I’m always a bit surprised when homebrewers don’t keep records of what they brewed. To me it vital part to the hobby. Now to the extent of it, that’s always up for debate but there are a few things that I would try to write down when ever I make a beer.
(You Don’t Keep Records?!)
Sometimes you have a really good beer and you want to do a repeat, or you have a beer that didn’t turn out the way you wanted it too. If you have no records of it, it’s really hard to make adjustments or to be able to change anything. The beer will forever be a mystery. The list of what I put in my records is is below, we’ll break down each suggestion on the list to describe why it may be a worthy cause for you to include it:
- Date of when you made beer
- Name of beer (one of the best parts of this hobby)
- Volume of the batch
- List of ingredients as well as amount
- Time boiled
- Boil time for hops
- Temp of wort when pitched.
- Date of racking or bottling
- How much corn sugar was used if bottled or what psi for keg
- Comments or suggestions of fermentation, and how it acted during fermentation
- Overall impression
Date of when you made the beer
The reason why you want to do this is because of 2 reasons:
1) To help jog your memory about this beer. If you have a big journal of beers that you’ve made, it is helpful to have a basic time frame of when you made it. If it was years ago, your skill level might have changed as well, or you have might have been making a different style of beer all together.
2) Knowing when you made it will also give you an idea about fermentation temps. In the winter your house may be a bit more cool, in the summer your house may a bit more hot. Just gives a bit of an insight.
Name of the beer
This is one of my favorite parts of the hobby, you get to name your beer. I also name beers to help me remember the beer. For me, the name of the beer gives a bit of a back story to the beer itself. In some ways it’s a code to help me jog my memory in the future.
Volume of the batch
I make all different size batches: 2.5 gallon batches, 5 gallon batches, 10 gallon batches. Those are the most common ones for me. It may seem obvious to which is which when looking at the amount of recipes but you may see a recipe and just think it was a big or small beer, especially if some time has passed.
List of ingredients as well as amount
This is pretty crucial to being able to make a duplicate of a beer. Your really need to know what you put in it, as well as how much.
I’ve done recipes where its a 120 min boil or sometimes down to a 30 min boil for one of my favorite Milds I make. Being able to replicate the boil time will help ensure that you go through the same process again and again.
Boil time for hops
Knowing how much you have boiled your hops is pretty important. You’ll be able to look at your recipe and see the: bittering, flavor, as well as aroma. Having these points will help you out for sure.
Temp of wort when pitched
I don’t always write this out, it’s an assumption for me that when I do ale’s I will pitch pretty close to room temp. I will write this down when there is an exception. For some Belgium beers, I like to pitch a little bit warmer and for lagers, I like to pitch a little bit cooler. So when there is a variation or something that I did that is different, I’ll make a note of it.
Date of racking or bottling
Did you do a secondary? Or did you just let it sit in your primary for a month? When did you bottle it? These are all good questions that should be noted.
How much corn sugar was used if bottled or what psi for keg
For the corn sugar I almost always use 5 oz of corn sugar, so I won’t write that down. But if I bottled with DME I will want to write that down. For kegging did I force pressurize it? And if so how did I like it? Or did I use corn sugar for the keg? These are notes that are worth while to keep and will have some value in the future.
Comments or suggestions of fermentation, and how it acted during fermentation
Knowing the fermentation properties will help me know if I should use a blow off or not. Also if the beer took a while and I needed to second pitch yeast that should be a good note to make.
This is one that is completely subjective. I like to write down, if it was worth making again, what did people think about it, if I could change anything what would it be, how fast it got drank, did it taste better after 4 weeks in the bottle or 8 weeks, was the carbonation level correct. When I do this, it’s not to write a story but just a few bullet points so I know on this next one how to make it a bit better or what to be aware of.
(The beer sucked!!!!)
Where is the OG and FG?
I usually don’t write down the OG and FG for my beers, I know slap my wrist. The reason I don’t is because I don’t particularly care. If you are trouble shooting your beer, don’t get me wrong, it is one of the most helpful things, but for me I can usually look at a grain bill or an extract and come up with a pretty good guess on what the ABV is going to be. Also once I start drinking it I will be able to tell after 2 or 3 beers what the ABV is if you get my drift. It’s a symptom of the chillax brewer, figure why risk breaking a hydrometer when I’m going to drink the beer regardless.
Do I do pen or paper, or use a computer?
I go old school and use a pen and paper with a just a composition book. I think it is preference at the end. I like the feel of a journal and the sound of the paper clicking when turning the pages. I also like the idea that at some point in time I will pass along my journal of recipes, just like I was given recipes. With that said, make sure that if you use pen and paper you can write in a way that you can read it or someone else can read it or you might as well use a computer.
(Maybe lose the stickers in yours but always a nice touch)
Also there are free calculators for most brewing software. I just use a composition of a few of them and then it will give me my numbers. Again I know it’s preference but for me it seems to work. If you end up using any of these calculators you will be able to get more information and ultimately will be a better tool for in the future.
I did want to give an example of how my beer journal entry would look. Naturally you can do yours your own way, but for me this is plenty and gives me a ton of information by just looking at it:
July 1st 2017
Cascading Mountain Brew
5 gallon batch
60 min boil
6 lbs Light LME
1 lb Munich Malt
.5 lb Victory Malt
1 oz Cascade (60min)
.5 oz Cascade (30min)
.25 Cascade (5min)
Normal procedure, steep grains @ 150 for 30min, took out added malt extract. Boiled the hops at points listed above.
7/1/17 – made wort, cooled pitched yeast at room temp
7/15/17 – bottled beer using 1 cup and 1/4 dme.
8/15/17 – had my first bottle, tasted good but I’ll wait one more week should taste better
8/24/17 – taste much better, the carbination is spot on
Notes: The fermentation was strong, but I didn’t need a blow off tube. I personally liked the carbonation level, I want to keep using DME for this beer. It had small bubbles. The hops didn’t have a lot of nose but the beer was a bit bready and kinda tasted like grapefruit. Consider dry hopping or having an addition of hops for flame out next time you brew this, maybe use Citra for dry hop or another citrus like hop. People that didn’t like IPA’s didn’t like this beer, so it is a polarizing beer in that regard. Best for hot summer days after you get done mowing the lawn. Taste better in bottles after a month. It’s worth a repeat in warmer weather. Next time make it earlier in the summer around May or June so it’s perfect for the first really hot days.
Note #2: Took about 2 weeks to drink
If I were to look over that in the future, I would get a pretty good impression about the beer pretty quickly. I would have a good sense about a lot of aspects of the beer. For my preference there would be no need to write down more, I am satisfied. I know by looking at this beer it is going to be around 5%-6% some where in that ballpark.
I think that keeping notes for beer is pretty important. I like to do mine with pen and paper because of the idea of passing it along sometime in the future or just the fact that it feels more, “old school”. I believe that it is preference though for what you are trying to get out of it and that there isn’t a wrong way to do it or a right way to do – just what works for you. Also if you plan on writing down your journal by hand, make sure to have it legible enough where you or the future recipient can read it with ease. Feel free to form this habit with your wine, mead or even soda making as well!
Like always hope you enjoyed!