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Is it true that "big, bold beers are not difficult to brew?"

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Ri0, Feb 12, 2013.

  1. Ri0

    Ri0 Champion (915) Wisconsin Jul 1, 2012

    I really don't know, but it comes from this interview of Brian Destree from Capital Brewery.


    Thoughts?
  2. stupac2

    stupac2 Initiate (0) California Feb 22, 2011

    This comes up a lot. Generally what people mean is that when the flavors are milder it's harder to hide flaws.
  3. It's maybe easier to brew a 'good' one than a 'good' one of smaller size.

    I do think that to make a 'great' beer still requires a tremendous amount of skill and dedication- no matter the size or style. Especially day in, day out.
    SammyJaxxxx likes this.
  4. Pahn

    Pahn Advocate (695) New York Dec 2, 2009

    yes, it is.

    also, i've found that malt bombs are a lot easier to make than really hoppy, cereal-grainy pale ales. great lagers probably even harder, but good APAs are the bane of my and my brewing partners existence. you can get huge hop flavors, but the clarity of the rest of the beer is hard to achieve for us...

    that said, is it hard to brew a huge beer and age it on oak, add bourbon, make something delicious? no. is it hard to make it bourbon county stout? yes.
    fmccormi and Ri0 like this.
  5. Brew a 5% blonde ale @15 ibu's and any off flavors will be noticeable.
    Brew the same beer and hop it to 80 ibu's, you'll get the delicious flavor of hops and your flaws won't be noticed.
    yemenmocha likes this.
  6. Sokool

    Sokool Aficionado (210) Washington Jan 31, 2013

    It takes a lot of skill to make great beer in any style. While the brewing techniques involved in making some big, bold beers may be less involved (for the sake of argument), it takes a lot more inventiveness and a sense of innovation to create big "in-your-face" beer. But who cares how hard it was to make? I just care what it tastes like!
  7. JrGtr

    JrGtr Savant (365) Massachusetts Apr 13, 2006

    Is it easy to brew? Yes. Is it easy to do well? Now that's a different story. Anyone can just bung a mess of grains and hops into a kettle and come out with a strong beer, but to brew one with proper balance takes some skill. That said, the bold flavors can hide flaws that a lighter beer will not.
    BoneyardBrewer likes this.
  8. Don't take this the wrong way, but any idea why? I am sure you use Irish moss and do a secondary. I seem to get good clarity and only do those two steps.
  9. When people say this I feel like they are trying to make themselves sound important.
  10. Nectar

    Nectar Savant (310) New Jersey Jan 17, 2013

    Theres a difference between brewing an acceptable big beer vs. brewing an exceptional big beer.

    If anyone whole heartedly believes its easy to brew a great big beer, I would ask why you havent opened a brewery and raked in the "easy money".
  11. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Advocate (595) Colorado Jan 20, 2012

    Thread jack...what's your malt bill look like?
  12. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Advocate (595) Colorado Jan 20, 2012

    Stupid smart phones.. didn't mean to split this up but...
    Brewing big beers brings its own set of problems to the table. Solvent flavors from hiigher alcohol levels, yeast attenuation, mash tun space, malt to hop balance all come into play.
    SadMachine likes this.
  13. kzoobrew

    kzoobrew Champion (830) Michigan May 8, 2006

    Sure it may take more finesse to brew a smaller beer but lets not dismiss the skill it takes to produce a big beer. There are plenty of examples of god awful big beers.
    SadMachine and stayclean like this.
  14. PoopChute69

    PoopChute69 Initiate (0) Poland Oct 24, 2012

    It totally depends on what kind of "big beer" you're talking about.

    Westy 12, for example, is sometimes seen as an "easy beer to brew" by other Belgian brewers. On the other hand, a "small beer" maker like Cantillon has the exact opposite reputation in the region.

    It's hard to make an excellent beer, no matter the size or style - regardless of what hamburgerss has to say about it.
  15. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Savant (475) Florida May 29, 2011

    Generalizations. Old Ale vs Scotch Ale vs Dopplebock vs Baltic Porter. All of those are big, bold styles but many many differences between them. Even a single style has variations in character depending on how the brewer wants the beer to be. I've had, personally, a much easier time brewing two lagers that were amazing than an English Barleywine I made an attempt at.

    When you get your recipe right and match the ingredients with the process, bolder flavors do hide flaws better than a clean beer.. but one could argue that putting together the recipe and process for a big, bold beer is just as challenging as crafting a light style. Depends on the brewer and system.
    SadMachine likes this.
  16. tgchief

    tgchief Savant (270) Iowa Nov 30, 2010

    Lagers are easy to make, and cost a lot less. But they take time and patience and a different parameter of fermenting and aging temperatures. Since my brothers were super light weights (before I hooked them on hoppy,balanced ales), I cloned several of the macros and fooled them all in my early days of home brewing.
    sacrelicio likes this.
  17. Stevedore

    Stevedore Champion (810) Wisconsin Nov 16, 2012

    I'll let you know when I try to brew my own BCBS clone. Whenever that is.
  18. podunkparte

    podunkparte Initiate (0) Washington Nov 14, 2009

    I don't think he meant clarity as in appearance. I think he means clarity as in distinguishing clear flavors behind the hop profile.
  19. Ah. I swear I read that 17 times and still thought I was missing something. Thanks.
  20. Lagers are easy to make, once you know how. Ingredients are less, tank time is more, so in your brewrey you know tank time is money. A local place is focused on lagers, and says they could make 3X on their system if they were brewing ales, which would mean more money, right?

