Friday, April 13, 2012

How to design a homebrew recipe, pt. 1

Here is a brief description of how I design my beer recipes. When I started brewing, my recipes were a hodge-podge of ingredients, without a clear idea of what kind of beer I wanted. How do you know when you arrive if you don't where you're going? I've found it helpful to imagine the type of beer I want, and design the recipe around that.

I suggest you actually write this stuff down on paper, or back up remotely online. I have a cheapo school notebook I use. I lost all my recipes and notes when my last laptop died, so while I use my computer for design, I keep my notes and copies of my recipes in my notebook.

I'll start by looking at the BJCP Style Guide. I think it's important to brew to taste, not to style (unless you're brewing for competition) so don't feel beholden to the guidelines. I recently made a recipe for a Belgian Brut, a Champagne-like beer of which there are only a handful of examples. That didn't give me much to go on, but I felt what I wanted was close to a Belgian Golden Strong Ale, with a few tweaks.

My desired beer profile:
Aroma: Fruity esters, prominent grapefruit aroma, spicy phenols, moderate hop aroma.
Appearance: Golden to orange (4-6 SRM?), highly effervescent, rocky head, good lacing, moderate-to-high clarity.
Flavor: Subtle but present malt flavor, extreme attenuation, moderate bitterness, fruity flavor, with subtle spice, moderate hop flavor.
Mouthfeel: Light body, high carbonation, but with decent structure and smooth finish.
Misc: High ABV for extended cellaring ability. Very high carbonation will require Champagne bottles.

How do I turn this into a recipe? I start with appearance, since that's the most straight-forward. Use a program like Beersmith or Hopville to start plugging in your ingredients, starting with your grains. Since I want a subtle, light malt flavor, I'll use pils malt for the bulk of my fermentables. I want a little color, and a little extra malt flavor, so I'll use a small portion of Belgian Aromatic malt. I want a dense, rocky head, so I'll need some kind of malt to increase head retention. Wheat (malted, unmalted, or torrified) is commonly used for this. I could have used Carapils to increase the head retention, but since I want extreme attenuation, I don't want to add any crystal-type malt.

So my grain bill looks like this:
Pils - 84%
Wheat malt - 12.1%
Aromatic - 3.2%

I want extreme attenuation, so I'll need to add simple sugar. There are many sugar options. Plain table sugar or dextrose would work fine for increasing attenuation. I want a fruity flavor though, so I'll use a percentage of date sugar.

Sugar bill:
Dextrose - 70%
Date sugar - 30%

My fermentables bill is now:
Pils - 72.4%
Wheat malt - 10.3%
Aromatic malt - 2.8%
Dextrose - 10.3%
Date sugar - 4.1%

I want moderate, clean bitterness, so I'll use Magnum hops for bittering. For the grapefruit and hop aromas, and fruity flavors, I'll use Nelson Sauvin for aroma and flavor additions. I don't want a ton of hop flavor and aroma, so I'll stick to around an ounce or so.

Hop schedule:
20g Magnum @ -60min for 19.4IBUs
18g Nelson Sauvin @ -10min for 7.9IBUs
18g Nelson Sauvin @ 0min for 0IBUs
20g Nelson Sauvin Dry-hop for 3 days

For yeast, I'm looking for fruity esters and spicy phenols. Some British yeasts may give fruity esters, but since I want spicy phenols as well, that narrows it down to Belgian-style yeasts. Since I want extreme attenuation and a smooth mouthfeel, I decided to go with Wyeast 3711, the Brasserie Thiriez strain.

I want to make sure I have a solid mouthfeel, even with the high attenuation. For this, I'll add 50g of oak chips. To complement the spiciness from the yeast, I'll choose French oak, medium toast.

I'm shooting for 10-11% ABV, so I'll scale my fermentables to a gravity of 1.090.

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