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The Mans Cave

The Mans Cave was a concept originated long before my time. The men in my family have always had their place of solitude where men could be men and there was no questioning. I now live the city life which means the man cave has been greatly reduced in size. That brought me to create an internet based man cave where all men can join in. Whether geek, gamer, jock, fitness, brewer, BBQ-er, or just looking for a place to read about manly news, you will find a home in the Man Cave

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Creating Your Signature Brew

If you are anything like me, you get kind of bored by the idea of looking up a recipe for brewing a beer, and then sticking exactly to what it says.  I always find myself changing up the malts, or hops, and adding other flavors to try and create something unique.  There are many tried and true recipes out there that produce great beers, but there is something special about telling someone who is about to drink your brew that you came up with the recipe by yourself!  So here is a little guide to creating your own recipe:

BJCP Styles- These are the officially recognized styles of beer that most competitions use as their categories for beer entries.  Available at, these guidelines are a great place to start as they give you established styles of beer around which you can choose to craft your own.  I often begin here and craft a recipe with one of these styles in mind.

Inspiration for Your Recipe- This is probably the biggest part of creating your recipe.  If you want to do something that lets people know it was you that brewed it, you have to figure out how the beer ties in to your life.  It could be anything from your love or BBQ, chocolate, or even a video game! The trick is to really be different so that people will know exactly how you made this your beer.

I was looking around the BJCP Guidelines the other day after trying Brooklyn Sorachi Ace (Read About Sorachi Ace Here) because I had never heard of the Saison style of beer.  I'm a BBQ junkie so I was trying to think of a beer that I could brew that would go really well with BBQ and a hot afternoon by the pool.  With those two ideas in mind, I went about crafting my recipe.  Now to continue with the guide:

Base Malt: This step is an important part of your recipe creation.  This is often overlooked by brewers that simply just use 2-row malt.  Or just use Light Dry Malt Extract.  Any of the malts that could be considered base malts can make up the entire grain bill for your recipe.  Here is a quick run down of the malts:
           6-row malt- This malt is known for its ability to help mashing with low enzyme adjunct ingredients.  It is relatively high in protein, and can therefore cause problems with clarity, but it gives your beer a strong grainy flavor.
           2-row malt- This is similar to 6-row, but is usually mellower and provides less of a grainy taste, and more of what most people consider "malty."  However, it does not have the same ability to help with mashing low enzyme adjuncts, but can still get the job down.  This is usually considered the go to malt for most American style beers.
           Maris Otter Malt- This English malt is considered by many to be the most superior malt.  It has a very rich flavor, and is very forgiving to brewing mistakes.
           Golden Promise- This is basically the Scottish equivalent of Maris Otter.  Rich, malty flavor, but it is a very balanced flavor.
           German or Belgian Pilsner Malt- Both of these malts produce a smooth grainy flavor, and if used in a recipe should make up at least 80% of what goes into your mash.  They are excellent choices for either ales or lagers.
           Wheat Malt- Wheat malt gives that classic hazy look to any style wheat beer (i.g. Hefeweizen).  It is possible to use only wheat malt in your mash, especially if you use the brew in a bag method, but it has a tendency to cause everything to get stuck up if you don't use another base malt with it (2-row or 6-row are great choices).

Any of these malts can be used to make up 100% of your grain bill in your recipe.  There are many more varieties of base malts out there, but these 7 give you a broad array of choices.  It is a safe bet that if you use at least 75% base malt in your recipe, you will end up with a pretty good beer.  It is also important to remember that the percentages for your malts are those that go into your mash.

Specialty and Crystal Malts- There are a broad array of specialty malts that can be used to add color, flavor, mouthfeel, or head retention to your beer.  The ones listed below are just a peek at what is available, but they are some of my favorites.
           Crystal Malt- Crystal Malts add a caramel flavor and golden to dark red color to your beer depending on which Crystal malt you use.  The bigger the number that follows (Crystal 10L versus 120L) the darker the color it produces and the richer caramel flavor.
           Victory Malt- This is one of my favorites to use, especially in IPAs.  This malt gives your beer a rich, bready flavor that reminds me of rolls coming out of the oven.
           Vienna Malt- This malt will give your beer a mellow, malty depth of flavor as well as a orange color.  (This malt is considered a base malt, but I use it more as a specialty malt)
           Black Patent Malt- This beer is known for its use in porters and stouts, but its contribution is mostly limited to color.  Small amounts are all that is needed for this malt to give your beer a dark black color. 1-10% is the general use because any more than that results in astringent flavors.
           Carapils®- This malt is an interesting malt that has absolutely no effect on color or taste.  It will add body, foam retention, and beer stability. Only 1-5% will have the effect you want on your beer.
           Special B- This is a really unique Belgian crystal malt that will give your beer those dark, rich dried fruit flavors that is a must in Belgian Abbey style beers.  Using more than 5% will give your beer a very dark color and an even stronger fruit flavor.
           Smoked Malts- There are several varieties of smoked malts, but the general effect on your beer is to provide a rich, smoky flavor, with not too much impact on color.  Be careful with these malts as a very little amount will go a long way as far as flavor goes.  Stay under 5% or you will regret it.

