When brewing there are many approaches to reaching the final goal of a tasty beer. We as homebrewers are fortunate to not have deadlines handed down to us or direction as to what beer is up next. At times though, this freedom can be better served with some “self imposed” standard operating procedures. One key to taking your homebrew up a notch is to have a process that works and for me that starts with two easy to answer questions: What beer do I want to make and when do I want it to hit its peak. While these questions are easy on the surface, they really are meant to encourage a proper plan.


At the base of this is the consideration of whether or not there is current personal need for a particular style you want to brew. For example, its spring right now and I don’t want to drink an Imperial Stout. However, if I wish to have one that will be great for drinking in winter, it may be best to knock one out at the early stages of the year so that it has time to age and mellow. On the opposite end of this spectrum, I know that I (as well as friends and family) may want some lighter beers for the upcoming summer season. With this consideration, I can then say I have an agenda and the beginning of a plan.

Once you determine what you want to brew, the next most important detail is the recipe. There are so many resources out there that will help brewers at every level design a recipe. Information can be found on the web, in books, at your local homebrew store and through club membership, just to name a few. My quest to build killer beer recipes started with Brewing Classic Styles written by Jamil. It’s a great resource and is likely on the bookshelf of any brewer worth their salt. Another great option is reading through style specific brewing books such as American Sour Beer by Michael Tonsmier or Bavarian Helles by Horst Dornbusch. These books offer up a nice history lesson and run the gauntlet on considerations to take when designing a recipe. With just using the example of books, any brewer can start with something as simple as copying the recipe "to a T" or they can branch off and make tweaks as they wish. The main thing to understand is the ingredient choices for the chosen style and why they are incorporated. The rest is brewer’s privilege.

A word of caution: The web is great for information, but the web is also open to anyone. Consider the source when taking recipe advice online. Nowadays there are great social media groups that are truly rich in information. Milk the Funk is a wonderful example of a source that can typically be trusted. They have even gone so far as to create a wiki page as well that captures information that has been realized in application by trusted sources.

Finally and possibly the best advice I would give any brewer unsure of how to design a recipe is to join a local homebrew club and get involved. From my experience with our local club Cap and Hare, I see decades of knowledge bombs just ready and willing to walk you through that first lager or that big barleywine. Getting involved and brewing more will inevitably make you a better brewer and recipe builder.

Where do we go from here? What is the next thing to consider once you have decided on the beer you want to brew and the details of the recipe? Well stay tuned because the next blog in the series will cover the topic of sourcing your ingredients, growing up that yeast, and basic brew day prep.


Thanks for reading!


-Derek Jones


Derek Jones Bluebonnet Win

Derek is an accomplished homebrewer who won the San Diego State Fair homebrew competition with his American Double IPA Horseshoe Bender and more recently came in 2nd place as Bluebonnet Brew Off Homebrewer of the Year due to his wins in multiple categories, including American Wild Ale. He loves to brew and has been especially focused on wild ales.