Yesterday, after some bible (*) reading, I realized that making your own beer is like writing a book. First of all and before even starting, you already know how you’d like it to be, and you know there’s a long road ahead towards having it black on white. Then, after some time you get to that finished work of art… finished? Well, this is the thing. Ask any writer, and they’ll say that no matter how finished the book seems to be, there’s always room for editing or adding in order to improve it.
Same thing happens with your best beer recipe. You’ll always think there’s room for improvement, either in the brewing process or in the recipe. And let me say… this is a true fact. Maybe because time changes things, and people, and their preferences.
The good thing is that it all depends on you, and you alone.
Like Charlie Papazian says on that bible I mentioned before…
Whatever concoction you put together, the responsibility for success is yours alone. A recipe is only the result of somebody’s trial and error and ultimate success. Use your own imagination, flair, courage and common sense. Above all, whatever you do, relax. Don’t worry. Have a hombrew.
On that same chapter, there are some notes that, despite the fact they were written nearly 30 years ago, are still of good use.
Notes, Substitutions and Adjustments
- Don’t be afraid to substitute other varieties of hops. You may substitute hop pellets for whole hops at any time.
- Don’t be afraid to substitute ale yeast for lager yeast and vice-versa.
- All specific gravity readings are made with a hydrometer accurate at 60 degrees F (16°C). Degrees Balling are given in parentheses.
- Always use 1/4 cup of corn sugar of 1 1/4 cup dried malt extract for each 5 gallons brewed when bottling (except where noted). Do not make the error of misinterpreting this, i.e., do not use 3/4 pound of corn sugar. If honey is used, use 1/2 cup honey.
- When brewing you may always substitute malt extract for corn sugar for a brew with more body and character. Substitute approximately pound for pound.
- All recipes may be lightened in body and flavor (while not diminishing alcohol) by substituting corn sugar (approximately pound for pound) for malt extract. For best results, corn sugar should never be substituted for more than 20 percent of the malt extract.
- To lighten body, flavor and alcohol, the amount of malt extract may be decreased. The amount of hops should be decreased proportionately.
- The addition of grains is best done during the 15-30 minutes it takes to bring the water to a boil. The spent grains can then simply be removed with a kitchen strainer.
- You may end up with a beginning specific gravity other than noted. Relax, don’t worry. There may be some variation due to varieties or batches of malt extract, temperature or inadequate mixing of the wort in the fermenter. The important thing is not to worry.
- Manufacturers of malt extract are constantly changing their packaging. What may be available in a 2-pound can at the time of this publication may later only be available in 3 1/2-pound cans. Use your common sense when making adjustments.
- Don’t be afraid to use a pound more or a pound less in any given recipe. It will alter the character of the beer, but it certainly will not ruin it.
- Lb(s) = pound(s) / tbsp. = tablespoon(s) / tsp. = teaspoon(s) / c. = cup(s) / pkg(s). = package(s) / oz. = ounce(s) (weight) / O.G. = Original Specific Gravity / F.G. = Final Specific Gravity.
- When grains, whole or pellet hops are added to the wort always use a strainer to separate particulates from the wort as it passes into the fermenter. Hops or grains may clog the “blow-out” hose and cause hazardous pressure buildup in the fermenter.
- Whether using whole hops or hop pellets, always pass your hot wort through a sanitized strainer before allowing it to flow into your fermenter.
- Motivate yourself to learn how to use liquid cultured ale and lager yeasts. Some liquid yeast cultures available to homebrewers can dramatically improve the quality of your homebrew, especially your lager beers. Liquid yeasts may be substituted for dried yeast in all recipes.
- Five U.S. gallons equals 19 liters. One ounce equals 28,3 grams. One kilogram equals 2,2 pounds. 3,3 pounds equals 1,5 kilograms. One U.S. gallon equals .8 Imperial British or Canadian gallons. One Imperial British or Canadian gallon equals 1,2 U.S. gallons. These are conversions you may find useful when using British, Australian or Canadian products.
- HBUs. or Homebrew Bitterness Units, are a measure of the total amount of bitterness potential in a given volume of beer. They are very easy and useful units to use for beginning and intermediate homebrewers when formulating or converting recipes. Bitterness units are calculated by multiplying the percent of alpha acid in the hops by the number of ounces. For example, if 2 ounces of Northern Brewer hops (9% alpha acid) and 3 ounces of Cascade hops (5 % alpha acid) were used in a 10-gallon batch, the total amount of bitterness units would be 33: (2 x 9) + (3 x 5) = 18 + 15 = 33. Bitterness units per gallon would be 3,3 in a 10-gallon batch or 6,6 in a 5-gallon batch, so it is important to note volumes whenever expressing Homebrew Bitterness Units.
HBUs are not related to lBUs (International Bitterness Units) except that they both measure bitterness in beer.
All boiling hops in recipes quote HBUs as a guide for the homebrewer should he or she desire to substitute other varieties of hops. For example, 2 ounces of 4,5 percent Saaz hops equals 9 HBUs. which is equivalent to 1 ounce of 9 percent Northern Brewer in the boil.
So let me cut the Shuck and Jive and get on with the recipes.
Give it a try, it won’t bite.