Friday, March 2, 2012

Balanced Beer: Don't Tip the Scale

As craft beer drinkers, we all have our favorite styles.  I love a good IPA with its outrageously high bitterness to gravity ratio and I also enjoy extremely malty beers which seem "sweet" to some.  All beer styles have their time and place, but sometimes its hard to have more than one at a time.  I find the key to having a beer that you can enjoy pint after pint is balance - having enough hop bitterness to complement the malt backbone of your grain bill.

When I first started homebrewing I greatly overestimated the amount individual ingredients could impart.  I thought, well I love the sweetness that caramel malt adds to a brown ale, lets add a couple of pounds of it in my recipe!  It turned out poorly to say the least, way too sweet. Another time I thought it would be cool to add my own home-toasted malt to a beer, did the same thing of adding 3 pounds of it... came out tasting bad.  My intentions were good, but my execution was flawed.

Take a look at some known recipes and look for the percentages of different ingredients.  Crystal malts generally shouldn't make up 30%-40% of a grain bill.  Each different grain is added to a beer for a different reason, make sure you know why and how much.  BYO has a great description of each different grain and I suggest you utilize it in forming recipes.  For hopping, make sure you stay within the style guidelines.  This website has a good graph that approximates where your bitterness should be related to your gravity

Now, if you have personal taste preferences, by all means indulge them.  I just wanted to point out how important balance is in making quaffable homebrew.  Cheers!


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