by rbladmin
Craft beer
July 1, 2022| 930 views

I think just about every brewer starts brewing with the passion of making the styles of beer that THEY want to drink. Very few brewers that I have met have said “I just wanted to make a barrel aged, vanilla bean and coffee infused Belgian Tripel because no one has done that yet!” right off the bat. Sure, I encourage everyone to flex their creative muscles, but at the end of the day – for craft breweries – it comes down to what your customers want to drink.

But before we get to that, there is one other important point that comes first.

Do you know your ingredients?

It sounds simple, but when it comes to brewing, knowing, really knowing, your base ingredients and how they interact with one another, is crucial. Otherwise, how are you going to make your specific beer?

Say your craft brewery wants to make a classic Munich Helles. You’ve sampled the commercial styles available. You’ve read up on the brewing parameters. You have a general idea of how you want yours to taste. You’re ready to go. But each ingredient will need to be reviewed.

Have you researched what the water profile is like in Munich? Or more specifically, in the area where your model-beer comes from? Do you know how much calcium, magnesium, hardness, sulfates, etc. it contains? How about the hops? Sure Hallertauer Mittelfreuh is Hallertauer Mittelfreuh, right? Not entirely. Hallertauer can change based on the crop year. How about the malt? Are you just using North American malt because it’s readily available? Can you get your hands on some from a German malster? How about using specialty malt? You will want to make sure that you don’t go overboard and compromise the nuances. And of course there is yeast. Is your lager yeast going to contain too much sulfur? And how much should you pitch? What happens to the yeast at different fermentation temperatures?

There are so many questions you will want to ask yourself in the recipe building stage, because then comes the hot side and cold side decisions like mash and fermentation temperatures.

But for the sake of this blog, let’s move forward. You know your ingredients, you know the styles you want to make because you like drinking Russian Imperial Stouts, Strong Belgian Ales and so on. 

But to the main point of this post, the important question you should do well to NOT overlook is, what do your customers want to drink? Because you can make beer all day long if it’s for you, but if you’re in this industry to grow a successful business and profit, you’ll want to listen to the people supporting you.

Yes, of course there are market trends – west coast IPAs, to New England, to juicies, etc – but trends can burn bright and fast. Also, where is your craft brewery located? Are you in a temperate climate? Do you have long winters? Are you brewing beer in a foreign country where big, flavorful hops aren’t custom to the locals? These questions, and more, should not be overlooked. If your base clientele like drinking light lagers because you are situated next to the beach with hot temperatures all year long, then putting out barrels and barrels of high alcohol, heavy stouts might not be the best play. Can you get creative with some hoppy lagers? Of course! Can you put out some higher alcohol ales? Go for it! 

But I would encourage those brewers to sit down with their customers and ask them what they like to drink. On top of asking them what they think of your newest creation. Rest assured you’re ALWAYS, WITHOUT FAIL, going to get the “you know what style you should brew?” critic. It’s bound to happen. And take their opinion with a grain of salt because you know your local customers’ needs more than a random transient homebrewer or craft beer fanatic. But in one of those conversations, you just might get an idea for your next epic batch of beer. And all it took was a conversation over a cold one.