Time to get creative (Part 1) By: Ben Bakelaar

Recipes - time to get creative (part 1)


For my first article here at love2learn, I wanted to introduce the concept of a recipe. Now, you might ask, isn’t that simple? A recipe is a recipe. You know it when you see it, right? But there is much more to a beer recipe than just the ingredients. After all, at its root, beer is simply a mix of 4 ingredients - grains, hops, yeast, and water. This was famously put into law in Germany during the middle ages as the Reinheitsgebot (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinheitsgebot). Luckily for us, American homebrewers have inherited the Wild West attitude of our ancestors, so we do what we want with our beer! But the bottom line is you just aren’t going to make a beer without these 4 key ingredients.


So, that’s all you need, there’s your recipe, and we’re done... just kidding. The next step in a beer recipe is to define how much of each ingredient there is, as well as what type, because there are a lot of choices these days. Let’s look at a super simple 5 gallon all-grain Saison recipe that I brewed this past summer.


10 lbs Pilsner malt
2 oz East Kent Goldings
2 vials of WLP565 Belgian Saison I Yeast


You really can’t get simpler than that! So is that the recipe? Well, no, actually it’s just the start. You see, brewing beer is a lot like baking - the recipe starts with the ingredients, but you actually need to include some of the details of the brewing process as well, otherwise you aren’t going to recreate the original recipe. You can break down the brewing process to as few or as many steps as you want (and achieve a good result either way!), but in my columns I will generally be talking about advanced all-grain brewing, so get ready to take some notes if you haven’t tried it yet.


Next, we want to insert some temperatures and times (much like baking) to let the brewer know what to do with the ingredients. Our recipe now looks like:


10 lbs Pilsner malt @ 147f for 60 minutes
1 oz East Kent Goldings @ 60 minutes
1 oz East Kent Goldings @ 15 minutes
2 vials of WLP565 Belgian Saison I Yeast @ 75f-85f

Now we’re talking! I know how much of each ingredient I need, how long I should use it for, and in the case of the grains and yeast, at what temperature. These factors (time and temperature) have a large influence on the final product, and so they should be part of any recipe which seeks to recreate the original. If you are feeling a little boxed in, don’t worry, in future columns we’ll talk all about variations, modifications, shortcuts, longcuts, and everything in-between. But for now I want to make sure we have a basic understanding of recipes - ingredients, amounts, times, and temperatures. To wrap it up, let’s throw in two more pieces of information to give us a solid, well-rounded, reproducible recipe.


10 lbs Pilsner malt @ 147f for 60 minutes
1 oz
Kent Goldings
@ 60 minutes
1 oz
Kent Goldings
@ 15 minutes
2 vials of WLP565 Belgian Saison I Yeast 

Original gravity: 1.051 SG
Mash volume: 12.5 quarts at 158f


[Editor’s Note: Get this kit here:  love2brew Simple Saison All-Grain Kit]


[Editor’s Note: Extract version: love2brew Simple Saison Extract Kit]



With the addition of these two pieces of information, the brewer now also knows what their target sugar content (original gravity) is, which allows for grain/malt extract substitutions, and how much water (mash volume) should be added to the grains, which influences the mash thickness and conversion rates, and ultimately the final character of the beer. Again, if you are scratching your head, don’t worry because I’ll be getting into all the fun details of this in future columns. But for now, our result is a solid recipe for a tasty Saison! This is basically a clone of Saison Dupont, one of the defining beers of the saison style. In fact, there is a whole book on it, which I’ve read and highly recommend (http://www.brewerspublications.com/books/farmhouse-ales-culture-and-craftsmanship-in-the-belgian-tradition/). And it just so happens you can conveniently purchase this very recipe from your friends at love2brew... isn’t that nice?


Look for my next column where we will talk about the creative aspects of recipes!