Putting together your own recipe is a matter of understanding the ingredients in beer. The best recipes are the ones that start out basic and add little flavors at a time until the perfect recipe is created.
No one recipe will be brewed exactly the same everytime unless you are a brewer with a lot of experience, so take that into account when developing your own recipe. That being said, let’s cover some basics.
Your malt will give your beer a lot of the flavor and body. If you want to brew a stout beer, you’ll be using darker malts or specialty grains to give the beer the color and flavor you are looking for.
For lighter colored beers you’ll be using lighter colored malts and chose the flavors depending on whether you are brewing lagers or pilsners. Obviously for wheat beers you’ll want to use wheat malts which are normally light colored malts.
To increase the alcohol content of your beer you want to use more malts with fermentable sugars. If you just want to increase the body of the beer without adding alcohol, then you’ll want to add malts with non-fermentable sugars.
How much malt you use depends on the beer style, but typically you’ll want to add at leas a pound of malt with fermentable sugars per gallon of water. Then use specialty grains to add the different flavors and colors you are looking for.
Next step is to choose your hops…
Some beer styles will require that you use specific hops. For example English Pale Ales will require you use English hops and American Pale Ales will require that you use American hops. Hops used for bittering are usually high in alpha acids since that is what bitter your beer.
Remember that the longer you boil the wort the more bitterness you will extract out of the hops, but the trade off here is that the oil resins that carry the aroma and flavor evaporates and it’s lost.
So aroma hops are usually hops that have higher levels of oil resins which are usually hops with lower alpha acids. These are added towards the end of the boil or using other hopping techniques like dry hopping.
Coming up with a hop addition schedule will vary depending on the style of beer that you want to brew. Some beers don’t require aroma hops or may require very little bittering hops. Wheat beers for example, like hefeweizens normally use noble hops, which are low alpha acid hops, to bitter the beer. Since these hops are low in alpha acids and the amount of hops used in minimal, you don’t get much bitterness out of it.
Other beers like Imperial stouts, will require much more hops to be added. Many times it is a combination of different varieties of hops, mostly high in alpha acids units.
Software normally comes in handy at this point because it helps you determine your IBU’s which is another requirement to fit into certain styles of beer.
Last part to put together your own recipe is all about choosing good yeast.
For the most part, liquid yeast is much much better than dry yeast. There are more yeast strains available which can dramatically change the overall flavor profile of your beer. To brew a hefeweizen for example, you’ll want to use yeast that will give you a bready, banana fruity flavor or clove flavor. For beers such as lagers, which tend to be drier beers, no fruity flavors are allowed and you must use lager yeasts which ferment at lower temperatures.
The best way to go about choosing yeasts is by the name of the yeasts which will normally have the name of the style which you are trying to brew. Compare brands and read the yeast profile which will tell you how fruity or clean the yeast will ferment.
Also remember that higher pitching rates produce fewer esters which gives you the fruity flavors desired in some beer, but hated in others, which brings me to the next point.
A recipe is not complete without instructions to brew. Many factors during the brewing process can significantly alter your beer and change the overall flavor. For example, if you brew a high gravity wort, your beer will come out a bit darker and a bit sweeter than boiling a lower gravity wort.
If you ferment the beer and condition it longer and at lower temperatures you’ll clean up more of the diacetyl tastes and buttery flavors, than if you do higher temperatures.
What I recommend is that you start out with some basic recipes and get the brewing process right and then start modifying one aspect at a time.