    Edit - My actual hardest days brewing are on German and Czech lagers with a double decoction, long boils, and chilling to 45F. That is about 9 hours on my homebrew set up. The results seem to be worth it. Being lazy I am trying just doing stepped infusion this years. Hope it is worth it.
    tgchief likes this.
  21. brewbetter

    brewbetter Savant (400) Nauru Jun 2, 2012

    It sounds like someone is trying to justify liking yellow fizzy stuff. I disagree with his thoughts. People in this thread are saying that big beers hide the flaws, which may or may not be true, but just because a beer is big doesn't mean it will be good.

    Just because you hop up an IPA and drive the ABV up doesn't mean it will be good. Even with a big IPA, a good beer will have delicate hop notes and there is a balance to how much malt character to have; on big stouts, there needs to be a balance to the roasted malt character; it's not that easy to impart huge bourbon character on a beer; it's not that easy to create a really big beer (15+%) that isn't a hot sweet mess.
  22. Pahn

    Pahn Advocate (695) New York Dec 2, 2009

    i worded that badly. we get great clarity in the beer, i meant "clarity of flavor" (not a very technical term; more a beer-taster term), as in no muddled / muddy flavor or unwelcome sweetness etc. bright malt flavors don't come out, hop flavor fades too fast, etc. we suck at that for pale ales (i think it's due to not treating the water and having bad fermentation temp control).

    for IPAs? we're still experimenting. we've tried some sugar, 2row, and nothing else, tried some crystal and other things. never really comes out to my liking. smoked beers, stouts, barleywines, these come out amazing. simple pale ales, they come out as huge hop bombs mixed with off flavors and/or slightly unpleasant sweetness / muddiness. blah.

    my brewing partner and his wife are buying a house soon, so "The System" will be expanding and improving. hopefully we'll get better at the hoppy things (even though all i ever really want to drink these days is BA stouts and straight bourbon).
    MADhombrewer likes this.
  23. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Advocate (595) Colorado Jan 20, 2012

    Check out the brewing network's can you brew it podcasts. They go over brewing specific styles as well as a few specific apa's and ipa's. Hopefully one of your favorites is up there and you can get a rough idea of what to shoot for.
    Pahn likes this.
  24. tgchief

    tgchief Savant (270) Iowa Nov 30, 2010

    Great points..You are correct, a friend of mine, ( a former masterbrewer for MC) tried to clone Pilsner Urquell 19 times before he got close. Good luck this year!
  25. I can make the German Pilsner I want to drink (and more so what my wife wants). Still working on the Czech Pils. I know it is the right ingredients and process, but just getting it right is tough.

    Thanks for the encouragement.
  26. sacrelicio

    sacrelicio Initiate (0) Minnesota Feb 15, 2005

    Good hoppy beers are much harder to brew than people realize.
  27. sacrelicio

    sacrelicio Initiate (0) Minnesota Feb 15, 2005

    I think that the disproportionate focus on big ales in the craft beer community (instead of lighter lagers) leads to the impression that lagers are harder to brew. Most lagers do not hit the flavor profile that BAs expect, which leads people to think they are inferior, and when the occasional lager does, it leads to the impression that it took tremendous skill to make that lager.
  28. spoonhawk

    spoonhawk Savant (345) Iowa Dec 3, 2010

    I think it is 100% the case that elevating much maligned styles, and making them attention worthy within the craft beer drinking community is truly impressive feat. Making an American Pale Lager worthy of seeking it out is far more difficult than making another sub-par high ABV Double-IPA.
  29. Blanco

    Blanco Savant (490) Pennsylvania Oct 11, 2008

    It goes without saying that making a <insert style> that is worthy of seeking out is far more difficult than making another subpar <insert any other style>. The question is how much more difficult it is to make a great pale lager vs. a great big beer.

    edit: i'll admit I don't know the answer, but just phrasing the question in the appropriate context.
  30. I would agree if the emphasis is on good. Making a beer with a boatload of hops in the kettle is easy. Making one that I want to drink more than one, is harder. Le Cumbre Elevated IPA is an example of a hoppy beer that I wanted more than one.
  31. How would a 5% abv all-malt pilsner with 35 ibu's be any cheaper or easier to brew than a 5% pale ale with 35 ibu's?

    If you're going to compare cost and ease between ales and lagers, it should be beers with the same approx. stats. Throw in the use of cereal cookers for adjunct lagers, the extra cost of rice (sometimes more expensive than barley malt), decoction brewing for German-style lagers, more expensive European hops for traditional pils, helles, etc., and especially longer and colder lagering periods (not easier or cheaper), lots of lagers could cost a brewer more to make than similar ales.

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