Thursday, November 4, 2010

What goes into an experimental brew?

So today we decided it was finally time to brew a little beer we've been talking about for quite some time. Well, it'll be brewed in the morning, but I decided to pen the recipe today. Both myself and Gerrit come from Jewish backgrounds, and like any self respecting Jew, we love a good pastrami on rye sandwich. So we got to talking about the different elements that go into making a pastrami sandwich, from the brining spices, to the peppery crusted brisket, to the rye bread and mustard...

Could these elements somehow be combined into a beer???

Well, that's what we will set out to discover tomorrow morning.

After posting our intentions on our Facebook page, we got a couple reactions ranging from disgust to intrigue. I also received a great email from an intrigued gentlemen by the name of Adam. Below you'll find his question and my response regarding the creative process in developing such a brew.


Adam Writes

When making a new beer, such as the one that was posted on facebook earlier today, how do you know what the end result will taste like? Will it even be drinkable? Do you taste test throughout the brewing process? If so when are the best times to taste? I would think in coming up with something new you wouldn't want to waste money and product in brewing something that will ultimately get tossed out.

Thanks and curious.

Hey Adam,

Great question! Generally when formulating a recipe I use stylistic traditions to guide me. If I am brewing an English Porter, let's say, I look at the historical recipes used and take note of what grains, hops, mashing techniques are prevalent. After that I start thinking about what my end goals are i.e. do I want a roastier porter, or maybe a hoppier one. Through experience I usually have a pretty good sense of what the end result will be.

I do indeed taste throughout the brewing/fermentation process. Of course I taste my wort pre and post boil. I'll usually taste again after initial fermentation and a couple times throughout the ageing process.

Now, most of what I said gets tossed out the window when we are trying something really experimental, like the forthcoming Pastrami on Rye. To be honest, I've never brewed with most of the spices that will go into the beer.

When doing something like this I start with a solid foundation. I decided a rich malty brown ale/porter base would support the flavors I was going for. Then I changed it up a little by introducing the smoked malt and rye. I have used these grains quite often so I have a good idea of what proportions will lend some flavor without being overkill.

 Then I researched what the typical spicing is for pastrami. Working out the proportions is the tricky part. I began looking up what typical amounts are for using the various spices alone. So say when folks use about 2tsp of peppercorns in a beer to get a mild pepper taste, I at least have a baseline for the flavor threshold of that spice. I do my best to make an educated guess. I also try to undershoot it a little the first time I brew something like this, as I can always add more spice flavor in secondary or prior to bottling.

Past that, it's a bit of a craps shoot. This will be a pilot batch. I would never do something like this on a full scale batch until I was pleased with a 5 gallon version first. This thing could be terrible all said and done, but it could be awesome. Based on the first batch I can make adjustments to subsequent batches, if, of course, it seems a worthy venture.

As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I remember the first time I brewed my Belgian IPA with my partner Gerrit. I came out of the kitchen at the end of the boil with a bunch of Szechuan Peppercorns... he looked at me like I was crazy. I told him I had been researching the flavors of those particular berries (they are actually berries) and thought they'd complement the hops really well. He was quite skeptical, but in the end it turned out to be one of his favorite beers.

The Pipeworks Boys

No comments:

Post a Comment