I have a wheel of Gruyere in the press, we bottled a white blend and one of the wines in the blend, an Albarino (forgive me, don’t know how to get a tilde on the “n” on my tablet). The blend: Albarino (60%), Gewurztraminer (25%) and Muscat (15%). But the reason for this post: I got my new copy of “How to Brew” by John Palmer this week.
I’ve always maintained that the recipe was not nearly as important as other factors in brewing. The same wort can be fermented differently and produce a completely different beer. John’s priorities match mine so I’ll list them:
1. Sanitation. Your stuff isn’t clean, your beer gets infected, it will not be good. Period. You can’t call an infected beer “Belgian” and get away with it, at least not with anyone who knows what they’re tasting. Infected beer tastes like infected beer and there’s nothing that can be done to fix it.
2. Fermentation control. Yeast does not like temperature swings. The temperature isn’t as important as the stability. My fermentation controller, an Inkbird two-stage controller that both heats and cools, is accurate to +/- 0.7 C, or about 1 F. It’s made a great difference in my beer. If you don’t have that level of control you can still make good beer but look for ways to keep the temperature stable.
3. Yeast management. Pitch enough viable yeast. Period. Make starters. Hydrate dry yeast.
4. The boil. You can over or undercook your ingredients. Pay attention to the boil.
5. The recipe. Finally, the thing most obsess over. Obsessing over 1 through 4 will help make better beer.
I had a chance to meet John earlier this year and we had an interesting chat about this very subject. I didn’t have the boil in my list then, I do now. Some further factors are oxygen after fermentation, how you package, choice of priming sugar and so forth but these five will do most toward helping you make good beer.