one of the most important parts of making good beer is picking the right recipe. Here are a few things to consider:
What style of beer do you want to make? There are many styles of beers and each has subcategories. Popular american craft beers fall under a few main styles – IPA, stouts, porters, wheat beers, ambers and lagers but those are far from your only options.
What Do You Like?
This is a beer that you are going to make, at least brew something that you are going to like. Don’t brew a beer because it’s a popular style. Don’t brew a beer just because your friends like. Start by looking at your favorite beers and identify what you like about those beers. Is it the hop flavors? The aroma? The easy drinkability of it? Also look at the styles of those beers and you may have your answer.
Another way to find your next homebrew is to sample as much as you can. Going to a local brewery? Try a flight of their beers. Buying beer at a liquor store or bottle shop? Go for the mix and match 6-packs.
What Does Everyone Else Like?
Didn’t a just tell you not to brew a beer just because everyone else likes it? While that’s true, you also have to realize that you will be brewing a lot of beer and you’re probably not going to drink it all yourself. If everyone you’re going to share the beer with only drinks domestic light beers, a mega-hoppy IPA isn’t the best choice, at least to start off with. Beers like wheat beers, ambers and lagers are more likely to be gateway beers for non-craft drinkers. You can also go with a less aggressive version of the style – an IPA using hops that produce fruit flavors may cut down on the bitterness. Or if you want to make a dark beer, choose a recipe that’s smoother rather than more robust.
Is there a beer that you really love? Well chances are that there’s a clone recipe out there on the internet to help you try to replicate it. Many of those recipes have been provided by the brewers themselves.
This is a great way to start a recipe of your own. And just because it’s a clone recipe, doesn’t mean that you have to stick that recipe. Most of my recipes have started off as clone recipes that have been modified based on my preferences and ingredient availability. I usually start with recipes that clone recipes of beers that are classic examples of their style.
There’s a wide variety of recipes out there and they have a wide range of difficulty. Do you want to do a basic beer that will help you fine tune your brewing abilities or are you ready to take on some more difficult tasks to get a more complex beer? I always recommend to start small and work your way up. With the more complex beers, there’s more ways for you to simply ruin a batch. A ruined batch can be a major setback for anyone.
Finding and Picking a Recipe
OK, so you know what you want to brew, how do you find a recipe for that beer? There’s many sources from message boards, websites, magazines and homebrew shops. My personal favorite source is the message boards at Homebrewtalk.com. There you will find hundreds of recipes for just about anything that you could want to make. The members discuss the recipes and give reviews and talk about their successes in homebrew contests with the recipe. Many of the recipes have been converted into extract and BIAB recipes to help everyone who is interested in brewing their recipe.
In the future I will discuss modifying and creating your own recipes.
Siska’s Coconut Porter
This is the second time I’ll be brewing a form of this recipe. The first time was a good example of trying to do too much too soon. I attempted to make a spicy coconut porter. I knew how to add the coconut but I wasn’t sure when to add the chili spices. I decided to add them late in the boil process. That was a poor choice or maybe I just used too much spice but the beer came out way too spicy and overpowered most of the coconut in the beer.
This time I will try to avoid that mistake and make the coconut the focus of the beer. I may add complimentary spices including peppers but I will be doing it in smaller amounts during the secondary additions at the same time as the toasted coconut.
The recipe itself began as a clone recipe of Deschutes – Black Butte Porter which I modified into a coconut porter recipe.