Beers are brewed with natural ingredients that are not the same every year. With different ingredients you can sometimes notice clear differences between the different harvests. Every summer season is different and this has an impact on, for example, the hop harvest and therefore on the hop aroma in the beer. So it is important to look at the aroma of the hops with each new harvest. We also closely follow the “Alpha acids” in the hops, because they determine the bitterness we want to obtain in the end product. The amount of “Alpha acids” can also differ between different harvests.
Regular tasting of beers is therefore important to check whether the aroma is still as you had planned in the first place. Other ingredients such as coffee, cocoa, vanilla, etc. are also slightly different in smell and taste every year, so you have to adjust the recipes slightly.
In other cases you want to perfect your beer step by step. With each brew you go to see if there is anything that can be improved. If you think about this carefully, you will understand that beers that are brewed regularly are getting better and better. If you only brew new beers that are only brewed once, you cannot perfect those beers.
Especially with herbs, coffee, chocolate, vanilla, etc. you have to "fine tune" until you have reached the optimal composition. It may be that you sometimes increase the amount of a certain ingredient step by step until you are satisfied with the result. And sometimes you have to take a step back because you think that certain taste or smell has become too strong.
These decisions depend very much on the brewer's view of the smaller breweries. Some brewers want to pop out certain flavors and other brewers look for a good balance. I like to look for the optimal balance. I often use a lot of ingredients in a beer and in that way layer in the taste sensation of that particular beer. And those different ingredients can flow nicely into each other so that they reinforce each other.
For example, right now I've adapted the recipe for Wake The Hell Up You Can Sleep In The Coffin Hazelnut Cappuccino Porter. This is a beer with a lot of ingredients. The base with many different malts is already complex, but in addition many other ingredients are added such as: coffee, cocoa, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, hazelnut and lactose. A whole row of ingredients that all contribute to the end result of a beautiful complex porter.
First, I've adjusted the coffees that go into this beer. I have now opted for coffee beans that give slightly more sweet broad coffee tones. The beans are slightly less roasted and therefore appear softer. This allows the other ingredients to stand out more. I select the coffee beans myself at a small coffee roaster in Helsinki. They buy their own beans from small farmers and have also visited these plantations themselves. With their knowledge, we made a series of coffees and tasted them side by side and saw which flavors combine best with our porter. We also made a short video of this process:
I have already changed the contribution of the hazelnut a few times. In the first brew, the dose was very low and careful to see what the aroma was going to be. With the next brew, the dosage ring was a bit too much, the aroma was dominated by the hazelnut in my opinion. The brew after that was again attuned to the first brew but with a small increase in the dosage. After tasting I thought it could still come out more clearly, so with the new brew I decided to increase the amount a bit and we can now taste the result.
The new brew is now ready and I was able to taste this beer this weekend after filling. The taste is beautiful and complex, with notes of soft coffee, dark chocolate, the spicy of the cinnamon sticks, a touch of vanilla and through it all comes the distinct character of the hazelnut. The smell of the beer is still quite "green" at the moment, because it was only filled last week. Super fresh in other words! The beer needs to mature a little more in the bottle to reach its full glory. That's the beauty of tasting the same beer at different times. Thanks to the refermentation in the bottle, this beer is developing more and more. A real storage beer to taste for years to come and notice the differences that happen during storage.
After all these different steps I am satisfied with the end result of this beer. This does not mean that nothing more will be tinkered with this recipe, but those will only be very small details that I might like to refine.
I hope you got an idea about the process of adjusting the recipe and the reason behind doing it.
In order to perfect beers, it is therefore really important to brew them regularly. It is quite an art to get the same result every time with brewing. The smaller the brew kettles, the greater the variation between the brews will be. This is because small differences such as a few grams more or less hops on small brews can make a big difference. For example, all the details during brewing and fermentation have an impact on the taste.
Large breweries often mix up multiple brews to neutralize any slight difference between the brews. As a result, you will not notice a difference in taste at, for example, lager breweries. So that is quite an art and a lot of craftsmanship is involved in order to be able to keep the quality constant.
At craft brewers, we can appreciate it if there are small differences between the brews.