Spring has sprung, the clock has stolen another hour from us and it’s time for another Craft Chronicles. The weather has turned for the better (this week) and homebrewers are out in full force catching up on their delayed brew days to get ready for the summertime. This is also the time of year that many breweries are developing new recipes to entice their customers as the patio days approach.
How do they come up with so many awesome beers, you might ask? Well, it all starts with a concept. Like many things, sometimes you see what other people are doing and decide you can do it better. Sometimes you just have a feeling and run with it or you might eat or drink something that brings on an instant memory from times past. No matter how inspiration strikes, you have to start with the basics and build carefully from there. Of course it is easy enough to just throw a whole bunch of random things together and hope for the best, but when money and reputation are on the line how do brewers approach the problem?
A small test batch is how the breweries do it. They call it a test batch while homebrewers call it a normal batch. That’s right! Almost every commercial beer starts as a lowly five gallon homebrew style batch as a proof of concept. From there it is scaled up to the breweries’ normal batch size. It is much easier to make a mistake and dump out five gallons as opposed to two thousand or so, and saves a lot of money in the process. First a brewer will decide on the grain bill. This is the percentage of different types of malts for the recipe. Malt is the soul of a beer. It provides the sugar for fermentation as well as the backbone of flavor.
There are hundreds of different malts available to try and a myriad of different combinations. A base malt is used for the bulk of the bill while other specialty malts add color, flavor and texture. Hops are the spice of beer and add character in the form of bitterness, aroma and flavor. After that, a copious assortment of other additions can be made from anything such as fruit, spices and oak aging all to zone in on the brewer’s intentions. See, brewing is just like cooking. Just because two things sound great together doesn’t always mean that they are meant to be in the same dish.
The best advice I ever got was to focus on a flavor and follow it through. Too many different things end up tasting muddy and that is why test batches are so important, they weed out the muddy and weird combinations. I wish I had more space to write about recipe formulation but alas my time is up. Stop by the shop with some beer and we can hash out the fine details. Until next month.
Make sure to join us in our craft adventures each month. Landon is the owner of Farmboy Brew Shop. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers!