Design Your Own Beer Recipe

Start designing your own beer recipes using this guide’s advice on how to approach creating your own style of beer.

| July 2019

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Now it’s time to take off the training wheels and strike out on your own. You have read about many of the various beer styles of the world and you should now have a better idea of the kind of beer you like best and want to brew. Homebrewing is all about brewing your own beer. Recipes are a convenient starting point until you have honed your brewing skills and gained familiarity with the ingredients. Do you need a recipe to make a sandwich? Of course not! You may start out by buying a particular kind of sandwich at a sandwich shop, but soon you will be buying the meat and cheese at the store, cutting back on the mayo a little, giving it a shot of Tabasco, using real mustard instead of that yellow stuff and voila—you have made your own sandwich just the way you like it. Brewing your own beer is the same process.

However, don’t forget to keep a notebook of everything that you do. It would be tragic to brew your best beer ever and then be unable to remember how you made it! This chapter will present more guidelines for using ingredients to attain a desired characteristic. You want more body, more maltiness, a different hop profile, less alcohol? Each of these can be accomplished and this chapter will show you how.

Recipe Basics

Recipe design is easy and can be a lot of fun. Pull together the information on yeast strains, hops, and malts, and start defining the kind of tastes and characters you are looking for in a beer. Do you want it malty, hoppy, big-bodied, or dry? Choose a style that is close to your dream beer and decide what you want to change about it. Change just one or two things at a time so you will better understand the result. Make sure you understand the signature flavors of the style before you start adding or changing lots of things, otherwise you will probably end up with a beer that just tastes weird. You cannot achieve complexity without balance.

To help get your creative juices flowing, here is a rough approximation of basic recipes for the common ale styles assuming a 5 gal. (19 L) batch:

  • pale ale—base malt plus a half-pound (225 g) of caramel malt
  • amber ale—pale ale plus another half-pound (225 g) of dark caramel malt
  • brown ale—pale ale plus a half-pound (225 g) of chocolate malt
  • porter—amber ale plus a half-pound (225 g) of chocolate malt
  • stout—porter plus a half-pound (225 g) of roast barley

Yes, those recipes are crude, but I want you to realize how little effort it takes to produce a different beer. When adding a new malt to a recipe, start out with a half-pound or less ("225 g) for a 5 gal. (19 L) batch. Brew the recipe and then adjust up or down depending on your tastes. Try commercial beers that are available in each style, and use the recipes and guidelines in this book to develop a feel for the flavors the different ingredients contribute.



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