Homebrewers: Change recipe to help learn brewing skills?

My buddy and I have been brewing beer and making wine for a while, but we’re in a spot… between making beer from recipes and developing our own for fun. We usually brew with extracts and steep grains when necessary.

We are going to brew two batches of the same beer, changing only one ingredient.
We usually make brown ales, milds, and stouts. We’ve never made an Imperial x, Double/Dubbel x, or anything like that.

My buddy is not into hoppy beers, so the option of brewing a hop-heavy style and just changing the hop bill is not an option.

I like the idea of tweaking the malts but our previous beers have been…inconsistent. So I’m not sure that I would be able to make the same beer twice anyways.

Any brewer dopers care to offer a suggestion for our brewing experiment?


If you’re brewing from recipes, should I assume you never try different yeast strains?

That would be my first choice for a change in recipe. It’d be interesting to taste the differences side by side.

Second the yeast idea, and also temperatures. Sounds like you might be ready for some dark lagers. Or maybe, if you want to stick with top-fermentation, an Australian “Old” style dark beer. Big, malty, and thirst-quenching. Lightly hopped. Coal miners’ beer.

Thanks for the suggestions. We don’t have the capability to do lagers, but the idea of varying the yeast strain is a good one. Can anyone recommend a general approach for this, like a pair of yeasts that would yield different results with the same recipe?

you’re probably just using the generic yeast or the yeast that comes with the brew from a can. While these end up with good beers, the yeast is usually meant to be not noticed. Compare and contrast with a lambic (like one of those “unique” Belgium beers or a strong tasting wheat beer like Hoegarten).

Wyeast makes a whole line of yeasts that come in a little bag with yeast starter. You break the stuff inside the bag, leave over night, it starts and poofs way big, then you toss it into the wort.

The yeast can make a huge difference in taste (and not always in a good way).

Seconded on using Wyeast.

You might also want to vary the hopping method. For instance, if you’ve never done dry hopping on 2nd fermentation, give that a shot.

Your yeast choice is one of the most important factors in the final flavor of your beer.

Do you know exactly what you will be brewing and what yeast the recipe calls for?

As an example, I’ll assume you want to brew a brown ale.

Try one batch using Wyeast 1272 - American Ale II and one using White Labs WLP007. Something like that. Mix it up. Go crazy. :wink:

This site has a good list of common strains and their flavor profiles.

White labs has a style guide here, and Wyeast has one here.

Good luck!

Moving thread from IMHO to Cafe Society.

I’ve found that dry-hopping in the 2nd gives me the greatest variation in end product. Might not be your cup of tea, so to speak, if your buddy doesn’t like the hoppy stuff. Makes it pretty hoppy. Lately I’ve been buying cheap extract-only kits and jazzing them up by dry-hopping. Does the trick!

I do strictly recipe kits, but I get a fairly wide range of tastes even when I use the same stuff all the time. (Except my Sierra Nevada clone- consistant KickAss!) Temp variations and time left to sit, I suppose.

My only other contribution on the yeast topic is I’ve found the time to initial fermentation is a bit slower with the liquid yeasts. I use dry mostly, and get very vigirous out-gassing within hours! The liquid stews for a day or so before I hear the poppin’. Overall, I’m very happy with the cheaper, easier to use dry yeast.

I’m a very lazy homebrewer, so I’m probably not much help.

In my experience dry hopping makes the beer a bit hoppy, but not bitter. I don’t like hoppy beers because I don’t like the bitter. Possibly this is something they should experiment with.

Well, we finally got around to brewing this morning. I had come up with a pretty basic brown ale recipe somewhat similar to one we have brewed before using the yeasts that psycat90 suggested. When my brewing partner got to the homebrew store, the shop manager kind of talked him into switching up the hops as well, with more aggressive Amarillos for the American Ale II and Willamettes for the White labs English Ale yeast (I had suggested Fuggles).

I guess the owner did not understand completely the experiment and just tried to suggest typical combinations that work well. No big deal, I’m excited because these should be the hoppiest ones we’ve brewed so far, the American Ale in particular.

Thanks for the suggestions to all that posted, I’ll let you know how it turns out.