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This is more of a general question that I'd like to throw out to homebrewers that like to 'experiment' with beer recipes. I've been through enough all-grain brews now that know my equipment fairly well, and even though I'm still learning tips and tricks along the way I want to throw out a question on experimenting with different ingredients (different yeast, malts, hops).

I like the art and science of brewing as much as drinking my results. So much so that I really enjoy seeing how certain combinations taste rather than just attempting to make a 'clone'.

Do any other curious brewers that like to try to make their own recipes have any suggestions on ways to experiment various combinations most efficiently?

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I'd suggest reading "Experimental Homebrew" by Denny Conn and Drew Beechum. It's all there. Another good source might be Brulosophy blog.

There's nothing bad/boring at trying to create a "clone" btw. See "Can You Brew It" podcast. Creating a perfect clone of a famous beer is actually difficult and requires a lot of research and experiments, i.e. it's not just simply following a recipe that you find in some forum.

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The most effective way to experiment with various ingredients is to make up a larger amount of base wort, split it into sufficient parts to use with various ingredients and ferment. When all is completed it is then possible to directly compare the effect of any addition or ingredient by tasting one sample against another. I have found there is a reduced value in comparing a beer to another from memory. Comparing two brews from different times is always possible but may not yield directly comparable results due to the effect of conditioning/ageing in the bottle/barrel.So while one may prefer one beer to another it would be more difficult to say if the flavour was down to ingredients or the effect of ageing.

My only other observation when experimenting with single batch brews is to brew small and often and keep a small stock to allow conditioning. Designing a beer tends to be a "statistical" process that can rarely be got right in one go.

  • This is helpful @barking.pete, and was thinking of doing just that: creating a base then add different ingredients to compare. I guess the follow-up question is how to do this effectively? Mash out with just a base malt? Dry hopping as not to have to go through 5 boils, etc.? Or, is it better to buy extract base malt and go through the boil 5x, in this example? – mike0416 Jan 24 '17 at 0:47
  • For fastest/easiest results I would recommend using pale malt extract for the base wort. There is no need to boil it, just dissolve it in freshly boiled water. Hops are converted more efficiently(and safely) by boiling in water, The resulting "Hop tea" can be added to the hot wort along with the liquor from any roast/speciality grains that have been steeped in boiled water. The hot solution can then be diluted and cooled using cold tap water. When at the correct volume and temperature pitch the yeast. In such a way preparing and inoculating a small batch beer can be done in 90 minutes of less – barking.pete Jan 24 '17 at 23:43
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I'm very new to the home brewing scene (only about to start my first ever brew), but I like to know the science behind things I do before I do them.

You may have already read this, but I read this entire ebook before deciding to start my home brewing hobby and it's already giving me ideas of ways I can experiment with yeast and hops etc. down the line. Might be worth a look if you haven't already - if you're adept with all grain brewing you may just be able to cherry pick the info you need from chapters dedicated to yeast, hops and such.

http://www.30draugi.lv/meslaine/How_To_Brew_-_By_John_Palmer.pdf

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