“Letters to a Young Brewer” – Consistency

You’ve brewed a few beers and they’ve come out to your liking.  You perhaps even have a favorite beer recipe that you’ve made more than a few times now.  Your pals all love your beer, or drink it like they do, and you feel like you have this whole thing down.  But how do you know?

When I first started brewing, I was bottling my beer instead of kegging it, as I do now.  I would always keep two or three bottles of a particular brew that I liked, marked with an type/date (IPA,10/06) on the cap, hanging out in the back of the fridge.  After I would brew the same recipe again, I would take my notes from the brew day and compare them to the last brew day for this beer.  Did I hit the same (or similar) OG, did I get the same volume in the fermenter, etc.?  But the proof of consistency isn’t just in the forensics of the brew notes, but in the flavor of the beer.  So after the new batch was ready, I’d drag out one of the bottles from the old batch and one from the new and have a little tasting.  Now aged beer will have some different characters to it than new beer, but after you’re used to how a beer settles down, you’ll be able to detect those without noting them as true “differences”.  After a month, I would do another test to see if the beers were aging along the same path.  These two taste tests gave me a pretty good baseline for whether or not I had achieved consistency.

There’s nothing wrong with brewing the same recipe and having it come out a bit different each time, nor is it a sign of a bad brewer.  However, for those looking to master the process, consistency is king.  In my own brewing, my beers have become more consistent over time as my brew day process has become more consistent.  Brewing on the same gear, over and over, will get you some of the way there.  Knowing the numbers of your previous batch (OG, FG, fermentation temp, yeast type, etc.) and having some of the older brew around for comparison, will help you better understand why things could be different between brews.  When you start eliminating those differences, you gain consistency.

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