So at this point, I know that I want to do a Saison Style beer, which is very crisp, dry and slightly fruity in taste.  Up to this point, I know that I will be using 2 different base malts, German Pilsner Malt and 2-row malt to help get that crisp flavor with a nice malty background.  I'm also going to add just a little Vienna Malt because I want to get some of that orange color in this beer.  Now I need to think about my hops, and any adjuncts (or additions that aren't hops, malt, yeast, or water) I want to add.

Hops- Hops aren't just for bitterness, flavor, and aroma.  They are a vital part of beer that helps protect the flavors of your malt so they do not become astringent.  Obviously, bitterness, flavor, and aroma are huge!  Depending on when you add your hops depends on whether you will get bitterness, flavor, or aroma out of them.  Stick to this basic guideline.  If you add them at 60 minutes of boiling time, you will get bitterness.  With 15 minutes left in the boil you will get flavor, and with 5 minutes left in the boil you will get aroma.  Dry-hopping also adds aroma.
              Cascade-  This is the classic go to hop for most homebrewers.  Bright, citrusy, and slightly floral, this hop is great for IPAs, and is useful as a bittering, flavoring, or aroma hop.
              Centennial- This is thought of as a super Cascade.
              Fuggles- This hop gives off a earthy, woodsy flavor and aroma.  Most people either love it or hate it.
              Hallertau- German hop that comes off in flavor and aroma as being mildly floral and earthy.
              Saaz- The classic lagering hop.  Nice hoppy flavor and aroma that compliments crisp, clean beer styles.

As with both categories above, there is such a broad variety of hops that you have to choose from that you could almost never run out of options and combinations.  Exploring the ways that hops blend could lead you to create a beer that is completely unique.

Adjuncts- This is where your creativity can really thrive.  Commercial examples of beer with adjuncts include everything from chocolate to pumpkin to fruit of many kinds.  In our grain to glass video coming up, we included vanilla in our beer.  Depending on what it is that you had could change many things about your beer, the most immediate being its ABV.  By adding simple sugars, you can increase the ABV and add flavor at the same time. 

So I now know that I want to brew a Saison style beer, and that I'm going to use both German Pilsner and 2-row malt as my base malt.  I'm going to add a little Vienna malt to add some color and then I'm going to use a combination of three hops that I really feel will compliment each other.  For bittering purposes I'm going to use a mix of Cascade and Centennial, and then for the flavor and aroma hops I'm going to use a hop known as Sorachi Ace.  It is a hop that is bright and floral and gives a lemony flavor and aroma to your beer.  Then, as an adjunct, I'm going to add white grape juice.  I know that sounds a little strange, but I recently enjoyed He'Brew Rejewvenator and it has this nice grape flavor from concord grapes that I thought was really great and unique.

Our last step! Yeast!
YEAST- Often times, people overlook yeast, but the yeast that you use to ferment your beer can be one of the biggest choices you make.  Rather than just try to describe a few of them, I'm just going to post two links that you can check out that provide a ton of information.
Wyeast Labs
These are the two companies that I use for my yeast and I have yet to be disappointed by the results.

For my dream BBQ beer, I'm going to use Wyeast 3711 which is their French Saison yeast that is supposed to produce crisp, dry beers, with fruity aromas and a light mouthfeel.  This should be perfect for cutting through the heavy flavors of BBQ and refreshing you on a hot summer day!

Have fun with creating your recipes! Stick to these basic guidelines and you should be well on your way to creating a recipe that you can really call your own.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below and we'll try to help you out! If you're interested, I've posted the actual recipe for the brew I created just below.

Cheers and Happy Brewing!

Summer Sting Farmhouse Ale
Mash at 148 for 80 minutes
4 lb American 2-row
4 lb German Pilsner
4 oz Vienna Malt

60 minute Boil
At the start add
      .5 ounces Cascade
      .25 ounces Centennial
45 minutes into the boil add
      .25 ounces Sorachi Ace
With 5 minutes to go add
      .25 ounces Sorachi Ace
      8 ounces honey
With 1 minute to go add
      .5 ounces Sorachi Ace
Cool wort and pitch Wyeast 3711.  After two days add 32 ounces of White Grape Juice and allow to ferment in primary for at least 2 weeks between 70 and 80 degrees F.  This yeast works really well at warmer temperatures.  Move to secondary if desired after 2-3 weeks and then bottle or keg as desired.


Kelli :) said...

Wow! I wish I could say something on topic but this is a foreign language to me. Also, maybe I'm not supposed to be reading in the "man's cave." Anyway, keep writing... you're great!

Theo Pritchard said...

Extremely interesting, id like to try homebrewing at some point

brewmaster12 said...

You definitely should! It's great to get really connected to what you eat and drink and homebrewing is just a really fun way to do that! There are some easy ways to do it such as extract brewing but all grain is extremely cheap and gives you total control of your brew! Let me know if you want help or check out our earlier posts!

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