Time to Get Creative (Part 2) By: Ben Bakelaar

We left off last week with this all-grain recipe for a Simple Saison, based on the classic Saison DuPont.


5 gallon batch

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 

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


It includes the following aspects which I think are key for a recipe that is reproducible:


Type - it’s just common sense that the recipe will define the type of grains, hops, and yeast.  In advanced recipes it may even include information about the water chemistry.


Amount - how much of each ingredient to use. You’d probably be fairly surprised to see the ingredient list for some of your favorite beers - it’s not always as complicated as you would think. The difference between a pale ale, a stout, and even a barleywine can be just a few pounds of grain.


Time - how long to use each ingredient. This is particularly important for hops, where time makes the difference between bittering, flavor, and aroma.


Temperature - this mainly applies to grains and yeast. Mash temperature determines conversion rates and ultimately the final character of the beer (basically dry vs. sweet). It also applies to yeast. Each yeast has its own defined range of optimal temperature, but even within that range variable fermentation temperature can result in a different flavor.


Gravity - this refers to the sugar content of the wort. In the end it is a calculation based on characteristics of the grains used in the original recipe, but in my experience it is a very handy piece of information to have. Defining this gives brewers the choice of matching it or varying it per their preference. Higher gravity equals a higher alcohol beer.


Mash volume - defining the amount of water used to steep the grains, as well as the temperature, lets the brewer accurately reproduce the original. Without it, there are “rule of thumb” ranges for mashing - temperature from 148f-160f, volume from 1 quart per pound of grain to 1.5 quarts per pound of grain, but without the original target numbers, the beer has a good chance of not tasting the same as the original recipe.


And here is where the creativity comes into play. Did you know the following?


- There are 36 types of grains to choose from at Love2Brew (http://www.love2brew.com/category-s/65.htm)

- There are 45 types of hops to choose from at Love2Brew (http://www.love2brew.com/category-s/66.htm)

- There are 43 types of yeast to choose from at Love2Brew (http://www.love2brew.com/category-s/67.htm)

- There are about 4 mash thicknesses you might typically use (1.0 qt/lb, 1.25 qt/lb, 1.33 qt/lb, 1.5 qt/lb)

- There are about 7 temperatures you might typically mash at (148, 150, 152, 154, 156, 158, 160)


Without getting into too much detail, if I throw out some of the more extreme and uncommon options, you still have roughly a quarter million to a half million combinations to experiment with! Of course, practically speaking there are much fewer time-tested combinations - in fact, those are what we call “styles”. The Beer Judge Certification Program has a list of “official” beer styles (http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/catdex.php), and in total there are 23 categories, each with 1 to 6 sub-categories. While these styles are great, consistent, tasty, meet expectations, and are easily reproduced, don’t let that limit your creativity! Remember, half a million combinations are out there, waiting to be brewed. To give you some perspective, fermented grains (beer) have been brewed since roughly 7000BC, and the hops we know and love today only started to be used around 800-1200AD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_beer).


Let’s look at a more complex recipe which I brewed this fall:


Pumpkin Milk Stout  -  5 gallon batch (All-Grain)


Grains @ 158f for 60 minutes

9 lb Pale malt (2 row)

1 lb Black patent malt

1 lb Caramel/Crystal 40L malt

1 lb Flaked oats



1 oz Northern Brewer @ 60 min boil

1 oz East Kent Goldings @ 30 min boil


Other additions

1.5 tsp Allspice ground dry spice @ 15 min boil

1.5 tsp Nutmeg ground dry spice @ 15 min boil

1.5 tsp Cinnamon ground dry spice @ 15 min boil

1 lb Lactose @ 60 min boil


Original gravity: 1.068 SG

Mash volume: 15 quarts @ 173f


(Pumpkin Milk Stout – Partial Mash)


Technically speaking, this is a stout. Because of the addition of lactose (milk sugar), it is a milk stout. Because of the inclusion of flaked oats, it is an oatmeal milk stout. And to fully complicate things, because of the additions of the spices, it is a pumpkin-pie flavored oatmeal milk stout. But I can sum it up in just one word... delicious! Now how’s that for creativity!  And it just so happens you can conveniently purchase this very recipe from your friends at love2brew... are you sensing a pattern yet?


Look for my next column where we will talk about the variations you can make to a recipe over the course of several batches!