Friday, November 8, 2013

Why I brew to match classic beer styles

Experimentation, creativity and spontaneity are all positive traits in homebrewers.  You could add "out-of-the-box thinkers" to that list as well.  While I hope to be listed with those characteristics.  I also find myself the most boring brewer I know.

I've seen a lot of interesting combinations, from blueberry, to chocolate, peanut putter, pumpkin, cherry, etc.  It seems that if it has some sort of sugar in it, it is fair game for adding to the brew kettle.  Remember to add spices as well.  Oh, and peppers!  There are so many interesting things to do with beer, to give it interesting and unique results.  I look at these brewers and their beers and envy them really.  I tend to make rather "plain" beers by comparison.

Could it be that I'm just not as advanced in my brewing skills?  Is my palate not as sophisticated, my knowledge of flavors and combinations too limiting?  My imagination lacking?  Oh, what can I do?

Do I rummage through the bottom of the refrigerator for whatever may be "brew-worthy"?  I could also stand in front of the spice rack for hours, racking my brain on the perfect combination for my extremely wonderful next concoction.  But I often don't.  I go back to the style book and build a recipe from there.  Oh, I tweak it to make it my own.  I start with a selected style, target gravity, IBU number, etc. I will make a plan for the brew and stick with the plan until the end.  Uniquely creative, but when compared with the others...it does seem on the surface rather blah.

I shouldn't have to defend myself for brewing to the classic styles.  Actually, I don't have to.  Brewing is a great hobby and there are many many variations available.  The only limiting factors are imagination and of course, the laws of physics and chemistry, as well as the lives of the billions of little yeasts who really do all the work.

Why I brew to match classic beer styles:

1. To learn more.  To understand the history of beer, from different regions of the word is fascinating to me.  To know the flavor profiles of each style and it's nuances it important to a well rounded understanding of beer.  Plus, if the styles have been enjoyed for hundreds of years, in many various geographic regions, shouldn't they be something of interest to a beer enthusiast?

2. To prove to myself that I can brew something and have it turn out as expected, even if it tasted like a commercially available beer.  Heck, I call it an accomplishment if I can make something as good as (or better than) a commercially available beer.

3. I don't have to worry as much.  It's tough enough getting the right amount of beer ingredients in the beer, and to maintain proper temperatures, and amount of priming sugar, etc.  Adding other items to the recipe even further complicates things.  Too little cinnamon.  Too much clove.  Not enough hops.  Now that one would be great to know.  The added layer of complexity and flavors can act to take you away from the primary goal of making great beer and knowing the results of the process.  Is that DMS or just the cream corn I added to secondary?  But don't let me over dramatize it.  It's only beer.

4. I'm me.  I prefer non-fiction over fiction.  I've lost the enjoyment for high action and special effect movies. I don't like super heroes because they are not real.  My favorite ice cream is vanilla.  So my favorite beer might as well be a Belgian Dubbel.

But wait, a Dubbel isn't boring.  It's quite complex with wonderful color and flavors...and not easy to brew.  Ah, now we're getting somewhere.  When I say classic styles, I'm not talking light lagers (though homebrewing a good example of a light lager is not easy).  There are many more complex and delicious styles out there to experience.

I like thinking outside the box and I find many open boxes within the Style Guidelines.  Probably enough to keep me interested and learening for quite some time.  And, yes I have added oak chips into secondary fermentation on more than one occasion.

Cheers!